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The ongoing health crises of the past two years seem to have had serious negative consequences for my ability to read in a sustained manner, but recently I've been having more success in managing to read.

I have liked to read multiple books at the same time - this allows me to pick the subject that most suits my mood when my brain goes "I want to read sonething now, please."

Current books in progress:
The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler, edited by Rebecca J. Holden and Nisi Shawl
First of the Tudors, by Joanna Hickson, historical fiction about Jasper Tudor, uncle of Henry VII.

And I've just begun reading Adilifu Nama's Black Space: Imagining Race in Science Fiction Film, which looks to be very interesting. As the author describes his work:

"The present work examines the symbolic discourse and ideological messages encoded into black representation, including its structured absence, across a multitude of sf films as a symbolic dialogue with the multiple racial discourses and ideas surrounding black racial formation, past and present, that are circulating in American culture. Moreover, sf films of the 1950s to the current moment are discussed in this book with an eye toward drawing connections between sf cinema, black racial formation, and shifting race relations in America over the past fifty years. Too often the sf film genre is regarded as addressing only signature divisions in the genre: humans versus machines, old versus new, individual versus society, and nature versus the artificial. In this book, however, I place black racial formation at the center of these common dichotomies. As a result, a more complex and provocative picture emerges of how sf cinema, in imagining new worlds and addressing a broad range of social topics, has confronted and retreated from the color line, one of the most troubling and turbulent social issues present in American society."

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If by some strange chance any of the sff fans reading this do not know that Farah Mendlesohn has written a major critical work on Robert Heinlein's opus, and due to contract issues has decided to crowdfund its publication.... Well, now you know.

If you like Farah's work, if you like Heinlein's work, if you want to give me a super present by helping to enable the publication of this work that I desperately want to read, please consider supporting this crowdfunder.

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Somehow I spent all today thinking it was Tuesday, and so, not that it is technically Thursday where I am, I may as well make a Wednesday book post.

Books read:

James S. A. Corey, Leviathan Wakes
Max Gladstone, Three Parts Dead
Max Gladstone, Two Serpents Rise
Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, Monstress: Awakening
G. Willow Wilson, Ms. Marvel Vol 3
G. Willow Wilson, Ms. Marvel Vol 4
Fran Wilde, The Jewel and Her Lapidiary

Currently reading:

Judith Merril, The Merril Theory of Lit'ry Criticism
Ben Aaronovitch, The Rivers of London

Up next:

The next volumes in the Expanse and Peter Grant series, because i want to read at least two volumes in each of the Hugo nominated series.

Also, I should catch up on the graphic novel series Saga - I read volume 3 when it was nominated, and I should read volumes 4 and 5 before I read volume 6, which was nominated this year. I'm waiting to see which of the nominated graphic novels will be in the Hugo voters packet, hoping not to have to buy them all.

I also still have to read Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro. And i'm going to take another stab at Ada Palmer's Too Like the Lightning. I tried to read it earlier in the year and bounced off hard - I simply could not get into the story or the characters. But it's been so well received I should give it another shot.

And that will finish up the Hugo reading. Other hooks I hope to get around to soon are The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar, Wall of Storms by Ken Liu, Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo, Penric's Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold and a host of other things - including, I think, more of the October Daye novels, the Expanse novels, the Craft Sequence novels and maybe the Peter Grant novels.

So many books, so little time. My ipad is full of books I want to read and haven't had the time to.

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So, last time I posted, I was lamenting that I just couldn't seem to read any more. Well, as suddenly as if someone flipped a switch in my brain, it's come back. I'm almost afraid to talk about it, in case it runs away again.

But, it's Wednesday, and for the first Wednesday in some time, I have books to talk about.

Read in the past week:
Seanan McGuire, Rosemary and Rue
Seanan McGuire, A Local Habitation
China Mièvile, This Census-Taker
Kij Johnson, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe
Aliya Whiteley, Brushwork
Lois McMaster Bujold, Penric and the Shaman
Kai Ashante Wilson, A Taste of Honey
Seanan McGuire, Every Heart a Doorway
Becky Chambers, A Closed and Common Orbit
Liu Cixin, Death's End
Jean Roberta and Steve Berman (eds.), Heiresses of Russ 2015

Also, some assorted short fiction (stories and novelettes), including Ursula Vernon's The Tomato Thief and Nina Allen's The Art of Space Travel.

Most of this reading has been for the Hugos. I am feeling much better about actually being able to do the reading necessary to make informed voting decisions.

Currently reading:

I'm slowly making my way through The Merril Theory of Lit'ry Criticism, a collection of essays, articles and anthology introductions by Judith Merril, published by the most wonderful Aqueduct Press.

Up next:

More Hugo reading. I still have the graphic novels to read, and a few of the novelettes. Plus, at least one or two books from the remaining Best Series nominees - James S. A. Corey's The Expanse series, Max Gladstone's The Craft Sequence, and Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series. Also, in the Related Works category, the Silverberg book.

Once @i finish all of that, some friends made me promise to give something by Brandon Sanderson a try, and there's at least a dozen novels from last year, plus some novellas and shorter fiction. Then, try to catch up on the new and interesting stuff from this year....

But at least there is reading again.
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The week started well for reading, but degenerated rather sharply toward the end, as my unending medical woes took a turn for the worse and my brain became unable to deal with anything more complicated than endless games of Bejeweled.

Books/novellas completed:

Laurie Penny, Everything Belongs to the Future
Victor LaValle, The Ballad of Black Tom
Mary Robinette Kowal, Forest of Memory
Mary Robinette Kowal, Ghost Talkers
Roshani Chokshi, The Star-Touched Queen
Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky
André Carrington, Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction

Currently Reading:

N. K. Jemisin, The Obelisk Gate
Diana Pavlac Glyer, Bandersnatch: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings


More from my Hugo reading list.

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i've been feeling very unwell this week, so my reading was somewhat slowed.

Books/novellas read:
Andrea Hairston, Will Do Magic for Small Change
Bao Shu, Everyone Loves Charles
Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country
Nisi Shawl, Everfair

In Progress:
André ​Carrington, ​Speculative ​Blackness: ​The ​Future ​of ​Race ​in ​Science ​Fiction
Everything Belongs to the Future, Laurie Penny

What's Next:
I'm reading for the Hugos, so whatever is next will be something from my Hugo reading list.
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trying to get into the swing of things.... This is a good way to start, I think.

I've been too sick to read much of anything for months, but even though I'm still feeling hellish, and my blood tests agree that there's some bad shit going on inside me, I'm pushing myself because the Hugo nominations are coming up fast.

In the past week, I've finished two books that I'd been reading through at a snail's pace, Nancy Ordover's American Eugenics, which is an important but very painful book to read, especially if you are a person of colour, a person with disabilities, or queer. I also finished Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures, on which the unexpected blockbuster film is based, and was given some hope along with the stories of struggle.

Begun and finished this week:
Lois McMaster Bujold, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
Kameron Hurley, The Geek Feminist Revolution
Sofia Samatar, A Stranger in Olondria

Currently reading:
André ​Carrington, ​Speculative ​Blackness: ​The ​Future ​of ​Race ​in ​Science ​Fiction
Andrea Hairston, Will Do Magic for Small Change

What's next:
Novels, non-fiction and novellas from my Hugo reading list. Probably either The Merril Theory of Lit'ry Criticism by Judith Merril, Octavia E. Butler by Gerry Canavan or Words Are My Matter by Ursula K. Le Guin for the next non-fiction book. In novels, I'm thinking Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country or Nisi Shawl's Everfair. Novellas, Victor Lavelle's The Ballad of Black Tom, Kai Ashante Wilson's A Taste of Honey, and the two Penric novellas by Lois Bujold. Plus, of course, a scattering of novelettes and short stories.

If anyone else is reading fir the Hugos and has some graphic novel recommendations, I'm still adding to my reading list in that category, as I am woefully ignorant of who's writing what that's really good. Do suggestions are welcome.

As ever, more in depth comments on the books I've read can be found on my book blog,

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So, The turning of the year has come and gone. Our celebration was as always quiet, perhaps more so this year because we have had an annus horribilis which has only just barely begun, we hope, to improve.

So we sat in the living room and exchanged gifts and ordered a feast of Chinese food and watched the Doctor Who Christmas special, and the Murdoch Mysteries Christmas special, and had a lovely time.
My prezzies were wonderful.

A long list of ebooks:

Andrea ​Hairston, ​Lonely ​Stardust ​
Carter ​Scholz, ​Gypsy
Charles ​Saunders, ​Abengoni: ​First ​Calling
Charles ​Tan ​(ed), ​Lauriat: ​A ​Filipino-Chinese ​Speculative ​Fiction ​Anthology
Chinelo ​Okparanta, ​Under ​the ​Udala ​Trees
Craig ​Laurance ​Gidney, ​Skin ​Deep ​Magic
David ​Pilgrim, ​Understanding ​Jim ​Crow
Deborah ​J. ​Ross, ​The ​Heir ​of ​Khored
Deborah ​Wheeler, ​Collaborators
F.H. ​Batacan, ​Smaller ​and ​Smaller ​Circles
J.M. ​Frey, ​Hero ​is ​a ​Four ​Letter ​Word
Jackie ​Hatton, ​Flesh ​& ​Wires
Jeanne ​Theoharis, ​The ​Rebellious ​Life ​of ​Mrs. ​Rosa ​Parks
Johanna ​Sinisalo, ​The ​Blood ​of ​Angels
John Miller, Judi Dench: With a Crack in her Voice
Katharine ​Kerr, ​Dark ​Magicks
Marge ​Piercy, ​My ​Life, ​ ​My ​Body
Michelle ​Sagara, ​Cast ​in ​Honor
Minister ​Faust, ​The ​Alchemists ​of ​Kush
Rachel ​Pollack, ​Alqua ​Dreams
Sheree ​Renée ​Thomas, ​Shotgun ​Lullabies
Silvia ​Moreno-Garcia, ​Signal ​to ​Noise
Sumiko ​Saulson, ​Things ​That ​Go ​Bump ​In ​My ​Head

And the extended version DVDs of Hobbit II and Hobbit III

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it's Wednesday again - how time flies.

I have completed my reading of Lavinia Collins' The Warrior Queen, Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me (which was profoundly troubling but that's all right because it was meant to be) and the Future Eves anthology edited by Jean Marie Stine.

I also read a fair bit of free-standing short fiction, all of which I have made brief comments on and posted to my book journal. Most of it is freely available on the Net, and my comments include URLs. Some of it is very good.

I am currently reading a number of things - I seem to be in a mood for moving back and forth between several different works rather than reading any one thing in a sustained fashion. Books on the go: Laurie Penny's Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution; Gender Outlaws: the Next Generation, edited by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman; Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany, edited by Nisi Shawl and Bill Campbell; Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings; The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, edited by Edward James and Farah Mendelsohn; and of course, Metzel's The Protest Psychosis.

Up next? More short fiction, more sff novels from 2015, and likely a few other odd things from my extensive TBR list.
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I did not make a book post last week. This is largely because we have had two bad and very smoggy weeks, in which my brain took a long vacation and left me incapable of doing much more than playing solitaire on my ipad.

Fortunately, my brain came home again and i have some reading to report.

Since my last book post, I have finished Katha Pollitt's Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, Margaret Atwood's Second Words: Selected Critical Prose 1960-1982, and Isabel Allende's Ripper. I have also read India Edghill's Queenmaker: A Novel of King David's Queen, Gillian Bradshaw's Island of Ghosts, and Syrie James' The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen.

At present, I am reading Lavinia Collins' The Warrior Queen, the first volume in her Guinevere trilogy, and Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me. And I'm still working on Metzel's The Protest Psychosis, and am also picking away at Stine's Future Eves anthology.

Coming up soon: it's time to start some serious reading of sff published this year, so that I will be prepared to nominate. I have drawn up a list of books I have seen recommended in multiple places - most of which I was planning to read anyway - and will be starting in on the ones I've already got on my virtual TBR pile. I've also got some recommended novellas lined up. I should start looking at recommended novelettes, short stories and graphic novels, too. And related works.

As ever, if you're interested in my thoughts on anything I've read, check out my book journal:
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Well, this was a week in which best-laid schemes really went agley.

I had planned to spend a lot of time reading, but it was a very bad no-good week in terms of health issues, and I was far too full of pain and exhaustion and nasty poisonous smog and other crap that insisted on invading my personal sphere that I could barely read. Instead I spent easily six or more hours a day mucking about on Facebook and playing computer solitaire.

I did, however, finish up Sharon Butala's The Girl in Saskatoon and Anya Seton's The Mistletoe and the Sword.

I'm picking away at a few books - Jonathan Metzel's The Protest Psychosis, Katha Pollitt's Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, Margaret Atwood's Second Words: Selected Critical Prose 1960-1982, and Isabel Allende's Ripper.

Some may note that it's taking me a very long time to read The Protest Psychosis. There's a good reason for that. You see, unlike most of the books I read, my copy of The Protest Psychosis is a real paper book, not an ebook. For the past three or four years, it's been almost impossible for me to read paper books because they are so toxic. But there are books I want to read that I bought before that happened, or that my partner bought for himself (or I bought him for one celebration or another) and I decided I wanted to read, or that do not have an ebook version. So I put them inside plastic bags and read a few paragraphs whenever I am strong enough to hold up a paper book, and not so sick that I can't tolerate the amount of toxin that comes through the plastic. Naturally, it takes me a long time to read a book this way.

By the way, as I finish books, I post my comments about them on my book blog, in case anyone is interested:

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I have a few things to say about the Hugo Awards this year and the sadly rabid puppies who did what puppies do all over them. I know that, as puppies, they will keep on doing what puppies do, because they can and because they are full of the bubbling rage of denied entitlement, so I offer this suggestion. If the puppies really want to put the stories they think have been neglected up for consideration against all the other award-nominated works, don't load up a voting slate with crap that ranges from mediocre to barely readable. Because for this year's Hugo's, that's what they did, with few exceptions - most of whom pointedly disavowed themselves from the puppy kennel by declining their nominations.

If puppydom really wants to make a statement about what it thinks speculative fiction should be, then they should lead with their best. Nominate - as individuals, not as a slate - the very best of what they like in science fiction and fantasy. Honour original ideas, good writing, strong characterisation, tight plotting. Because nominating material that is merely competent, or worse, is not the way to showcase the kinds of fiction one loves.

Seriously. I read all the Hugo-nominated works in the fiction categories this year. And rejected the puppy offerings as not worthy of an award, a rejection based on merit, not genre or content. There was a lot of bad to mediocre writing there. There were some competent and interesting pieces, and one or two things that suggested real potential. But nothing that demonstrated the level of skill that merits a
Hugo. And that had nothing to do with the kinds of stories being told, some of which I enjoyed despite the quality of the work.

If indeed there are great works out there being overlooked or ignored, then next year, when we look at nominations for the best works of speculative fiction, let's see the best of all of speculative fiction's many faces, including the genres beloved by the puppies - because work that's good will be recognised for what it is. It doesn't need a slate to support it. And if the Hugo voters as a whole decide that no, the quality expected in a Hugo winner isn't there in the puppies' choices - then if puppies want awards for the stories they like to read, they should demand that kind of quality from the writers of the kinds of fiction they prefer. Whining that they are being shut out purely because they are puppies doesn't cut it.

And that brings me to another point. Not everything that one enjoys is award-worthy. I love Mercedes Lackey's writing, she pushes buttons for me that few others do. But I don't think her work is Hugo or Nebula or World Fantasy Award calibre. And that's all right. Maybe your most favourite authors will never win an award - because they are competent writers who know how to tell a story that you and others think is lots of fun to read, but are not trying to challenge you, or blow your mind, or take you somewhere you've never been before. Writers who lack the special something - originality, skill, perspective, vision, depth, power, insight, whatever - that lifts a book beyond the competent and entertaining. There's nothing wrong with that. Not every book can or should be an inspiration to other novelists, an example of the best a genre can produce.

In the long run, if we take them (or at least some of them) at their word and believe that this fuss is all about neglected kinds of stories and not that they just aren't comfortable with stories that challenge assumptions and decentre privileged viewpoints, then surely the gap between us is not as huge or as unbridgeable as they seem think it is.

Take me as an example. I've been a fan for going on fifty-five years. I read the old and the new with pleasure. I grew up on Heinlein and Asimov and Clarke and all the same folks they did. I read widely in the field now, as I always did. Space opera, military science fiction, planetary romance, sword and sorcery, urban fantasy - I read and enjoy these as much as I enjoy more philosophical, sociological and politically themed speculative fiction. I read for fun as much as I read for challenge and enlightenment. I accept that certain kinds of stories - urban fantasy and milsf, for example - are less likely to be found on the nomination lists for many reasons, some of which are inherent to the nature of those kinds of stories. But that doesn't mean I've stopped reading these kinds of stories, both new and old.

(I'll also note that when works that do draw on the motifs and themes of those "neglected" neglected kinds of stories do get awards, puppies claim they are tainted by the "message" of the work or the "intersectional politics" of the author. John Scalzi and Ann Leckie have won awards with books that sure read like space opera and milsf to me.)

But there is something else that's true of me that may not be true of some puppies. As the years have
gone by, my tastes in reading have grown and diversified. I still enjoy the things I used to, but I enjoy more kinds of things than I did then. The field of speculative fiction has changed, and grown, found new stories to tell and new viewpoints to tell them from. But the traditional kinds of stories are still around, still being written, and shock of shocks, I can read and enjoy them both.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid that there is more to this than a desire to restore certain kinds of stories to their traditional place nearer the mainstream of speculative fiction. Reading the pronouncements and conversations on various blogs, full of puppy paranoia, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that the puppies are frightened and confused by speculative fiction that takes the defining question of the genre - what if? - and puts it in the words of people who do not have the same experiences and perspectives that they do. It was fine to ask what-if when the asker was white, American or occasionally British, preferably male, unquestionably cis and straight and binary, and espoused good American values or at least some approximation thereof. Certainly, there have always been those who spoke from outside that narrow vision, asked the questions no one with those forms of privilege would ask. But mostly, in the beginning of the genre, they were not loud or visible or numerous enough to be disturbing. But as more and more "other/ed" voices began to ask what-if, and to challenge all the accepted viewpoints from which what-if had been asked before - well, that's when some people started to find it scary.

And that, unfortunately, is a gap that may be harder to bridge, the gap between those who can only imagine limited sorts of new worlds, in which they can remain the same as they ever were, and those who are willing to go further and question everything, even their own vision of themselves.

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So.... Have been gorging on crime thrillers. In the past week, I have read Lesley Thomson's The Detective's Daughter, Tana French's In the Woods, Vad McDermid's A Place of Execution, Kathy Reich's Speaking in Bones, Annelie Wendeberg's Holmesian mystery The Devil's Grin, and Yrsa Sigurdardotir's Someone To Watch over Me. Branching out into horror, I also read Sarah Pinborough's The Taken.

And I finished Gretchen Grezina's Black London: Before Emancipation.

Currently reading Sharon Butala's true crime narrative/memoir The Girl on Saskatoon, about the murder of Alexandria Wiwcharuk on 1962. This has a certain amount of personal resonance for me because I was living in Saskatoon at the time of the murder.

I'm also reading Anya Seton's The Mistletoe and the Sword, a sort of young-adultish historical novel set in Roman Britain at the time of the Iceni Rebellion. Not a major work, like the books she's perhaps most famous for, Green Darkness and Katherine, but quite enjoyable. A bit reminiscent of Rosemary Sutcliff's The Eagle of the Ninth.

Having read a lot of anthologies during my Hugo reading month, I seem to have set Future Eves: Classic Science Fiction about Women by Women, edited by Jean Marie Stine, aside for now. I'll come back to it later.

I plan to spend the rest of August reading the same sorts of undemanding sorts of things - thrillers, historical fiction, maybe some light horror. In September, I plan to start paying serious attention to the novels published so far this year that I suspect may be potential Hugo nominees. I have a supporting membership and I plan to use it.

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I've been thinking maybe I ought to do this, if for no other reason than to give me something to post about every week. Of course, if you follow my book journal, you already know what I've read, but not what I'm reading or planning to read next, so this should not be too boring for you.

So... I finished my massive re-read of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover post-Contact novels, including the ones written by others after her death. The last ones were The Alton Gift and Children of Kings, by Deborah J. Ross. I'm going to wait a while before tackling a re-read of the pre-contact novels - will likely take that on ad we get nearer to the publication of Ross' next Darkover novel, Thunderlord, a sequel to Bradley's Stormqueen.

And I finished Elizabeth Bear's Range of Ghosts, the first of her Asian/Mongol/Silk Road inspired The Eternal Sky trilogy. I'd actually started it some time ago, but put it aside to do the Hugo nominations reading thing, and then picked it up again once i got through that. A very good read, with some wonderful female characters.

Because I have been reading a lot of sf and fantasy in the past two months, I'm feeling a need to shift genres. I took a glance over the several hundred books on my TBR list and picked out some crime/suspense/thriller books to look at, and maybe some Tudorporn. My first selection was Kathy Reichs' recent murder in the mountains novella, Bones on Ice, which was fun, and also one of the better things she's written lately.

I'm currently reading crime thriller The Detective's Daughter, by Lesley Thomson - a new author to me, and one who has received sone good reviews. I'm not quite as engaged as I'd hoped to be - the author's frequent and totally unmarked switches of POV are a bit disorienting, though part of me is wondering if perhaps this is a case where shifts that were indicated typographically in the printed text in sone way that has not carried over to the ebook. It's not the first time I've seen that happen.

I'm also partway through Future Eves: Classic Science Fiction about Women by Women, edited by Jean
Marie Stine, which features short stories from the early pulps, most of them totally new to me.

Also reading two non-fiction books. Black London: Life before Emancipation, by Gertrude Gerzina, and The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease, by Jonathan Metzl. The titles speak for themselves.

Up next? In fiction, probably some more crime thrillers. I have unread books by Nicci French, Maureen Jennings, Kathy Reichs, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Laurie R. King, Sujatta Massey, Tess Gerritsen, Jennifer McMahon, just to mention authors I'm already familiar with, plus some selections from new authors (to me) to try out, including Tana French and Val MCDermid. Also, I need to finish Bear's trilogy.

In non-fiction, I want to read Ta-Nehisi Coates's new book, Between ​the ​World ​and ​Me. Also, there are relatively new books by Laurie Penny, Barbara Ehrenreich and Naomi Klein that I've been meaning to get around to. Plus the several hundred other unread books on the ipad. Time will tell which I pick up next.
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I learn via [personal profile] oursin that today is World Book day, and that there is a meme questionnaire going around as a celebration of the day.

The books I'm reading: Alison Weir, Innocent Traitor; Suzie Bright, Big Sex, Little Death: A Memoir; Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra: A Life; Charles R. Saunders, Imaro: The Naama War; Helen Merrick, The Secret Feminist Cabal: A cultural History of Science Fiction Feminisms; Gwyneth Jones, Deconstructing the Starships: Science, Fiction and Reality; and I'm re-reading Emma by Jane Austen.

The book I love the most. This is a silly question. There are hundreds of books I love the most, depending on my mood and circumstance.

The last book I received as a gift: My beloved partner gave me a package of out-of-print (and one very expensive when new) books I have wanted to own that he found on various used book hunting sites. These included: Gwyneth Jones, North Wind; Gwyneth Jones, Phoenix Cafe; Eleanor Arnason, To the Resurrection Station; Diana Paxson, Brisingamen; Maureen McHugh, Mission Child; Jody Scott, I. Vampire; John M. Ford, The Dragon Waiting ; Patrick McCormack, The Last Companion; Patrick McCormack, The White Phantom; Ellen Galford, Queendom Come; and Joanne Findon, A Woman's Words: Emer and Female Speech in the Ulster Cycle.

The last book I gave as a gift: Christmas presents for my partner: Modesty Blaise: Death In Slow Motion, Modesty Blaise: The Double Agent, Modesty Blaise: Million Dollar Game, Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates, The History of Hell, Delusions Of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference, The Crowded Universe: The Race to Find Life Beyond Earth, Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche and The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease.

The nearest book: My e-reader is right beside me, and it contains approximately 100 ebooks I am reading or want to read. The nearest physical books are Charles R. Saunders, Imaro: The Naama War and Helen Merrick, The Secret Feminist Cabal: A Cultural History of Science Fiction Feminisms.
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In the comments on the post in which Patricia Wrede's book, The Thirteenth Child, is being discussed, Tor user Alo, in comment 196, quotes from a rec.arts.sf.composition post by Ms Wrede, discussion her own (then) work-in-progress:
The *plan* is for it to be a "settling the frontier" book, only without Indians (because I really hate both the older Indians-as-savages viewpoint that was common in that sort of book, *and* the modern Indians-as-gentle-ecologists viewpoint that seems to be so popular lately, and this seems the best way of eliminating the problem, plus it'll let me play with all sorts of cool megafauna). I'm not looking for wildly divergent history, because if it goes too far afield I won't get the right feel. Not that it'll be all that similar anyway; no writing plan survives contact with the characters, and it's already starting to morph.

I repeat my subject line:

She said WHAT?

::head explodes::

It seems that, according to Ms. Wrede, at least on the occasion of the quote:

1. The best way to eliminate sterotypes of marginalised people in writing is to eliminate the marginalised people from one's writing?

2. Eliminating whole nations of people with thousands of years of history and rich, diverse cultures when writing alternative history isn't "widely divergent history"?

I know something about being erased from cultural representations of both history and modern society, and about people who are in certain ways like me being presented as often profoundly insulting and disturbing stereotypes when they do appear in cultural narratives - after all, I'm a woman, a queer person, a person with multiple disabilities, both visible and invisible.

And this just makes me sick at heart.

This isn't even a case of someone not thinking about the implications of making such a decision in developing her created world. No, she actually thought about ways in which the indigenous peoples of North America have been portrayed in settler literature, identified what she saw as problems, and deliberately decided to make the indigneous people vanish so she wouldn't have to apply herself to trying to do a better job of representing indigenous peoples that the problematic literature she identifies as the genre she's working in.

I say again:

She said WHAT?

::head explodes::

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I want to talk about what is possibly my favourite book, Margaret Laurence's The Diviners. It's the story of Morag Gunn, who grows up in a small Canadian prairies town in the period between WWI and WWII, and eventually becomes a respected middle-aged author dealing with her own daughter.

Morag is orphaned at an early age, and is adopted by the town garbage collector, who served with her father in WWI. She grows up poor and socially stigmatised, and all her adoptive father Christie has to give her for pride is his legacy of settler culture - the stoy of the Scots who left the British Isles under some duress and hardship, and established new homes and hopes for the future in the new territories, a trek made by both his and Morag's ancestors. He tells her stories of Piper Gunn, a heroic (albeit mythical) leader of the Scottish settlers in the Red river region of Manitoba. These tales not only help to sustain her pride, but eventually lead her toward her ultimately successful career as a creative artist.

But there's more to this book than an unquestioned revelling in the adventure of the colonial project. Becasue early on in her life, Morag meets her Aboriginal counterpart. Skinner (Jules) Tonnerre is Métis, and he too is poor and socially stigmatised and at the same time bright and creative with gifts too large for a sleepy prairie town to hold, but as a Métis, his options are very different. Yet he too has a mythic family legacy that gives him pride - the legends of his ancestor Rider Tonnerre, who fought in the Riel Rebellion at the side of Gabriel Dumont.

This is a book that tries to look at the settler culture of Canada from the perspective of both indigene and immigrant. And that doesn't shy away from rubbing the painful truths of Aboriginal experience in the face of the poor and socially outcast, yet at the same time privileged because of her whiteness, protagonist. Skinner and Morag are lovers at certain points in their long yet sporadic relationship, and for every step up the social ladder that Morag makes, there is some counterpoint in Skinner's life that kicks Morag - and the reader - in the gut, becasue no matter how hard it's been for her, she never has to face what Skinner and his sisters face.

And it's important that she try to learn, even though she never really does, because she and Skinner have a child, and no matter how hard Morag tries to pretend otherwise, her daughter is always going to be on the other side of the racial barrier, as her father was.

It's a subtle and complex book, one that explores a great many things at once - the power of story and myth, the struggles women face in being themselves (it's an intensely feminist book), the writing life among others - but this unrelenting juxtaposition of settler romance and Aboriginal realities is one of the things that lies at the heart of the novel.

As a white woman (and one of settler Scot background myself, and therefore having a personal inclination to be carried away by the tales of the heroic Piper Gunn) I don't know and haven't the experience to make a definitive assessment of how well Laurence did at this - but it's clear that she wanted to tell this story as a part of her creation, and that she tried very hard to do it right. And it's certainly had a powerful effect on me. (I have more to say about the book from a less directed perspective here.)


Among my positive memories of the last few iterations of RaceFail was the opportunity to find many wonderful recommendations of books by people of colour.

Reading about a book that has erased Aboriginal peoples makes me only more eager to read books that don't erase the indigenous peoples of entire continents like North and South America or Australia and New Zealand, and that deal openly with settler/colonialist issues instead of handwaving them aside.

I'd love to hear about what you have read and enjoyed/appreciated/learned from about the settler invasions that isn't about an Empty Continent.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

A platform-spanning discussion of Patricia Wrede's new book, Thirteenth Child, which originated at on with a review by Jo Walton, is taking place.

The discussion focuses on the ways in which the book, an alternate history fantasy in which First Nations people never arrived in the Americas, leaving the book's analogues for European peoples the luxury of settling in reality the Empty Continent that so much North American literature and popular culture seems to assume was there anyway (thus "vanishing" whole nations of indigenous - i.e., first arrival - peoples).

I have a suggestion for readers of fantasy who want to look at the other side of the Empty Continent trope. First Nations (Cherokee) author Daniel Heath Justice has written a trilogy of fantasy novels from the perspective of a people who have been colonised. It is heavily influenced by his own heritage. I've only read the first volume so far (the other two are sitting on my TBR shelf), but not only did I enjoy it, it made me think. My own review of the first volume can be found in my book journal, here.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Ah, Christmas. The day that my partner and I replenish each other’s libraries for the coming year, and we get some other stuff from here and there, too. And now, while he starts making Christmas dinner (bird and fancy dressing and mince-meat pie, oh yum!) I'm going to be shamelessly materialistic about all the lovely books I am the proud new custodian of.

Warning: a post full of shameless materialism follows.

There was much squeeing and whooping as we opened our presents this afternoon. The full tale of books my true love gave to me is as follows (although I am told that there are some books which will be arriving later, when SJ brings them up from the States – buying used books online in the US from Canada works better if you have them sent to a US address):

New books by authors I’ve read before
Bloodchild, Octavia Butler
Stealing Magic, Tanya Huff
The Fall of the Kings, Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman
Thomas the Rhymer, Ellen Kushner
The Outstretched Shadow, Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
To Light a Candle, Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
The Kingdom of the Grail, Judith Tarr
Reluctant Voyagers, Elisabeth Vonarburg
The King’s Name, Jo Walton
The Prize in the Game, Jo Walton
Tooth and Claw, Jo Walton

Books by new authors
Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey
Touched by Venom, Janine Cross
Black Sun Rising, C.S. Friedman
Bold as Love, Gweneth Jones
The Aware, Glenda Larke
Warchild, Karin Lowachee
Guardian of the Balance, Irene Radford
In Legend Born, Laura Resnick
Califia’s Daughters, Leigh Richards
City of Pearl, Karen Traviss

Books I’ve read before and wanted to own and read again
Alanna: The First Adventure, Tamora Pierce
In the Hand of the Goddess, Tamora Pierce
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Tamora Pierce
Lioness Rampant, Tamora Pierce
Sunrunner's Fire, Melanie Rawn
Stronghold, Melanie Rawn
The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart
The Hollow Hills, Mary Stewart
The Midwich Cuckoos, John Wyndham

Women of War, (ed. Tanya Huff and Alexander Potter)

The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihad and Modernity, Tariq Ali
1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus, Charles C. Mann

I did receive some wonderful non-book items as well:
[personal profile] glaurung_quena also got me some CDs I’ve been after having: The Division Bell and Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd (I once owned these but lost custody during an amicable divorce); Birds of a Feather by Rough Trade; Mermaid Avenue, which is a disc of Woody Guthrie songs performed by Billy Bragg; and Storyville by Robbie Robertson.
[personal profile] glaurung_quena’s sister* sent me the third season of Forever Knight on DVD, which completes my collection and delights me to no end. I’m sure most of you can guess what I’m going to be watching for the next several days.
My good friend Cathy gave me Loreena McKennitt’s new CD, An Ancient Muse, which is just wonderful to listen to.

It’s true that I mostly received fantasy and science fiction books this year, but I also plan to read most of the books I gave to [personal profile] glaurung_quena, which include such anticipated volumes as:

Bait and Switch, Barbara Ehrenreich
Virginity or Death, Katha Pollitt
Reel Bad Arabs Jack G. Shaheen
Demand my Writing: Joanna Russ, Feminism, Science Fiction, Jean Cortiel
The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Dispossessed", ed. Davis and Stillman
Drag King Dreams, Leslie Feinberg
Muhammad, Karen Armstrong
Boy in the Middle, Patrick Califia
James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, Julie Phillips
Mommy’s Little Girl: On Sex, Motherhood, Porn and Cherry Pie, Susie Bright

Yes, the days are finally getting longer again, which means more hours of daylight in which to read – which is admittedly irrelevant in this age of electric lighting, but still… there is much dancing and delight in this household, for the books are unwrapped and piled on coffee tables and the special “to be read” shelves and all is right with our little corner of the world.

Tomorrow I’ll be back to my misanthropic self, no doubt, but tonight, there are new books.

*I hate the term “in-law.” Sometimes I use terminology based on idioms I first encountered in Zenna Henderson’s books about the people: sister in love, sister of the heart, etc. Sometimes I just describe the relationship. When necessary, I use the standard terminology. But I really don’t like it much.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Whan and how did you arrive at your essential political, ethical and religious/spiritual philosophies? Have you always tended in certain directions and simply found the influences that brought you to where you are today, or did someone or something teach you/influence you/make you think about these positions and values?

Last night, I was talking with my partner [personal profile] glaurung_quena about some of the books and authors from my youth that I've been re-reading of late (details available on my book journal, [personal profile] bibliogramma. I noticed that a lot of them, quite unbeknownst to me at the time, were fairly radical in some ways - Naomi Mitchison's Memoirs of a Spacewoman, Suzette Haden Elgin's At The Seventh Level, Samuel Delany's work... in fact, the other night, I was re-reading Rosemary Sutcliff's Sword at Sunset, published in 1963, and ran across a small passage in which her attempt at a historical King Arthur is looking around at his band of companions, sitting around socializing after a hard day's work of hunting down Saxons, and sees two of his warriors having a cuddle in the corner. His thoughts are basically - lots of warriors form such relationships while on campaign and away from women, but these two really seem to be in love, which is only going to make them better warriors because they won't want to fight poorly in front of their lover.

So I was sort of wondering if perhaps, it was all of this stuff I'd read as a child that had started me on the path to becoming a left-wing radical with some very strong feelings about social justice, a pagan animist with some very strong feelings about the unity of all things, and all of those other values that underpin who I am.

But then my partner pointed out that I'd also read everything Heinlein had ever written when I was a child, and a lot of books by other people, some fairly right-wing, militaristic, crypto-fascist, etc., and hadn't been particularly influenced by them, other than to think about what was wrong in their worldviews, from my perspective, anyway.

Having a working mother back in the early 60s when this was not really common for a white middleclass child may have had something to do with my becoming a feminist at a very early age, but my mother was far from being a radical in political terms. I was raised until the age of about 12 or 13 without any continuing religious influences, except for one grandmother who kept trying to put me into Bible classes, but I didn't see her often at all. Then my mother converted to Judaism, but I was old enough that she simply asked my to keep kosher in the house out of respect for her, so while I studied the basic principles with her, I wasn't being pressured to adopt any particular faith, which was a good thing because by then I'd already developed the basic structure of my own beliefs, which were not at all like those of Judaism or Christianity.

So what was it? What made me initially susceptible to a left-wing/socialist and at the same distinctly spiritual and mystical set of perspectives on the world I live in? Sometimes it seems to me as though I have always felt this way, and that I uncovered my core beliefs rather than developed them, as I would read or hear one thing that said to me "yes, of course, that just feels right" and then read or hear something else and feel that there was something basically wrong about it - and that the rest was simply refining my feelings of "rightness" and "wrongness" with evidence and reason.

And how about you?

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