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…

So, let’s cut this short and spit this sucker out, so I can get back on track.

 

Books Blogged

I managed to eke out four posts this month. My comfort zone is one post per week, but I’ve felt compelled to do more lately, alternating my vintage commitments with the occasional buzz bait worth talking about. But that didn’t happen this month.

I started the month with a review of Anne Charnock’s sorely neglected Sleeping Embers of the Ordinary Mind (2015), which should have at least made the Tiptree Award longlist that was announced yesterday. Was it too subtle for the jury? It wasn’t until I sat down to review it that the pieces clicked into place for me.

Also, Anne Charnock is really, really nice and you should follow her on Twitter.

Then I knocked around Marion Zimmer Bradley a little, one of my favorite authors from my high school and college days, but Sword of Aldones (1962) needed a good mocking because it is awful in so many goofy ways, and a cogent essay on the terribleness of SoA would have been tedious. She wrote it when she was seventeen, “revised” it for publication in her thirties, and then– and here’s the, hmm, how I should I say this… unsurprising surprising part– it was nominated for the Hugo in 1963.

My original plan was to read Heritage of Hastur (1975), but I decided to read Aldones first, and then I just. could. not. continue. I’ve been on page 5 of Hastur for the better part of a month. Don’t worry! I always get my groove to disapprove back!

After a big break, I returned with a review of David Brin’s The Postman (1985). I’m incapable of awarding stars, but let’s say it’s halfway between blah and okay, meh and a half, though the premise made me wish that someone like Pohl or Morrow had written it instead.

Then, the BSFA Awards happened and I gave my take. I was asked why I didn’t question or criticize de Bodard’s win, which was expected of me, apparently, but it boils down to a few things: hers was the second-most commercialized novel on the list, and BSFA voters tend to favor the most commercial choices. Also, The House of Shattered Wings is written from a platform of hero-fiction and imperialist criticism (good), and BSFA hosted a chat with de Bodard in the weeks during voting (which would have been unethical had it involved anyone other than a nonwhite, female author. Props to BSFA for playground leveling like this.). Although I fully expected McDonald to win, de Bodard was my next guess.

And finally, now that I’ve a got a better feel for these SF award thingies, perhaps I’ve moved out of the pouty reader seat and into the distant observer seat. Given the voting stats from last year, I know the majority of BSFA aren’t really my people, but they happen to nominate some really original stuff, unlike US-based SF groups. (Though perhaps the new BSFA practice of publishing a longlist this year has damaged this potential and I will have to look elsewhere.)

…so much for cutting word count.

 

Books Read

Here’s where I totally jumped ship. I am never so freewheeling with my reading.

Planned:

The Handmaid’s Tale (1986) by Margaret Atwood
VALIS (1981) by Philip K. Dick
The Stochastic Man (1975) by Robert Silverberg
Blood Music (1985) by Greg Bear
The Heritage of Hasture (1975) by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Ender’s Game (1985) by Orson Scott Card
Doorways in the Sand (1975) by Roger Zelazny

The Terminal Experiment (1995) by Robert Sawyer
Mother of Eden (2015) by Chris Beckett
Glorious Angels (2015) by Justina Robson
The House of Shattered Wings (2015) by Aliette de Bodard
The Shore (2015) by Sarah Taylor
Blackass (2015) by A. Igoni Barrett
The Gracekeepers (2015) by Kirsty Logan
The Night Clock (2015) by Paul Meloy
Making Wolf (2015) by Tade Thompson

Added:

The Sword of Aldones (1962) by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Dark Star (2015) by Oliver Langmead
Dark Eden (2015) by Chris Beckett
Earth Abides (1939) by George R. Stewart

10 books. Sword of Aldones and Dark Eden were added to prepare for the sequels. I simply forgot to mention Dark Star was in the plans (very good, by the way). Earth Abides, because writing about The Postman seemed like a good enough excuse to finally read it (meh, then very good).

…you know, this is why these posts are a good thing. I thought my reading and blogging was entirely erratic this month, but this list makes me look just as uptight as usual. Carrying on, then.

 

To Be Read

The BSFA reading nudged out a lot of my vintage reading plans in March, so my focus in April is to return to the Hugo/Nebula ‘6 mix. (Even though I really don’t want to read Ender’s Game again… that’s definitely going down as a commute audiobook.)

The Stochastic Man (1975) by Robert Silverberg
Blood Music (1985) by Greg Bear
The Heritage of Hasture (1975) by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Ender’s Game (1985) by Orson Scott Card
Doorways in the Sand (1975) by Roger Zelazny- Goodreads group read organized by the bookgator. Join!
The Divine Invasion (1981) by Philip K. Dick- For more Exegesizing.

 

If time, I will add more 2015 novels.

 

To Be Blogged:

I’m so behind on my blogging plans, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what you can expect this month.

VALIS- Bookpunks’ Exegesis with a side of fiction support group is still going strong, though the mania may be waning. That means… TIME FOR A NEW PKD BINGO GAME! I really enjoyed VALIS. It’s the first PKD I’ve read where I didn’t feel like he was just hedging himself into the margins by exaggerating his most famous idiosyncrasies (and making his larger insecurities all the more obvious and distracting). He seemed more honest and self-deprecating. I like that.

The Thing Itself- Speaking of VALIS… of course it all happens after a dentist appointment. Certain unironic all-white male reading roundtable podcasts make me think Adam Roberts’ fandom is an obnoxious vomfest of empty praise. I don’t want to be another obnoxious vomfest of praise, but I have much to say, much of it good, hopefully not empty. But the word count is excessive, and it’s too tempting to punnify everything, so I’ve been sitting on this review for ages. I will try to behave.

And, before anyone else says it first, Vomfest of Empty Praise is the name of my new black metal band.

Adventures in Military SF!- A subgenre I usually avoid, but my vintage Hugo commitments make it required reading. So let’s blast the most canonical items out of the way in one big post!

The Terminal Experiment or Walk to the End of the World- Robert J. Sawyer or Suzy McKee Charnas will get some FC2M attention at some point, depending on whichever post develops into cohesive form first. Expect snobbish snark and bewildered wtfery in respective order.

 

March 2016 Book Tallies

Books blogged: 8
Books read: 10
Hugo/Nebula ‘6 mix progress: -5
Sarcastic inside-joke category tallies: 0. I’ve got disastrous book reviews to clean up. And we’re out of OJ.

Post Script/Confessional

Oh yyeahh… I played Hugo Noms this week. It was a haze of sleepy-eyed frequent changes, but I think I settled on Aurora, Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind, Europe at Midnight, and The Thing Itself. I selected The Harlequin and Binti for the novella category. By year’s end, other interesting books will rise to my awareness and I’ll regret everything. Even when I try to keep up, it all feels rather arbitrary.

I predict The Fifth Season and Binti will win their categories.

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18 thoughts on “Month in Review: March 2016

  1. I think it’s great that you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone and are trying to do more posts. Do you have any tips on staying motivated to do that? I find myself low quality posts just for the sake of getting one up :l Anyways, keep up the good work 🙂 Really!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not trying to do more posts– it’s a big time drain– but I keep reading things I want to talk about. Every year, I resolve to stick to no more than one post per week (for the same reason as you: low quality posts, time), but I break that rule a lot.

      As far as motivation goes, if this blog ever becomes an issue of motivation, I’ll know it’s time to find a new hobby. The community interaction is reinforcing, but I just need a place to process my thoughts, and the sense of audience creates just enough pressure to hold me accountable for what I think. I guess what I’m saying is I’m just a snobby reader and an arrogant talker and that’s motivation enough for me! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  2. thebookgator says:

    Thanks for the shoutout re Doorways in the Sand group read. Hope you can make it–plus, Hugo and Nebula nom–that counts for something, doesn’t it? Although I admit that I’d probably also find your Heritage of Hastur review entertaining. I’m having a hard time making any headway at all in House of Shattered Wings. I. just. don’t. care.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rabindranauth says:

    My entire reading habit is a TBR fail. Sounds like things worked out for you in the end, at least!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Tomcat says:

    I really like Earth Abides!… Back in 2014 I spent a year reading post-apoc fiction (not exclusively, but I read a LOT), and at the end of the year that book was probably among my top 10. I think it captures the feeling of emptiness better than most others. Phenomenal ending, too. http://tomcatintheredroom.com/2014/04/10/earth-abides-george-r-stewart/

    I managed 9 books this month, all of them except one were under 300 pages though. So while I’d usually be happy with nine in a month, I feel I can’t claim much of a victory because, by number of pages, I didn’t read as much as I would have liked.

    I don’t follow many awards… BUT, on April 27th, they’re gonna be announcing the shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke award, which I do try to read every year. I’ve been very bad in the past at pre-empting what’s gonna get nominated, so I usually have to read all 6 books *after* the shortlist has been announced. So that’s probably most of May’s reading sorted, for me.

    The dream, of course, is to be so up-to-speed with new books, as to have already read the shortlisted novels before the shortlist is announced….

    one day.. maybe.

    Tom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your review actually convinced me to stick with it when I was getting bogged down by the racism and sexism and blahness at the beginning. It was one of the books that dragged this month, so I googled around and went straight for your review. I’m so glad I stayed with it; it transforms into a beautiful package in the last half. Really ended up enjoying it.

      I love the Clarkes, too, but haven’t yet felt the compulsion to read the entire list, perhaps because I’m already overwhelmed by lists by the time they announce. It also seems like there are always two or more on the list that just don’t appeal to me at all, whereas The Kitschies and BSFAs catch me off guard with stuff I’m not already prejudiced against. Sometimes it seems like the Clarke Award should align with my readerly values, but then it seems like pick stuff just to prove they don’t want to stray too far away from Clarke-ian genre stuff… I dunno. Looking forward to that list announcement, though.

      Like

  5. S. C. Flynn says:

    Still looks like a good reading month by most people’s standards!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jesse says:

    I’m with you on the Tiptree. Subtle. And here I thought for sure Carolyn Ives Gilman’s Dark Orbit would be there. Guess it proves exactly how wide and diverse publishing in the field has become – almost a whole nominee list under the radar.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I forgot about Dark Orbit! Was hoping it would show up on a list so I would remember to read it. Like last year’s Tiptree list, I’m not familiar with most of the titles. Hopefully, like last year’s list, it will bring some great work to my attention.

      It’s been suggested that the Tiptree jury does not read all recommendations submitted through the online portal. It’s hard to demand rigor from volunteer judges, but blurbs and first chapters are such poor indicators of a novel’s strength.

      Like

      • iansales says:

        I recommend Dark Orbit. Not a hugely convincing novel, but very nicely done.

        And judging by their comments about my book, I’m pretty sure the Tiptree jury read all of it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • You were the first to put Dark Orbit on my radar, so I do want to check it out. And that’s interesting that the jury read the entire submission list, it certainly makes their choices more intriguing to read. (Your quartet is also always on my radar. Will get to it eventually 🙂 )

          Like

  7. My dad cleaned out the attic a year or two before I graduated from college. He found an old box with a bunch of beat-up mass market paperbacks inside. One was Earth Abides. It looked like it was from the fifties or sixties. He asked me if I wanted it. I glanced down my nose at it and said, “no.” He shrugged and threw it away. STUPID COLLEGE SELF.

    Liked by 2 people

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