Happy Sales on Fitness Equipment Eve! [DEF NOT SPAM]

So many people are going to hit “unsubscribe” after reading that title.

I would tell 2016 [explicit word coming after the click] to fuck off, but it will only get worse, and this is why I’ve always preferred the devil I know, particularly when they are better at selecting Supreme Court justices. Even so, I have these odd moments of political motion sickness when I remember fifteen years ago when I was plotting imaginary road trips to Seattle to join the WTO protests and here we are with a crazy Republican president who promises to end free trade in the US. (For selfish reasons, of course, but wow, somebody grab me a bucket.)

2016 not only took Prince, Bowie, Wilder, and Fisher, but it also took my dad. Just a few weeks ago. The day before my sister’s birthday and a few days before my own. His colon cancer was diagnosed in November and he died three weeks later. It was not the long, drawn out affair I was expecting, and, even though we knew it was coming, the rapidity of his death was a shock. He probably had the tumor for decades and by the time someone made him go to the hospital, it had spread all over. He was 61. Very young. Everyone: get your bums checked out.

I’m not saying this to seek condolences– we had very little in common and were semi-estranged (although he did give me my sense of humor and he made poop jokes all the way to the end)– but just because it came up in conversation with some of you and so you might be wondering and I don’t know how to approach an email about my dad dying. Hotmail doesn’t have that template and I don’t know the emojis.

Because of his illness and hospitalization in a far-off country town, I got to have one of those “ohhh, this is why Trump won,” epiphanous, backwater road trips like the one that guy wrote about in The Guardian soon after the election. It was a good article and I could totally relate.


Back to the drum I normally beat this time of year, I don’t do resolutions– or, at least, not on January 1st– because it’s such a disappointing time of year, an arbitrary placeholder that only serves to exaggerate the super boring nothingness of the months ahead. The pretty christmas lights come down (except for that one neighbor), and the days finally get longer again, but, counter-intuitively, the season gets colder and deader, work gets busy as hell again, and I never quite know what to do with my own free time thanks to so many false spring-starts.

I do make changes as they occur to me, however, and a number of things have already happened, so let’s talk about that:

Re: this blogging thing

Three years is my typical cycle for quirky hobby obsessiveness and this blog hit that threshold in June. Like clockwork, my reading input/blogging output slowed to a crawl, and it was almost painful to drag myself to the keyboard in August to churn out my predictable distaste with all things Hugo. (Many of you wise and patient readers saw this coming long ago, and will likely blame this burnout on the Hugos themselves, rather than any fault of my own leisurely rhythms, but let me remind you: I read the Clarkes this year too! And the Kitschies! And some of the Nebula ‘6s! And a bunch of Dicks!)

A number of things are happening in combination with one another, including 1.) yes, the Hugos are just really, really awful lists to read in total (regardless of year or politics); 2.) I am running out of ways to say how awful they are (hence the “really, really” part of my previous statement); and 3.) ultimately, I have found my way.

Ah, yes. The yellow brick road of list-reading has brought me delicious lollipops and horrible flying monkeys, but now I’ve earned my red shoes and it’s easy to find my way home to a good book. I’ve made satisfying contacts, discovered reliable recommenders, and now I understand enough of the geography of the SF field to recognize my ideal climate when I see it.

Which leads to my biggest problems of late: 4.) Actually, there are too many good books to read, and 5.) I’d rather read, instead of write about reading.

If you’ve noticed, I’ve been doing a lot of combined, mini-review posts lately. I find myself increasingly envious of Ian Sales and his reading diaries, and I want to try that format in 2017. Most of you seem to prefer my mini-reviews anyway, so I don’t think this will be a big sacrifice, in fact, it’s probably a blessing because who needs another 1300-word essay on how much I hate the shallow, mindless, cheesiness of commercially-produced SF. My new goal is to post a reading diary at the end of each month, and, of course, I’ll probably pop around to make snide remarks about review a few awards lists.

Re: this social media thing

I continue to avoid facebook, but twitter is full of strangers I actually like to follow, but even that was getting heavy around election time. Fortunately, I finally cleared out all news and political feeds from my twitter feed and let me tell you: THAT was an outstanding decision. I highly recommend it. People are still talking about books! I had no idea!

Re: that reading thing I’ve been doing

I started this blog because my previous hobby was jogging, but my hip flexors started acting up a few years ago, and I was getting too underweight, so I decided I should replace my evening jaunts with books instead. Now my lower back is being an asshole and I need to be active morning and night if I want to feel comfortable throughout the day. Which means less reading time. So my reading output will probably decrease this year.

I actually welcome less reading in 2017. During the past few years, my reading behavior has been more akin to book consuming, rather than book reading, and I miss the decadent feeling of taking my time with a book.

I’m currently sipping on a book right now and it is delightful.

Re: that obsessive audiobook listening thing

Slower reading might also mean an audiobook diet, which has already started. It seems I have come full circle in my opinion of audiobooks: my one-time dislike has gone from warming to loving to obsession and now I’m back to dislike. It might be because of the heavy couple of months I’ve just had, but I’m finding harder to concentrate, especially on the spoken word. Pre-election, most of my mindless activity time was taken up by news-related podcasts. Lately, I’ve just been listening to music. Empty, shallow, motivational indie music where the favored pronoun is “you”. I hope it’s just a phase.

Re: oh, yeah, that resolution thing

Ahhh, the resolution time that I hate so much. I’m too inconsistent lately to do anything too elaborate, though all the same healthy goals apply: more books by and about women, POCs, non-westerners, etc (but fewer books overall). I think I’ve narrowed down all of these observations about my latest reading behavior to one concise and easy-to-follow resolution, inspired by the earliest and biggest lesson I learned from my three years of reading for this blog:


Baen Books is childish, cheeze-fest central, and I always find Tor novels overcommercialized and wanting (and I find the ethical principles of that imprint contradictory and confusing). There is another publishing house I could add to this list, but I prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist. (And I apologize to anyone I like who has been published by Tor, but I haven’t seen much appreciation for originality or rigor from that house.)

There. I said it. 2017 might be a lot of horrible things, but I just sliced off a huge chunk of reading misery for myself. At least I have that to look forward to.

I feel so much lighter now!

2016 Reading & Blogging Stats

My goal was to read 80 books, and I’m on my 79th book at the mo, but it’s 72 degrees outside and I want to go for a jog right now. SO 78 BOOKS IT WILL BE!

I published 66 blog posts in all, counting this one, averaging about 5 per month, with an uptick in posts in February and August, to coincide with the BSFA and Hugo Awards. My lowest monthly output was in November, when I posted only one meager post, probably all due to the existential paralysis that comes with political cancer followed by parental cancer. I thought I was fine, but the blog is a symptom, is it not?

My most popular reviews this year:

  1. 2016 Clarke Award Shortlist: Surface, Contrivance, and Salience
  2. Dragonquest (WHY??? Every. Effing. Year. I am not linking to this. This is an old review that for some reason people keep clicking on. Quit reading my crappy old reviews.)
  3. The Best SF I Read This Year
  4. My Favorite SF Novels (I need to update this)
  5. Adventures in Military SF!

I also showed up in other places, and it looks like that will probably continue in 2017. This little corner of the digital cosmos might be quieter, but yur not rid of me yet.

27 thoughts on “Happy Sales on Fitness Equipment Eve! [DEF NOT SPAM]

  1. iansales says:

    Am not sure why you’d want to take my name in vain in the title of your blog post… but I see little reason for jealousy in my reading diary(TM) blog posts as I stumbled onto the format when I realised I couldn’t be arsed to write long reviews of books that didn’t deserve it, and yet didn’t feel smart enough to write long reviews of books that almost certainly did deserve it.

    And sympathies for your loss. My father died of pancreatic cancer in 2010, and that was pretty much two months from diagnosis to the momement we lost him. We were close, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hehe… Oops on the post title. You do have the wrong name for a leftist, now that you mention it.

      The “couldn’t be arsed” and “not feeling smart enough” are reasons I find increasingly relatable. Reviewing also seems to require a substantial amount of time that I didn’t used to miss, but now I do.

      I’m sorry for your loss, too. Cancer is awful.


  2. Warwick says:

    Definitely not spam! And my first good read for the first of January (I need to go back to bed!).

    I can come and go on what kind of reviews I read. The book might interest me, or it might just be an in-depth analysis you’ve done. Mini-reviews/Journalistic entries seem fine if the book themselves don’t demand anything more – why give them anything more?

    Interesting what you were saying about Tor Books. Though I have read little in recent years, looking at their covers and the general subject matter of which I have been doing over the last few months while in the library perusing the shelves for books I would like to get out and never read, it did occur to me that there “felt” like there was little depth in the content I was seeing, and certainly nothing I wanted to take out with me.

    I read four books this year – that’s 200% over my reading goal! Now, that’s something to be proud of! 😛

    Oh, and “I” is the favoured pronoun of Indie band We Were Promised Jetpacks, which is probably why I like them so much!


    • Ah, yes, I’m a little late for you New Zealanders. Happy Sales on Fitness Equipment Day!

      Tor covers are awful. You are right about that. They almost always make their books look like they are for children.

      I know I’ve listened to something by WWPJ, but I can’t name any songs off the top of my head. I have noticed most songsters’ preoccupation with “you” ever since I was a little kid. I guess it’s because pop music is almost always preoccupied with romance, but it’s kind of creepy, and the consistency in subject matter gets pretty boring.


  3. Holly Best says:

    Happy New year and to reading what you bloody well want and taking your time doing it… The Thing Itself is my first read of 2017, thanks for all the reviews over this year that have led me down some great reading journeys. Losing a Dad sucks ass, mine passed in September, and I still feel like I am walking on a cracked, frozen lake.


    • Happy new year to you, too, Holly! “Reading what I bloody well want and taking my time doing it” is a better way to put it. Hear! hear!

      I’m sorry for your loss, too. It seems we both need a fresh start in 2017.


  4. It has been a crazy year, especially the last few months. I felt the same way about social media (things got intense, but thankfully we weathered through it even though I had to revoke retweet privilges from several people). I also hear you on your current problems with audiobooks. I’m still listening to a lot of them, especially now things have gotten busier, but things have definitely slowed down, though I think it has more to do with the distractions of the holidays and also I’m just not listening to the right books. Anyway, nope definitely not unsubbing, and I even had a chuckle at the post title! Happy new year 🙂


    • Happy new year to you, too!

      You make a good point about the audiobook issue: I tend to get into this kind of rut when I’m not listening to the right books… but I never recognize it until I finally snag a good audiobook. I always think it’s me. But you’re right: some books just don’t make good audiobooks. Must keep that in mind.

      Happy new year to you, too! With cleaned up twitter feeds, surely we’ll survive the coming anxiety.


  5. Jonah says:

    Top-notch resolution, and hope to keep seeing you around. Also sympathies on your loss.


    • Thanks, Jonah. And I hope to keep seeing you around, too. Your disappearance on the twitterz made me sad, although I see your alter ego still makes an appearance.

      I regret that my resolution will prevent me from checking out a few people I know and like, or want to know and like, especially your recommendation of Kai Ashante Wilson… But it’s probably best for us all if I maintain that boundary for at least a year.

      I hope you have a great new year and I look forward to more from Cabbages&Kings!


  6. Poop jokes are the best jokes.

    I personally really like reading short reviews because longer ones car a) be full of spoilers b)boring. I like writing them especially if it’s for books I didn’t like because those longer reviews tends to be word vomiting on how much this book was shitty and that’s not very interesting and also because I don’t want to loose too much time on a book that I found bad when I could be reading other things. It’s also a good format when I don’t have much to say but that I still want want to mention a thing or two about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All good reasons to stick with mini-reviews. Especially the word vomit reason, which I do find myself doing about books I love. Concise is nice.

      And yeah, my sense of humor is often in the gutter (or toilet, rather). Haha!


  7. Widdershins says:

    Bon Voyage to your dad … I like your resolutions, and this post title 😀

    Happy New Year! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Joachim Boaz says:

    As always, thanks for your site and all the work you put into it 🙂 I look forward to whatever new types of posts you adopt.


  9. Whew, for a minute there I thought this blog post was going to be about you leaving the blogging world. Glad you’ll be around, whatever the form. Short reviews, long reviews, whatever. You could analyze a rock, and I would probably enjoy reading it. 🙂 I’m hoping to get back to the monthly reading diary as my thing as well in the coming year, but who knows. I have a hard enough time getting around to writing the things I’m actually getting paid to write (outside of the writing I do during work hours that is), so we’ll see what happens.

    The good thing about reading less this year was something you mention here as well…I just don’t bother with shitty stuff as much, which makes for a better overall experience. Though I have also found myself staying away from more challenging reads, which annoys me, but most nights I just don’t have the brainspace. Let alone to then write about the reading experience.

    Really sorry to hear about your Dad though.

    I hear ya on Tor, though I have enjoyed their novella series so far quite a bit. Still, it is a different kind of fiction than my usual fare…often the primary focus appears to be entertainment (which is more an observation than a has to be a problem thing of course), and it often lacks to nuance I look for in the best books. I think the most interesting so far has been The Last Witness by KJ Parker, thematically anyway. As for Baen, I have never really bothered with them, so I guess I’m with you on that as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah… see… KJ Parker is another one I’ll regretfully miss out on. I’m sure he’s published elsewhere, though.

      You are right to avoid Baen. Dreadful stuff.

      I totally get the not-having-brainspace thing. I feel that way too, in fact, I get very little *good* reading done on weeknights and often have to reread stuff on the weekends to make up for it. Hopefully the decrease in blogging will make more brainspace for better reading.

      Nope, not leaving yet, or at least I plan to keep my foot in the door a little while longer. I’m sure you understand 🙂


  10. Sheesh, I was also expecting a retirement notice the way this started out, but I’m glad to see you’re not quite done yet. Short form can be very informative, allows you to compare books to each other in one post, and it doesn’t prevent you from writing a longer post when you get inspired or fired up about something. I’d still read each post if you did haiku reviews of old phone books, s’all I’m saying.

    I deleted Twitter and Facebook off my phone a few months before the election, and my mood improved considerably (well, at least until election night). I don’t think it’s getting better, but I’m trying to strike a balance between “triggering my depression” and “fueling a righteous indignation to stay motivated.”

    For me at least, the worst part about blogging is when I feel obligated to write a 1300 word essay on whatever it is I just read, especially if I was ambivalent or it just reinforced my dislike of mainstream, commercialized SF. The enjoyment of reading and blogging is sapped away when I’m stuck staring at a blank post, where I end up preventing myself from reading so I don’t create a backlog of more blank posts I need to write. So I hear you there; “sip more and engulf less” is a perfect 2017 Readsolution.

    Every now and then I read something good by Tor, but they seem to hedge their bets and aim for mainstream, marketable, fan-service that doesn’t push the envelope as far as some of their blog posts would have you believe (there’s also a weird gap between Tor the publisher and Tordotcom the site and e-publisher). Call me fickle but Baen drove me away with their covers that are an affront to graphic design, long before I realized they and I disagreed politically. I’m not sure you’re missing anything there.

    Sorry to hear about your dad. I lost my grandfather to Non-Hodgkin’s eight Decembers ago. Cancer sucks.

    Poop jokes on the other hand are awesome: the crappier they are, the better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gahhhh! I wrote this whole long comment and it’s gone! Arghhh!!!

      So, here are the bullet points of my amazing reply you’ll never see:
      1. “Sip more and engulf less”: I just ate a bunch of chocolate-covered chocolate chip cookie dough bites for lunch, so while I like the way you worded it, I’m def keeping it as a READsolution. (but the bites were vegan and gluten-free, so basically healthy and calorie-free)

      2. I had a nice rant that concluded with “If there ever is a real genre war, Tordotcom will be first in line to sell weapons to both sides.”

      3. Previous rant is proof that I can’t retire bc I am apparently full of rants like that.

      4. If I retire, I hope I won’t notice enough to actually announce it. I’ll just suddenly come to the end of my rants.

      5. Crappy poop jokes are the soluble fiber of a healthy sense of humor.

      6. Cancer is shit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ugh I hate when WordPress eats comments like that.

        Wine (and most books) are great to sip. Chocolate covered chocolate chip cookie dough bites were designed to be engulfed. That’s a lunch I can get behind (says the guy who ate soup and salad).

        I’d like to live in a world we don’t have to rant against, but on the other hand, your rants are so darn good.

        If there was a real genre war, Tordotcom would arm each side, file770 would only report long endless paragraphs of the enemy’s speeches, and io9 would focus on the important issues like which Star Wars prequel was worst.


        • The funny thing is, my original rant included that exact same thing about F770. Because they are so doggonely neutral.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Hahahahaha. (About the weapons being sold to both sides, etc etc, but obviously not about the depressing bits here.) Oh man you guys are the best. I second all the things.

            Also: “I’m trying to strike a balance between “triggering my depression” and “fueling a righteous indignation to stay motivated.”” This yes this.

            Liked by 1 person

  11. “I don’t do resolutions– or, at least, not on January 1st– because it’s such a disappointing time of year, an arbitrary placeholder that only serves to exaggerate the <> of the months ahead.” (My emphasis.) Yep, this. Glad to hear that you’ve “found your way” in regards to reading what you like.


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