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So, in the past few months, I’ve watched two films with similar stories and themes - The Miseducation of Cameron Post, and just the other night, Boy Erased. Both deal with a young queer person forced into the horrors of conversion therapy by parents who are determined to ‘make them straight.’ But they are rather different in tone.

In The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Cameron, the young woman at the heart of the story, is relatively unconflicted about her sexuality. No matter what her parents or the ‘counsellors’ at the Christian conversion camp think, she like girls, and she enjoys it. Though her belief in herself is temporarily shaken when she learns that her lover, Coley, has renounced her and their relationship, she manages to recover her sense of who she is despite the pressures around her. Her story is one of surviving the abusive bullshit dumped on her - which, sadly some other ‘participants’ don’t - until she manages, with some other proudly unrepentant teens, to escape and begin her own life.

The main character in Boy Erased, Jarod Eamons, has a more complicated road to travel. Again, a same-sex encounter that his parents discover results in his being placed into conversion therapy by his parents, but Jarod is more uncertain of his sexuality, wants to earn the love of his parents, and has been influenced by the profoundly Christian manner of his upbringing. As well, an early experience with another boy was, we learn later on, traumatic in a way that not only gives him reason to question his gayness, but also to be forced to confront massive trust issues with his parents, particularly his father.

The ‘therapy’ program is, like all these programs, abusive and carries the potential to deeply harm participants, even if they weren’t already struggling with sexuality and rejection by parents and family, church, and society.

Finally Jarod escapes, through the support of his mother, who has come to the realisation that if she must choose between her son and her church as she’s always believed in it, she chooses her son.

It’s a far more nuanced film, and one that shows not only Jarod’s coming to terms with himself and the trauma he experiences from multiple sources, but also a journey toward understanding for his mother, and even, at the end, a chance that his father can grow beyond his religious prejudices.

I’m glad to have seen both films, and hope that soon, no one will ever again have stories to tell about the abuses of gay conversion programs.
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I’ve been trying to catch up on some of the films that came out in the last few months of the year, as the internet elves make them available.

Recently watched BlackKKlansman, which was to my mind a truly extraordinary film. Well written, well directed, well acted. Spike Lee may have produced his best film yet with this. From the opening sequence, which was an assault of racist thoughts and images, to the final Black Power image, it was riveting. What I found fascinating was the way that he makes the ugliness and violence of the Klan so clear, and yet at the same time makes it impossible to see any of the Klansmen as positive characters - they are (with one important exception) shown as incompetent, full of insecurities, paranoid, and so on. It’s reminiscent of a similar choice made by Mel Brooks when making The Producers. The exception is, of course, David Duke. By making him appear not all that much worse than many of the other white men in the story, Lee reminds us that yes, the ridiculous pageantry and naked hatred can be disguised and made to seem electable.

While the undercover penetration of the Klan was the main plotline, the mere background was a strong story in itself, detailing the situation of Ron Stallworth as the first black man in an all-white, often openly racist environment. The choice to make Stallworth’s partner in going undercover a secular Jew - the actual identity of his partner remains unknown - is brilliant as it gives both men a reason to invest personally in the mission, although Zimmerman at first denies it.

The blending of past and present, ranging from images from Birth of a Nation and the harrowing eyewitness account if a lynching (in a powerful performance by Harry Belafonte) to shots of the Charlottesville march is profoundly chilling, reminding us that nothing we see is new, and nothing has been put behind us.

I’m still thinking about the film, days after seeing it. Powerful.

Another film I’ve seen recently is Bohemian Rhapsody. I wanted to see it, despite the discussions of its treatment if Mercury’s Sexuality, because I was a great fan of Queen and nothing can convince me that Freddie Mercury was not the greatest frontman in rock and roll history. I was prepared to be forgiving as long as Rami Malik’s performance lived up to its billing. Which it did. I was blown away by how well he inhabited Mercury’s persona. And while yes, there were some distinct problems with the way that Mercury’s sexuality was portrayed, It was very clear that Malik knew he was playing a queer man, and he played him that way. The text might have been less than accurate about the ways his bisexuality informed his life and his performances, but Malik puts it unmistakably into his chacterisation, and it is a thing of beauty. Whatever the problems were with the film, Malik made Freddie Mercury, the man, the artist, the musician, come alive in all his queer vitality.

So yeah, colour me happy with the movie. I’d have been happier with something more accurate, and less inclined to suggest that aspects of gay life that Freddie engaged in were due solely to his being lonely, lost, and misguided... but I’ll take Malik’s incandescent performance and ignore the things that could have been better.
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I love lists of great books. I realy love lists of great sf books. has published a wonderful list by James Nicoll of “100 SF/F books You Should Consider Reading In the New Year.”

It is a great list, full of great books, some of which I have read, some of which I know only by reputation but have often wanted to read. Maybe this year I will.

I’ve starred the books I’ve read from the list. 45 out of 100, with a few that I think I have read but it was very long ago and I’. not sure.

A plus sign indicates the ones I own that are sitting patiently in my TBR list. Yes, I have a very, very long TBR list. A woman’s reach should exceed her grasp, or what’s a heaven for?

*The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (2014)
The Stolen Lake by Joan Aiken (1981)
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa (2001-2010)
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō by Hitoshi Ashinano (1994-2006)
*The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
Stinz: Charger: The War Stories by Donna Barr (1987)
The Sword and the Satchel by Elizabeth Boyer (1980)
Galactic Sibyl Sue Blue by Rosel George Brown (1968)
*The Mountains of Mourning by Lois McMaster Bujold (1989)
+War for the Oaks by Emma Bull (1987)
*Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler (1980)
*Naamah’s Curse by Jacqueline Carey (2010)
*The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter (1996)
*The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (2015)
*Red Moon and Black Mountain by Joy Chant (1970)
*The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas (1980)
+Gate of Ivrel by C.J. Cherryh (1976)
*Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (2015)
Diadem from the Stars by Jo Clayton (1977)
*The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (1973)
Genpei by Kara Dalkey (2000)
Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard (2010)
The Secret Country by Pamela Dean (1985)
*Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany (1975)
*The Door into Fire by Diane Duane (1979)
On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis (2016)
*Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott (2006)
Enchantress From the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl (1970)
*Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle (1983)
The Dazzle of Day by Molly Gloss (1997)
A Mask for the General by Lisa Goldstein (1987)
+Slow River by Nicola Griffith (1995)
+Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly (1988)
Winterlong by Elizabeth Hand (1990)
*Ingathering by Zenna Henderson (1995)
The Interior Life by Dorothy Heydt (writing as Katherine Blake, 1990)
*God Stalk by P. C. Hodgell (1982)
*Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson (1998)
*Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang (2014)
*Blood Price by Tanya Huff (1991)
The Keeper of the Isis Light by Monica Hughes (1980)
God’s War by Kameron Hurley (2011)
+Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta (2014)
*The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin (2015)
Cart and Cwidder by Diane Wynne Jones (1975)
*Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones (2014)
+Hellspark by Janet Kagan (1988)
A Voice Out of Ramah by Lee Killough (1979)
St Ailbe’s Hall by Naomi Kritzer (2004)
*Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz (1970)
*Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner (1987)
*A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1962)
Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier (2005)
*The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (1974)
*Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (2013)
+Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee (Also titled Drinking Saphire Wine, 1979)
*Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (2016)
Wizard of the Pigeons by Megan Lindholm (1986)
*Adaptation by Malinda Lo (2012)
*Watchtower by Elizabeth A. Lynn (1979)
*Tea with the Black Dragon by R. A. MacAvoy (1983)
*The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald (2007)
*China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh (1992)
+Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre (1978)
The Riddle-Master of Hed by Patricia A. McKillip (1976)
*Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees (1926)
Pennterra by Judith Moffett (1987)
The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monáe (2010)
*Jirel of Joiry by C. L. Moore (1969)
+Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (2016)
+The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy (1989)
+Vast by Linda Nagata (1998)
*Galactic Derelict by Andre Norton (1959)
*His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik (2006)
+Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara (1993)
Outlaw School by Rebecca Ore (2000)
*Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor (2014)
*Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (1983)
*Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy (1976)
+Godmother Night by Rachel Pollack (1996)
Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti (1859)
My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland (2011)
*The Female Man by Joanna Russ (1975)
Stay Crazy by Erika L. Satifka (2016)
The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (1988)
Five-Twelfths of Heaven by Melissa Scott (1985)
*Everfair by Nisi Shawl (2016)
*Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
*A Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski (1986)
*The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart (1970)
*Up the Walls of the World by James Tiptree, Jr. (1978)
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (1996)
The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge (1980)
*All Systems Red by Martha Wells (2017)
The Well-Favored Man by Elizabeth Willey (1993)
Banner of Souls by Liz Williams (2004)
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson (2012)
*Ariosto by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (1980)
+Ooku by Fumi Yoshinaga (2005-present)
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Happy solstice to all! May the turning of the year bring you light, and hope, and strength to carry on in the days to come.
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Well, I quite enjoyed the season finale. I had grown tired of the universe shattering cliffhanger finales with the stakes and the Doctor’s position as an avatar of Christ himsrlf escalating out of control. I like smallish stories, and this one did wrap up a point plot from the beginning, show us how far the companions have come, without killing any if them, and save the world. That’s enough for one episode, I think.

I like Jodie Whittaker’s portrayal of the Doctor, although I would love to see her facing greater challenges in future seasons.

And none of this season’s episodes have been awful, and a few have been brilliant. Good job for the first year. Now let’s crank it up for Jodie’s year two.

Your thoughts?
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So, I’m thinking of trying to post more here and build up my participation so that when I am slammed by FB’s new content restrictions, I still have a social network to ease my isolation.

Things are not good, for those of you who are not on FB, which is where I’ve been posting updates on my health and wellbeing. In fact, they are completely awful. I did finally get the kidney surgery I was waiting for, and sll the tubes and stents are out of me, but I have now fallen victim to a particularly severe case of restless limb syndrome (rls) plus none-stop pruritus, plus massive edema, and I am exhausted, unable to sit comfortably or lie down at all because of the extent of the swelling in my lower body and legs. The rls leaves me going crazy with massive crawling sensations in my legs, arms, and as can happen in severe cases, abdomen. Doctor is unable to pinpoint a cause. I am fucked.

Not reading much because of all of this. Not doing much of anything, in fact. Very depressed. Exhausted. Half insane from constant crawling and itching all over my body, plus pain where all my swollen parts are jammed together so I can sit and type this.

Not a happy camper,

I am thinking of mirroring some of the posts I make on FB here, and perhaps creating more original content here as well. That is assuming I don’t lose the battle with my body completely and just bugger off the mortal coil.

I’m back

Apr. 12th, 2018 10:41 am
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It’s been a while. I’ve been depressed, and sick - the first time in years that I’ve gotten a flu shot, also the first time in years I’ve gotten the flu - and not reading much and generally feeling unmotivated in the extreme. But I figure I should get back into the habit, so here is my book report for the oast few weeks.

Since the announcement of the Hugo finalists on March 31, I’ve been working on reading the ones I haven’t already read, which include novels from three Campbell finalists and, of course, the dreaded best series category.

Since my last book post, I have completed:

Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Falcons of Narabedla
Tanya Huff, The Future Falls
N. K. Jemisin, The Killing Moon
N. K. Jemisin, The Shadowed Sun
Sarah Kuhn, Heroine Complex
Mur Lafferty, Six Wakes
Frances Hardinge, A Skinful of Shadows
Peter Tremayne, Shroud of the Archbishop
Peter Tremayne, Suffer the Children
Cassandra Khaw, Food of the Gods
Sarah Gailey, River of Teeth
Seanan McGuire, Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Dorothy Roberts, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty
Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal (eds.), Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler

(As always, my thoughts on the books I read, feeble as they may be, can be found on my book journal at

Currently reading:

Kim Stanley Robinson, New York 2140
Martin Delany, Blake, or the Huts of Africa Part One
Olaf Stapledon, Darkness and the Light
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (ed.), How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective
Ann and Jeff Vandermeer (eds.), Sisters of the Revolution
Samuel R. Delany, Shorter Views: Queer Thoughts and the Politics of the Paraliterary

What’s next:

More Hugo reading, of course. I have two more finalists from the best novel category for both 2018 and 1943, plus most of the graphic novel finalists, plus three YA finalists, plus novels from two Campbell finalists, plus two related works finalists, plus examples from four best series finalists. Assuming that I can find free copies of all of these, either in the voters packet or elsewhere.

And there’s a bunch of other stuff I want to read, new releases and books that have been sitting on my TBR list forever. So many, many books.
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And it’s reading Wednesday again.

I’ve been feeling a bit down this week, and in a lot of pain, which as usual has had an affect on my reading. I’ve spent a lot of time mindlessly playing one of my favourite games, called Rebuild. It’s after the Zombie apocalypse, and your responsibility is to clear out the town you find yourself in, collect survivors, feed them. It’s not as complex as a full-fledged RPG, it’s more of a turn-based simple combat strategy game, but it requires little thought, no manual dexterity, and it’s fun killing vampires. I don’t play the big RPG games because every time I’ve ever tried one, they’ve been dependent on manual dexterity. You have to be able to get past the guards at high speed, or jump precisely from the ledge to the rock in the middle of the chasm, or press the buttons in the right order, or something that involves complex manipulation of motion controls, and I have never been able to achieve that kind of accuracy, so I never get anywhere, and eventually I stopped trying to play them. Which is a pity, because some of them appear to be interesting, but I have no wish to get involved in a game and then get permanently blocked because I simply cannot execute a series of moves quickly or accurately enough. But enough about games.

I did get some reading done this week. Finished off a few things that I’d been slowly working through.

Books (and novellas)completed this week:

Shadowhouse Fall, Daniel José Older
Amberlough, Lara Elena Donnelly
There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, Chinua Achebe
Strangers from a Different Shore, Ronald Takaki
Whose Land Is It Anyway? A Manual for Decolonization, Peter McFarlane and Nicole Schabus (eds.)
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, Jill Twiss
Hammers on Bone, Cassandra Khaw
Bearly a Lady, Cassandra Khaw

Books in progress:

Food of the Gods, Cassandra Khaw
Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, Dorothy Roberts
Shorter Views: Queer Thoughts and the Politics of the Paraliterary, Samuel R. Delany
Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler, Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal (eds.)

What’s next:

I’m in a mood of completion right now, so I’m thinking I’m going to go through my TBR list and read the sequels to all those first volumes in a series that I enjoyed but somehow didn’t get around to reading the next volume when it came out. There’s actually a fair bit of that on my list.

And there’s always new books coming out, and this year I want to get a head start on books that might be potential Hugo nominees fir next year.

And there’s the rereads of Heinlein and Le Guin that are on my back burner at the moment, to which list I’m now wanting to add Octavia Butler, because reading Luminescent Threads has put me in that mood.

And I have some specific ideas about the “social justice” reading I want to do this year. My priorities include: reading more about Indigenous history and experience and the processes of decolonisation; more books about the history and experiences of people of colour in Canada; writings both theoretical and personal by black and Indigenous women; and experiences of transgender, non-binary and intersex people. Some of these are not going to be easy to source on a zero budget - libraries don’t have a lot of this material available on ebooks, and other sources go by popularity, but I’m going to try. I’ve already got several books in all of these subjects to start on, so we’ll see what I can find to add to that.
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I haven’t completed any if my books in progress over the past week, because I’ve mostly been reading pulp magazines from 1942. Twenty-four of them, in fact. I did not read cover to cover, but I gave every piece of fiction a few oaragraphs to engage me, and if it did, I read it. Say, about two-thirds of the stories published. Most of the magazines were Campbell edited - primarily Amazing Stories and Unknown Worlds - with a few others tossed in for variety.

I did this because I wanted to give a fair shot at nominations for the Retro Hugos. Certainly I found some gems that I would never have thought of had I not done this reading.

And I noticed a few interesting things about the stories I read, too. First, there were a lot of stories that touched, in one way or another, on the war. Not surprising, the US had just gotten into the war a few months before the year began, and writers, even those who write speculative fiction, write about the world they live in, even if they put it into futuristic or fantasy trappings. Time travel was big. I found a lot of stories that in one way or another dealt with time travel, forward or back. Robots were pretty big, too. Not just Asimov, but other writers as well. On the fantasy side, there was a definite market for humorous stories, with L. Sprague de Camp being particularly known for such. And ghosts. A lot of fantasy involved ghosts. Actually, both Anthony Boucher and A. E. van Vogt wrote time travel stories involving ghosts. There were a fair few ‘bargain with the devil’ fantasies, too.

It was really rather interesting, immersing myself in sff from another time for a week. But now I’m back to the present, and all my Hugo nominations are in, and I’ve got some things I want to read for myself.

Next week, back to regular Wednesday reading posts. At least, that’s the plan.
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On Wednesday I was at the hospital dealing with multiple bureaucratic screwups in what was supposed to be a straightforward process of having some tests done and talking to a doctor about them. I arrive home exhausted and promptly slept the rest of the day. And the day after. And mist of Friday, too. So Wednesday’s book post is happening today instead.

Depression hit me for a few days this week, too, so my reading was impacted in a not good way. I feel so unlike myself when I can’t get into a book. But I think it’s turning around, slowly.

Books completed this week:
Raven Stratagem, Yoon Ha Lee
The Art of Starving, Sam J. Miller
Sleeping with Monsters, Liz Bourke
Up Ghost River: a chief’s journey through the turbulent waters of Native history, Edward Metatawabin
Fonda Lee, Exo

Books in progress:
Shadowhouse Fall, Daniel José Older
Amberlough, Lara Elena Donnelly
Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, Dorothy Roberts
Shorter Views: Queer Thoughts and the Politics of the Paraliterary, Samuel R. Delany
There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, Chinua Achebe
Strangers from a Different Shore, Ronald Takaki

What’s up next:
Finishing the Hugo reading. After that, I’m not entirely sure. Reading Liz Bourke’s Sleeping with Monsters has given me some ideas, as the book includes essays about a fair few books that have been languishing in my TBR file for some time.

And of course, the Heinlein and Le Guin rereading projects.

Plus, I keep a little list of books that I hear about from various sources and the dates on which are being released. These are books that I feel I absolutely must acquire. The list is only a starting point, of course - I’m forever hearing about books after their publication that I would have put on the list if I’d known about them. This is how the TBR pile just keeps growing. There are a few books on this list from February I still don’t have, and there’s the list for March. I need to try to read these as I acquire them so the TBR list doesn’t get any longer. The February/March list:

Elizabeth Gillespie McRae, Mothers of Massive Resistance
Djamila Ibrahim, Things Are Good Now
Therese Marie Mailhot, Heart Berries: A Memoir
Elizabeth Bear, Stone Mad
Nancy Kress, If Tomorrow Comes
Tomi Adeyemi, Children of Blood and Bone
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I continue to read. This is a good thing and makes me happy.

Books completed this week:
The Compleat Werewolf and Other Stories, Anthony Boucher
At The Dark End of the Street, Danielle L. McGuire
What It Means When A Man Falls from the Sky, Lesley Nneka Arimah
Weave a Circle Round, Kari Maaren
The Illegal, Lawrence Hill
The Tiger’s Daughter, K. Arsenault Rivera
Provenance, Ann Leckie
So You Want To Talk about Race, Ijeoma Oluo
Proof of Concept, Gwyneth Jones
Want, Cindy Pon

Books in progress:
Raven Stratagem, Yoon Ha Lee
The Art of Starving, Sam J. Miller
Sleeping with Monsters, Liz Bourke
Shorter Views: Queer Thoughts and the Politics of the Paraliterary, Samuel R. Delany
There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, Chinua Achebe
Strangers from a Different Shore, Ronald Takaki

What’s next:

Still doing Hugo reading, mostly young adult novels and a few related works. A few more recommended novels - Lana Elena Donelly’s Amberlough, Mur Lafferty’s Six Wakes, Annalee Newitz’s Autonomous - if there’s time. I read about a hook a day, so theoretically I have time for 15 more books before I have to finalise my ballot. Some more short fiction, current and retro.

After that, some rereads, Heinlein and Le Guin.

And I think I’ll do some concerted work on reducing the length of my TBR list, which at last count ran to 18 pages, single-spaced. I have a lot of lovely books sitting on my ipad waiting to be read, and they keep writing new ones to add to the list.
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More adventures in reading in between watching the Olympics.

Books completed this week:
Samuel Delany, The Atheist in the Attic
Robert Heinlein, Waldo and Magic, Inc
Robert Heinlein, The Green Hills of Earth
Robert Heinlein, The Menace from Earth
Robert Heinlein, The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag (also published as 6XH)
Vita Sackville-West, Grand Canyon
Claire North, The End of the Day

Books in progress:
Shorter Views: Queer Thoughts and the Politics of the Paraliterary, Samuel R. Delany
There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, Chinua Achebe
Strangers from a Different Shore, Ronald Takaki
The Compleat Werewolf and Other Stories, Anthony Boucher
At The Dark End of the Street, subtitled Black Women, Rape, and Resistance–A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power, Danielle L. McGuire
What It Means When A Man Falls from the Sky, Lesley Nneka Arimah

What next?:
More Hugo reading, obviously.

I have a few YA books to check out - mostly Nebula nominees, since I really don’t follow YA novels except when they get a lot of buzz or are written by authors on my automatic “must read everything they write” list - plus a couple of the other novels nominated for Nebulas that seem interesting.

And I have a lot of short stories and novelettes to read from the various suggestion lists around the Net. The fact that I can pretty much only read those published in online magazines, unless they’re in an original anthology I’ve managed to acquire, makes my task a little easier, but still, there is a lot of great short fiction out there and I’m always behind on my reading.

And there’s some books I want to read for the related works category, too. Time is running out.

And there’s all the other books, too.

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Well, I’ve been reading less this past week than I have lately, because I have been pandering to my Olympics obsession, but I have still managed to read a few things.

Books competed this week:

Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, edited by Mikki Kendall and Chesya Burke
All Systems Red, Martha Wells
Akata Warrior, Nnedi Okorafor
Policing Black Lives, Robyn Maynard
Crip Theory, Robert McRuer
Nerves, Lester del Ray
Hell is Forever, Alfred Bester
Boundries, Border Crossings and Reinventing the Future, Beth Plutchak
Agents of Dreamland, Caitlin Kiernan
An Ember from the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir

Books in progress:

Shorter Views: Queer Thoughts and the Politics of the Paraliterary, Samuel R. Delany
There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, Chinua Achebe
Strangers from a Different Shore, Ronald Takaki
At the Dark End of the Street, Danielle L. McGuire
The End of the Day, Claire North

What’s next:

More Hugo reading, contemporary and retro. More works by black authors in celebration of Black History Month. Maybe some other things just because that’s what caught my eye while persuing my list of books I have in my ebook collection but have yet to read.

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Another week, another Wednesday, another book post.

What I’m currently reading:

Akata Warrior, Nnedi Okorafor
Nerves, Lester Del Ray
Policing Black Lives, Robyn Maynard
Hidden Youth, Mikki Kendall and Chesya Burke (eds.)
Crip Theory, Robert McRuer
Strangers from a Different Shore, Ronald Takaki

Books completed this week:

Null States, Malka Older
Homintern, Gregory Woods
Lethal Decisions, Arthur Ammann
My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me, Jennifer Teege
The Stone Sky, N. K. Jemisin
An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon
Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor
A. E. van Vogt, Asylum

What’s up next:

Well, still doing Hugo reading, and I have several books I want to read in the Related Works category - Beth Pluchak’s Boundaries, Borders and Reinventing the Future, Liz Bourke’s Sleeping with Monsters, and the tribute anthology for Octavia Butler, Luminescent Threads. Plus a few more novels - including some YA novels for the new not-a-Hugo category -and lots more short fiction - a couple of novellas that sound interesting and quite a few novelettes and short stories.

Plus, I need to do some reading for the 1943 Retro Hugo fiction categories (works published in 1942), if I can find the works I want to check out anywhere online. Fortunately, I’ve already read the books I feel are the strongest contenders for Best Novel - Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright, The Stranger by Albert Camus, Beyond this Horizon by Robert Heinlein and The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. Deadline for nominations is March 16, so I need to get cracking on this.

Plus, I’m trying to focus on reading books by black authors, both fiction and non-fiction, for Black History month. I have lots of books to choose from in my TBR pile that fit the bill, so there’s no problem finding the books to read, it’s just a matter of balancing my two projects for the month.

The Heinlein reread project has been put on the back burner for now, and I’m also feeling a need to reread some of my favourite books by Ursula Le Guin, but that will have to wait til March.

So many, many, many books, so very little time.

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Yes, I’m begging again.

My health has continued to deteriorate in a truly spectacular fashion. Two years ago it was lesions on my parathyroid glands requiring surgery, and a broken foot. Last year, kidney failure. Gall bladder attack. Kidney stones filling my kidneys and blocking my ureters so I can’t pee normally. Nephristomy tubes and stents in one of my ureters, that require regular changing. Waiting to be healthy enough for the necessary imaging to be done before surgery (it’s not safe to do contrast CT scans on someone in kidney failure, but they needed a contrast CT to determine where the stones are for surgery). Constant trips to the hospital.

Well, I’ve finally had the CT scan, but my nephrologist was still leery about surgery so he is trying to treat the stones pharmaceutically - if he can get them to dissolve a bit, he can go in to remove them with robots through my bladder rather than having to do an invasive and much riskier surgical procedure. I will need more imaging once this treatment is completed, to see if it worked. More trips to the hospital for imaging and consults and finally surgery.

And.... the imaging showed a mass on my ovary and lesions in my left lung, and I need to be seen by oncologists to check those things out.

Every visit to a hospital for scheduled imaging or consults with doctors or changing my my nephrostomy tubes means I have to hire an ambulance and two crews because I’m fat. Each visit costs me around $800 dollars. I’ve been going in once or twice a month for eight months now, not counting all the visits from two years ago, which still aren’t completely paid for. Our savings are gone and we’ve exhausted our credit but I still have medical appointments that are necessary for my state of health, and possibly my life if it turns put that I have cancer. But I have no money left and no way to get more.

I have a small, fixed income. My partner is my 24/7 caregiver and can’t work on top of doing that. We have already cut our expenses to a minimum to at least pay the interest in what we’ve had to borrow to cover hospital travel to this point. And we know that between the kidney specialist and the oncologist, I will need at least five or six more hospital trips, just to fix the kidneys and get diagnostic tests done on my ovary and lung.

So I’ve started a new GoFundMe. If you can help at all, please consider it. I’m out of options.
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Oh look, It’s Wednesday again, and that means its time for another book post.

Books completed in the past week:

Tender, Sofia Samatar
Race, Gender and Sexuality in Post-Apocalyptic TV and Film, Barbara Gurr (ed.)
Late in the Day: Poems 2010-2014, Ursula Le Guin
Amatka, Karin Tidbeck
The Fire This Time, Jessmyn Ward (ed.)
The Changeling, Victor LaValle
No Time to Spare, Ursula Le Guin
The Adventure of the Incognita Contessa, Cynthia Ward

Books I’m currently reading:

Null States, Malka Older
Policing Black Lives, Robyn Maynard
Hidden Youth, Mikki Kendall and Chesya Burke (eds.)
Crip Theory, Robert McRuer
Homintern, Gregory Woods
Lethal Decisions, Arthur Ammann
Strangers from a Different Shore, Ronald Takaki

Next on the list:

No idea. More Hugo reading, I suppose. There’s still some novels and short fiction I want to read before the nominations close. And some related works - Beth Pluchak’s Boundaries, Borders and Reinventing the Future and Liz Bourke’s Sleeping with Monsters, both from Aqueduct Press, among them.

And there’s a lot of social justice literature I’ve got sitting on my ipad waiting to be read. And a huge backlog of fiction and other cool books to be read as well. While I seem capable of reading - which is not always the case given my fluctuating health - I really do want to take advantage of it.

Two movies

Jan. 27th, 2018 02:44 am
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Around this time of year, I like to check out the lists of films that were nominated for Golden Globes and Oscars, and see if there are films I haven’t seen yet, but want to. This year, the two films that struck me as belonging in that category were Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri and The Shape of Water.

And I found both, in different ways, disappointing. I’m going to discuss why, and that will involve plenty of spoilers, so if you are spoiler averse and haven’t seen these films yet, you should probably stop reading.

First, Three Billboards. Yes, it was brilliantly acted. The performances of all the significant cast members were truly works of art. And the story was a profound expression of a woman’s rage, which was both timely and well handled for the most part, although it did wander between the genres of realism and black comedy, making the actions of some of the characters - particularly when the police station is firebombed - more than a little farcical. It’s as if a serious exploration of grief and rage kind of ran away from itself and went way over the top.

What did not sit well at all was the way that casual racism and ableism were presented as quirks that might give a character complexity but did not play into the evaluation of the character’s moral compass. We are led to believe that the sheriff is both wise and good, because he loves a good joke and is a decent father, husband and lover. Even though he allows, perhaps even encourages police brutality in his jurisdiction, and seems to play distinct favourites with who gets police service and who doesn’t. As the dying sage, he gets to appoint the next hero to be, and that would be the most racist and least competent cop on the force, who proudly acknowledges torturing “people of colour” and throws people he doesn’t like out the window. But the dead sheriff says he’s basically a good person, and so he must be.

And that’s what’s disappointing. Racism is not just a cute character flaw, it is a lack of empathy and a misalignment of one’s moral compass. Being cruel to other people - and even the protagonist is cruel, to the “town midget” played by the badly under-used Peter Dinklage - is the film’s short cut to signalling that these are real and complex people, but as long as their heart is in the right place, it doesn’t make them less heroic.

And next, The Shape of Water. While watching it, I had the odd feeling that I was actually switching back and forth between two very different films, which happened to have a few overlapping characters. One film was a romantic fairy take, about a poor girl who finds a special bond with a magical beast and turns out to be his princess, and a swan, to boot. The other was a grim and vicious dystopic look at toxic masculinity, aggression, and abuse of power, told in the form of a classic 1950s science fiction story, but from the perspective of the bug-eyed monster. One film had well-rounded snd realistic characters, the other, a cast of cartoon villains and cardboard supporting characters. I could have enjoyed either film immensely, but the fusion of the two was unsettling and distancing. It was as if two different films had been shot and edited together.

Imagine my surprise to find that del Toro has been accused of plagarism, of having taken most of the elements that fit into the fantasy romance from a 1969 play called Let Me Hear You Whisper, about a cleaning woman who saves a dolphin imprisoned in a too secret military research centre. Let me make this perfectly clear - I don’t think del Toro committed conscious plagarism, particukarly since one of the seeds that grew into this film apparently came from a lunch meeting with another writer, and del Toro optioned that ideas from him properly and legally. But I would not be surprised if one of the two men, somewhere, somehow, heard about the storyline of the play and it drifted in the back of their mind until it crystallised during this conversation. I’ve also read that once upon a time, del Toro pitched an idea about a film based on Creature of the Black Lagoon, but told from the perspective of the creature. And if you blend the two stories, what comes out is indeed The Shape of Water.

Maybe even recognising that they are two different stories, at some basic level, is why there are two strands, with two different tones (even the musical choices of the two storylines show a different aesthetic) and two different acting styles. Elisa, Giles and Zelda are realistic characters, while Strickland, his wife, The General, and even the Russian spies (with lovely if over-the-top performances, especially from Nigel Bennett) are caricatures, more like characters from Doctor Strangelove. The sleeper agent Hoffstetler is part caricature, part realistic. And the merman is all mythos.

Despite being somewhat distanced from it by these disjunctions, I loved the story. Or stories. Both had very real things to say about empathy and humanity, love and compassion, transcending boundaries through love, and the moral vacancy at the heart of militarism and toxic masculinity. A good film, but not a great one.

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Trying to make Wednesday Book posts a thing again. I want to make more use of Dreamwidth, I’m too much on FB, I think.

So. Books finished in the past week:

Theodora Goss, The Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter
Nancy Kress, Tomorrow’s Kin
Farah Mendlesohn, Spring Flowering
Nancy Kress, Yesterday’s Kin
Tade ​Thompson, ​The ​Murders ​of ​Molly ​Southbourne
JYYang, The Black Tides of Heaven
JY Yang, The Red Threads of Fortune
Kate Harding, Asking for It
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker, All the Real Indians Died Off

Books I’m currently reading:

Strangers from a Different Shore, Ronald Takaki
Homintern, Gregory Woods
Tender, Sofia Samatar
Race, Gender and Sexuality in Post-Apocalyptic TV and Film, Barbara Gurr (ed.)
Late in the Day: Poems 2010-2014, Ursula Le Guin
Amatka, Karin Tidbeck
The Fire This Time, Jessmyn Ward (ed.)
Lethal ​Decisions: ​The ​Unnecessary ​Deaths ​of ​Women ​and ​Children ​from ​HIV/AIDS, Arthur Ammann

Next on the list:

Who knows? I want to get some more Hugo reading done, so maybe Jemisen’s The Stone Sky, Victor Lavalle’s The Changeling, Rivers Soloman’s An Unkindness of Ghosts, or Malka Older’s Null States. Might try catching up on Laurie King’s Mary Russell series. Or reread some Le Guin that I haven’t read for a while. I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction in recent months, I might be feeling more like some fiction for a while.

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There are a lot of writers whose work I love, and collect without thinking or checking reviews, because I know that whatever they write will be something I want to read. There are a fair number if writers whose work I keep coming back to, rereading, exploring, for many reasons. In some sense, you coukd say that all of these writers are favourites. But if you asked me who is my favourite writer, and made me pick just one, it would be Le Guin.

It wasn’t just her work, which was some of the best fiction, not just speculative fiction, written in the past 100 years. It was what she wrote about and how she thought about what she wrote, and how she lived what she wrote. She was an inspiration, as a feminist, as a political thinker, as a human being. She did an amazing thing, something you don’t often see geniuses do. She questioned herself. She interrogated her thought and her work. She was open to finding that she had been wrong, and to showing us all how her understanding had changed. She was never afraid to learn, and relearn, and learn more. She never rested on her laurels. And in that, as in so much else, she still has so much to teach us.

Goodbye, Ursula, and fair travels.

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And another Wednesday reading post. Hoping that the trend will continue and I will be able to keep reading and posting about it through the pain and medical shit. So....

Books completed:

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, Damien Duffy
The Power, Naomi Alderman
The Epidemic - A Global History of AIDS, Jonathan Engel
Crash Override, Zoe Quinn
Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 3, Ta-Nehisi Coates
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge
Monstress: The Blood, Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Books currently reading:

Strangers from a Different Shore, Ronald Takaki
Homintern, Gregory Woods
Tender, Sofia Samatar
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, Theodora Goss
Race, Gender and Sexuality in Post-Apocalyptic TV and Film, Barbara Gurr (ed.)
Asking For It - The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture

Coming up next:

My reading intentions are still much the same as last week. More Hugo-related books - fiction, graphic narratives and related works that might be potential nominations. More books that can be loosely categorised as social justice books. Maybe a few Heinlein novels. Whatever else strikes my fancy - I’m thinking I might want to read some historical fiction or mystery/detective/suspense thrillers.

January 2019

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