August is always a difficult and hectic time for me, but this month in particular has been extra difficult and hectic, no thanks to my particular sick anthill of work being extra sick and chaoticky, which I can usually forgive when I see it simply as the flaws of capitalism manifesting in the public sector, but this year, I can actually attribute our problems to some real concrete things that nobody can do anything about anyway. So I’ve been busy. I hope it wasn’t too apparent in my posts.
Since my last reading review post, I ditched the States, saw some sights, picked up a Peruvian parasite, and then returned home in order to burn out on stupid SF book awards.
The blog went dark in July and more than made up for it in August, starting with a terribly annoying “Movies on Mute,” which I said I wasn’t going to apologize for but did, a few last minute book reviews, and then August SF Book Awards Extravaganza began. I blogged my opinions on the Hugo Best Novel lists for every year ending in ‘6–minus 2016 because ugh–and followed that with an appearance on the Cabbages & Kings podcast to discuss the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist (Part 1 and Part 2) and then shared my own short thoughts on each Clarke nominee and how I, as a newbie and outsider to the British SF scene, view the award.
I should take this moment to thank a few fabulous souls who brought some surprising delights to this hectic month by recognizing this dumb blogging thing I do:
- Joachim Boaz of Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations, probably the earliest champion of this blog long before it ever deserved championing (much less reading), for adding me to his Worthwhile Classic Science Fiction Resources list, where he says some very nice things, including quoting/pointing out some of my more unusual “reviews”;
- Jonah Sutton-Morse, not just for having me on Cabbages & Kings, but for creating a satisfying and broad-thinking podcast that fills the parsecs between crusty and squeaky SF talk;
- Maureen K. Speller, who is or has been, in some way, involved in nearly everything I throw money at, for guesting on the podcast with me, and who, no matter what off-the-wall things I said, managed to infuse our discussion with intelligence and common sense;
- Abigail Nussbaum, who also appears in nearly everything I read, for including on her blog an interesting and concise comparison of our reviews of the Clarke list;
- Nina Allan, who is one of the main reasons I think reading SF might not be a total lost cause, for linking to and quoting me, as well as saying lots of good and important things about the state of SF, books awards, and other authors who make reading SF not a total lost cause; and
- Martin Petto, who also has been involved in all the [important] things, for keeping track of most of the Clarke Award grump-fest, including mine, and what a shame that it’s all just a big grump-fest.
I doubt I’ll do the Clarke list thing again next year, but thank you all for pulling me into your conversations about the award and SF in general. This imposter does not know what to do with herself.
But, as I suspected, the Clarke list doesn’t prove to be good reading. My main problem with British SF book award shortlists is that I tend to read the best books before the shortlists are even determined. (As opposed to American SF book award shortlists where I hardly enjoy anything.) (Tiptree Award notwithstanding.) Then, I commit to reading the lists and discover that the stuff I was never going to read in the first place isn’t all that good. This is a total drag for shortlist reading, but a good thing overall; the purpose of this blog is to identify my SF tastes so that I don’t feel completely lost in the SF book aisle, and I’m discovering that my book-picking instincts are getting sharper, which basically means I now know where to look and where I tend to agree and disagree with influential SF voices.
That said, the historical Clarke lists seem like an excellent orchard for cherry-picking, but the Clarke is not the perfect award, nor does it look like it’s ever been, especially when considering the inexplicable crossover with the chaffiest of Hugo contenders. I look forward to being proved wrong. (The comments section on Martin Petto’s blog offers a few noteworthy Clarke years that I’d like to explore.)
But it’s time to get back to brushing up on vintage SF, so goodbye, Clarke Awards, I’ll toss ye on my own longlist of SF fandoms I’ve alienated myself from.
In the meantime, your blogfeeds can finally breathe as my slower, one-per-week vintage book reviewing pace returns next week.
Mostly caught up on my required reading, I let myself go off the rails in June and read off my want-to-read list all summer, which never feels satisfying or productive without having assigned boxes to check. Now it’s time to reexamine, get a new list, and move forward into autumn.
Audiobooks are more miss than hit for me, but I’ve developed the habit of always having something going in my ears, so I’ve been working through the audio-bibliographies of writers I’ve most enjoyed in this medium, dedicating most of my driving/cooking/toothbrushing time to the works of a few of my new favorites: Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, and J.G. Ballard, all in a constant rotation. All three authors write books that are hard to daydream away from, even when I’m occupied with scraping off that charred piece of bell pepper out of the pan, and the actors selected to read their works are reliably compelling. Traditional single book reviews don’t seem to do Atwood, Butler, and Ballard much justice, so I would like to eventually write compilation posts assessing the work of each of these authors as a whole. One day.
In book-book reading, I’ve been unfocused and all over the place, but I found myself drifting more toward the non-genre, literary end of the bookshelves, satisfying my SF tooth better than most genre SF can do, which is shaping up to be the essential unstated thesis of this blog.
I also did more current events mag reading this summer, as is my primary tendency when left in the reading wild. The Nation, my longtime favorite periodical that’s usually threadbare liberal meh, killed it in July with a fiery spread of progressive articles.
September & Future Reading
- I want to spend the rest of 2016 focusing on the 1966 and 1976 Nebula shortlists. This month:
- The Exile Waiting (not Waiting to Exhale, which I keep calling it) by Vonda McIntyre
- All Flesh is Grass by Clifford Simak
- The Clone by Theodore L. Thomas and Kate Wilhelm
- The Birthgrave by Tanith Lee
- Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
- 2015 books I’d like to get around to before end of this award year:
- Three left from the Kitschies shortlists
- The Reflection by Hugo Wilcken
- The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan
- The Night Clock by Paul Meloy
- Two I’m most curious about from the Campbell Memorial Award list
- Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman- Winner
- Galapagos Regained by James Morrow (I haven’t forgotten, Jesse)
- Three left from the Kitschies shortlists
- 2016 books I would like to get to before they show up on next year’s awards lists (might be holiday reading):
- The Race (new edition) by Nina Allan
- Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson
- The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville
- Central Station by Lavie Tidhar
- also, did I see a new Christopher Priest novel recently?
Money on which ones wind up on next year’s Clarke list and which ones go sorely neglected? This is a predictable 2016 reading list for me. If you know what I like, what am I missing?
Also, I am behind on the Bookpunks’ Exegesis with a side of fiction challenge, so PKD BINGO reviews (play along!) of some of PKD’s bigger works will be appearing at odd, unannounced times because what other way to do PKD?
Summer 2016 Book Tallies
Books blogged: 5
Books read: ???
Books about aliens: ???
Books about robots: ???
Books about time-travel: ???
Articles about Trump being a total idiot: 55, probably, maybe more
Books needing to be added to the Goodreads because that’s been neglected for too long and I can’t even remember what I read even though the whole reason I started blogging in the first place was to keep track of my reading: ???