My Reading in 2017

I forgot to share the link to my latest Ten Great Science Fiction Books post at Science Book A Day, which is something I’ve been doing annually for a few years now. It is unusually contemporary compared to my previous lists, but full of lots of good stuff if you’re looking for recommendations.

Goodreads says I read 35 books in 2017 and WordPress says I wrote 21 posts. Other than the Sharke frenzy earlier this year, it’s been a slow year reading-wise here at FC2M and I don’t expect that to change soon. My posts will likely continue to be infrequent, but, hopefully, more worthwhile when they do happen.

I’m currently reading through the past year’s National Book Award shortlist. They are more Couch than Moon-type books, but it’s been a nice change of pace. I hope to write up my thoughts on them in the coming months.

In reading for the new year, I just completed a couple of other books. Maybe I’ll have something to say about them in the near-to-not-so-near future? Maybe?

I’m on the final day of winter break, so while my head is refreshed and I have lots (LOTS!) of ideas and things I want to read and write about, I know the coming semester is about send me back into another tailspin of Other More Important Things and I’ll forget I even have a blog again.

So hello, *waves*, and I’ll see you next time I come up for air and decide to step into your feed again.

 

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The Zombie Blog Rises!

And just in time for Halloween!

 

Just dropping in to say that I had a fireside chat with The G from Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together. For a fireside chat, it was more essaying at each other than chatting with each other, but I think we both had a number of things to process from the past year, and the format proved to be clarifying and healing (at least from my vantage point).

The blog is a zombie blog right now. Not dead, but no spirit, and probably not to be trusted within bite reach. My real life career has turned crazy busy with a new post at a new campus, which is proving to be both rewarding and all-consuming. Expect me to pop in around holidays when I feel decompressed and need an outlet to articulate myself and want it to take the form of caring about books and SF and all that.

Until then, happy reading without me.

[Book Review] Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

My latest review for the Shadow Clarke is up at the CSFFAnglia site.

Ninefox Gambit is a nice book. Fans of conflict-in-vacuum will enjoy it, and it does some neat things. But there is so much better stuff out there to read. Maybe someone will do something cool with space opera again, but this isn’t the book to revive my interest.

–Actually, the more I think about it, the more I realize that I am much more tolerant about this sort of narrative on screen. I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it–because I don’t go out of my way to watch anything anymore–but if I happened to sit in front of a TV that was showing this, I think I’d be more interested. Possibly because I expect less out of commercial television and movies, and it’s a shorter commitment.

I don’t have much to say about the comments, other than to acknowledge the gulf between some of us. I mean, I’m still pretty limber, but I’m not going to do backbends to find something intellectual and positive to say about another insulated military space opera.

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In other news, I have completed my last reviews for the Sharke project. I am done! (That’s what my last cryptic post was about, by they way.) These final reviews will thematically pair a Clarke book with a Sharke book, and compare the experiences. I won’t be around when they post, but I hope you find them interesting, even if you disagree.

With my obligations to the Sharke done, I’m off to read books I’ve been fantasizing about for the past six months: Paul Beatty, Angela Carter, and M John Harrison, here I come!

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Also in other news, if you’d like to listen to me blather on about books while two, far more interesting people provide actual cogent commentary, Cabbages&Kings episode 48 was just released. I join Maureen K. Speller and Jonah Sutton-Morse to talk about The Stone BoatmenWatership Down, and my book club choice, Unbearable Splendor. What fun! I love these two people! (And who doesn’t like rabbits?) (Jonah, seriously, I do like rabbits.)

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It’s space opera, you know? Continue reading

“We are so prejudiced when it comes to scale.”

‘We spend too much time looking at the fucking stars… That urge to look to the transcendent. This idea that life is suddenly magical and incredible because of astronomy, the story of where the matter has travelled. Honestly, give me grandeur, give me my feet. Look at your feet, Inspector, at what you stand on. No, really. Forgive me, I’m being serious. I am. Yes, yes, you can laugh. We are generally, I think, so prejudiced when it comes to scale. There is enough in a simple glimpse of the ground. More than enough. The earth surface is an infinite mesh of bio-trails. You work on it, too, at a slightly different scale – of course you do, you inspect it. The mesh of lines is constantly renewing, but so are we. If it were up to me I would spend my whole life digging up the lost civilization of a single vanished person. There would be no end to the project, Inspector. No end to what may be discovered.’

Infinite Ground, p. 112

 

I am done.

The Torture of the Shadower, part 7: Reading

The torture this week comes from… the reading. Reading the rest of the Clarke list. I’ll be done this week. It hasn’t been the most pleasurable experience.

The other torture comes from summer vacay on the horizon and the utter desperation I feel to get through the reading and writing of this list, just to be done with it already. I’ve been quiet on the twitterz and that’s why. If I were to tweet anything, it would just be expletives and not very nice things, and we know how fandom prefers we only ‘promote the works we love, and not slag off the mediocrity that dominates visibility, money, and networking, thus elbowing out truly original works that might take us to the next level.’

Or something like that.

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The latest Shadow Clarke controversy comes to us from Gareth Beniston, who posted a provocative piece with some radical ideas about how to infuse the Clarke Award with… something different from what we’ve been getting. In the comments, there’s a lot of back-and-forth about quotas and positive action, and whether those efforts patronize writers, and the whole conversation hasn’t gone anywhere I’d like to be. My own angle is supportive, yet difficult to articulate with its socialist edge, and it seems the conversation includes enough white voices on an issue that is usually more instructive when it includes more non-white voices, so I’ve stayed out of it.

I hope it’s clear I’m pro-anything that seeks to rectify a demographic imbalance. I’m radical about most things, and this topic especially.

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Speaking of heavily advertised novels–which we weren’t, but we were–my review of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead posted last week. We can’t ignore TUR‘s prominence in the media, but the gulf in style and substance between Whitehead’s sneaky, snakey novel and the rest of the Clarke shortlist is immense, especially between TUR and what I consider the bottom ranked novels on the list. To see intelligent, well-read SF fans nit-pick about scifi-ness is embarrassing, and I hope Whitehead isn’t watching.

My review has, for the most part (thanks, Phil, as always) encountered silence, which leads me to assume I have finally convinced everyone. Good job, me. (It might also be that the essay is too long and who has the time? That, or the stink of dead horse has finally chased off everyone.) (It’s also possible that people scrolled to the bottom first and saw my childish, mocking taunt at the end and decided to skip.) (No, I do not expect to be writing on a university blog for much longer.)

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The most famous, most advertised of the six novels on the 2017 Clarke shortlist, yet this 2016 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, one of Oprah’s favorite things, and a 2017 Sharke pick has been perhaps the most divisive selection in this year’s battle for the best science fiction novel—not because it’s not good enough, not because it’s not interesting enough, but because some readers believe it is not science fictional enough. Continue reading