I’m going to Loncon3, the 2014 Worldcon

And the people responsible have been so foolish as to put me on panels.

Three of them.

Chivalrous critics of fannish dimensions

Saturday 20:00 – 21:00

What makes a good epic fantasy? Does quality of prose matter, or is insisting on literary rigor killjoy and elitist? Is it possible to ‘overthink’ your experience of reading epic fantasy – or is it patronising to the sub-genre to suggest it should be given an easier ride than other types of writing? What are some of the primary critiques of epic fantasy and how can they be used to improve the genre moving forward?

Seeing the Future, Knowing the Past

Sunday 12:00 – 13:30

Fantasy’s use of prophecy – knowable futures – often parallels the way it treats the past, as something both knowable and stable: details of history known from a thousand years back, kingly bloodlines in direct descent for several hundreds of years, etc. In reality, George I of England was 58th in line for the throne and there is a Jacobean claimant still out there somewhere. No one really knows where France originated. History is messy and mutable. Why is fantasy so keen on the known?

Critical Diversity: Beyond Russ and Delany

Monday 11:00 – 12:00

The popular history of SF criticism might just be, if possible, even more straight, white and male than the popular history of SF — but things are changing. Online and in journals, diverse voices are starting to reach a critical (if you’ll excuse the pun) mass. Which publishers and venues are most welcoming to critics from marginalised groups? What are the strengths and weaknesses of academic and popular discourse, in this area? And most importantly, whose reviews and essays are essential reading?


I’m not sure if the panel participants have been finalised yet.

Abigail Nussbaum on Game of Thrones

I am in awe of Abigail Nussbaum’s ability to analyse television.

Here she is on Game of Thrones‘s fourth season:

Coming to the end of the season, then, the only definitive statement I can make about Game of Thrones has less to do with what was happening on screen, and more with the popular and critical reaction to it, the fact that the fourth season was the one in which a critical mass of people suddenly noticed just how rapey this show is.

You should also all read her analysis of Agents of SHIELD.

Review copies since last we spoke

FIVE WHOLE BOOKS

FIVE WHOLE BOOKS

That’s Anna Caltabiano’s THE SEVENTH MISS HATFIELD, Django Wexler’s seriously entertaining THE SHADOW THRONE, Carol Berg’s DUST AND LIGHT, Rachel Pollack’s THE CHILD EATER, and Sarah J. Maas’s HEIR OF LIGHT.

Three of these I’m on the hook to review for Tor.com. We’ll see where the other two turn up.

Edge of Tomorrow

Too much Tom Cruise, not enough Emily Blunt.

Seriously. EMILY BLUNT.

WHY DID WE NOT GET THE FILM WITH *HER* AS THE PROTAGONIST? WHY, HOLLYWOOD, WHY?

WHY DID WE NOT GET THE FILM WITH *HER* AS THE PROTAGONIST? WHY, HOLLYWOOD, WHY?

Apart from Tom Cruise, well-acted, well-paced, lots of explosions. Emily Blunt is amazing and I want the film that stars her as the badass sergeant. (Dammit, people, do we always have to have the [white, straight] guy lead?)

Overall a better film than I expected, but too much Tom Cruise, so not actually as good as I hoped.

On the plus side: Emily Blunt shoots Tom Cruise. Multiple times.

Seriously. EMILY BLUNT as  Rita Vrataski. AWESOME INCARNATE.

Seriously. EMILY BLUNT as
Rita Vrataski. AWESOME INCARNATE.

Gender Parity and Things In Lists, Jan-June 2014

In response to Rocket Talk: Gender Parity in the SFF Community.

Reviews actually published so far this year:

Mike Carey, Linda Carey, and Louise Carey, The House of War and Witness, June 2014, Strange Horizons
Greg van Eekhout, California Bones, June 2014, Tor.com
Will McIntosh, Defenders, June 2014, Ideomancer
Stephanie Saulter, Binary, May 2014, Strange Horizons
Jaime Lee Moyer, Delia’s Shadow, May 2014, Tor.com
Karen Healey, While We Run, May 2014, Tor.com
Jane Lindskold, Artemis Awakening, May 2014, Tor.com
Douglas Hulick, Sworn in Steel, May 2014, Tor.com
Kelley Armstrong, Sea of Shadows, April 2014, Tor.com
Seanan McGuire, Sparrow Hill Road, April 2014, Tor.com
Patrick Weekes, Dragon Age: The Masked Empire, April 2014, Tor.com
Brian Staveley, The Emperor’s Blades, March 2014, Intellectus Speculativus
Joanne Harris, The Gospel of Loki, March 2014, Strange Horizons
Peter Higgins, Truth and Fear, March 2014, Ideomancer
Rjurik Davidson, Unwrapped Sky, February 2014, Tor.com
Marie Rutkoski, The Winner’s Curse, February 2014, with Stefan Raets, Tor.com
Mythic Delirium #30, February 2014, Strange Horizons
Anna Kashina, Blades of the Old Empire, February 2014, Tor.com
David Drake, The Sea Without A Shore, February 2014, Tor.com
Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor, February 2014, Tor.com
Eric Flint and David Weber, Cauldron of Ghosts, February 2014, Tor.com
Martha Wells, Emilie and the Sky World, February 2014, Tor.com
Patricia Briggs, Night Broken, January 2014, Tor.com
Marie Brennan, The Tropic of Serpents, January 2014, Tor.com
Michelle Sagara, Touch, January 2014, Tor.com
David Weber, Like A Mighty Army, January 2014, Tor.com
Amalie Howard, The Almost Girl, January 2014, Tor.com
Barbara Hambly, The Kindred of Darkness, January 2014, Tor.com
Sharon Lee, Carousel Sun, January 2014, Tor.com

Ratio authors F:M = 16.6666:11.3333, not counting the reviewed magazine.

I don’t receive copies of Vector, to which I have also submitted reviews, so I don’t know what has actually appeared this year or not.

Books discussed at length but not technically paid reviews:

Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Djinni, Tor.com
Malinda Lo, Adaptation and Inheritance, Tor.com
Elizabeth Bear, Range of Ghosts, Shattered Pillars, and Steles of the Sky, Tor.com

Ratio F:M = 3:1

Books discussed in brief:
Hodgell, Britain, Sebold, Larke, Garcia, Moon, Saulter
Okorafor, McDougall, Elliott, Huang
Bear, Ross, Wright, Wells
Addison, Coates, Vaughn, Jones, McGuire

Ratio F:M = 20:0 – which, since these were for Sleeps With Monsters, is Deeply Unsurprising.

Books read in 2014.

I’m not going back and counting individual instances for a ratio of F:M:Publicly Nonbinary, since this is to mainly satisfy my own curiosity.

Review copies received this year can be found by searching the pictures tag here. Again, not counting.

I fairly suck at reading works in translation, or by authors from outside US/CAN/UK/IRE/AUS/NZ backgrounds. Also suck at reading works by people of colour, although I think I’m doing a little better on that count this year than last. Something to keep track of.

Books in brief: Lo, Palmatier, McGuire, Buckell, Carey Carey and Carey

Malinda Lo, Inheritance. Little, Brown & Co, 2013.

An excellent YA novel which I discussed very recently at Tor.com.

Joshua Palmatier, Shattering the Ley. DAW, 2014. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

A not particularly engrossing novel, a review of which I have submitted to Tor.com.

Seanan McGuire, The Winter Long. DAW, 2014. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

The next installment in McGuire’s ongoing Toby Daye series, in which Toby learns Awful Truths about her family history and has confrontations with villains old and new. Fun, but not as gripping as I was expecting.

Tobias Buckell, Hurricane Fever. Tor, 2014. E-ARC via Netgalley.

Buckell writes a tight, fast-paced near-future thriller. Hurricane Fever is tighter than Arctic Rising (although I liked Rising‘s protag more), and very hard to put down. The climax sneaks into James Bond territory – which is fun. I really enjoyed it, and I hope Buckell writes more in this vein.

Mike Carey, Linda Carey, and Louise Carey, The House of War and Witness. Gollancz, 2014. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Strange Horizons.

Mike Carey, Linda Carey, and Louise Carey, The City of Silk and Steel. Gollancz, 2013.

The House of War and Witness was the kind of good that finally overcame my reluctance to read this book, which had languished on my shelves for a year while I debated with myself over whether or not I had the patience to read a novel that could have been as problematic as some of the promo for this one made it sound.

Well, folks: The City of Silk and Steel is not at all the book I feared it would be. It is, instead, a brilliant story, a story about stories, about justice and hope, friendship and love between women. It is graceful and accomplished and in many ways one of the kinder novels I’ve read in the SFF genre. It’s a marvelous book, and I can now recommend it highly.

Supervising the work

One of the neighbours has a half-grown cat called Misty who likes to come around and stare at me through the window while I’m working:

One cannot leave the window open and unattended.

One cannot leave the window open and unattended.

Much staring. Sad cat staring.

She doesn't like it when I try to close the window, and sits and cries.

She doesn’t like it when I try to close the window, and sits and cries.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the kitchen table, one of the resident household gods emits small snores:

"Don't wake me, monkey, I'm busy."

“Don’t wake me, monkey, I’m busy.”

Three review copies arrived this morning…

Three little books, see how they stand.

Three little books, see how they stand.

Elizabeth Haydon, THE MERCHANT EMPEROR, Deborah Coates, STRANGE COUNTRY, and the second volume of William H. Patterson Jr.’s biography of Robert A. Heinlein.

I have no intention of reading the Patterson: aside from the fact I haven’t read the first volume, I’m reliably informed that Patterson has done a terrible job of writing biography. If anyone should like this copy, if you’re willing to pay postage, I’ll send it to you. (About eight euro, I think, for international postage, unless Patterson’s brick is heavier than anything I’ve ever posted before.)

I have no intention of reading the Haydon either, because I read Rhapsody and lo, it was terrible – I was still in my “Finish every book you start” phase of readership, and I very nearly didn’t make it to the end. So same goes. Postage and I’ll send it on. First come, first served.

As for STRANGE COUNTRY: it’s a lovely book, the conclusion of Coates’ excellent debut rural fantasy series set in North Dakota. I recommend it highly, and I have already discussed it in a Sleeps With Monsters column this spring. It was the ARC I discussed, but this hardback is very shiny. You can’t have it. It’s MINE.

Books in brief: Briggs, Rouaud, Griffith, Wecker, Reid

Patricia Briggs, Shifting Sands. Ace, 2014. ARC.

Read for review for Tor.com. A collection of short fiction set in Briggs’ urban fantasy world. Entertaining, but nothing particularly special.

Antoine Rouaud, The Path of Anger. Gollancz, 2013. Translated from the French by Tom Clegg. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Ideomancer.com. Ambitious and not entirely successful epic-style fantasy novel. Lacks decent female characters. Mixed feelings overall. Jared Shurin has a good comprehensive review of it at Pornokitsch.

Nicola Griffith, Slow River. Gollancz, 2013 (1995).

An excellent meditative book about identity and growth and never being the same person you were before. Brilliant. Highly recommended.

Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Djinni. Harper, 2013.

Read for the column. A fable about immigration and loneliness. Not without its problems, but overall a gorgeous, accomplished debut. Recommended.

Non-fiction

Anthony Reid, Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450-1680, two vols. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1988-1993.

I believe I heard of these books when Kate Elliott mentioned them on Twitter: they are exactly what they say in the title, and very interesting the history of that time and place is, too. It does bring home to me how little I know about Southeast Asian history in general: I’ll be skimming the bibliography for available titles to add to my store of knowledge, I think.

Exhume the #Tuam bodies…

…interview the surviving nuns and inmates of the Tuam “Mother and Baby Home,” and let’s have the truth of where the dead children are buried – and why they were denied the dignity of proper remembrance.

Catherine Corless uncovered the fact that 796 children died over a period of 30 years while their care was the responsibility of the Tuam “Mother and Baby Home” run by the Bons Secours order of nursing nuns. There are no burial records for any of these children, nor did Corless find any indication that they’d been interred in local cemeteries.

That their bodies were interred in a septic tank is speculation.

This takes nothing away from the horror of the mortality statistics and the picture they paint of the neglect and indeed the evil committed by the Catholic Church while it masqueraded in the guise of moral righteousness. The Tuam “Mother and Baby Home” is only one of dozens, if not hundreds, that operated in Ireland during the 20th century. Corless’ research is a drop in the bucket.

An immense bucket, filled the the bodies of the dead.






Further reading:

Tuam: What Lies Beneath
No country for young women: honour crimes and infanticide in Ireland
Midwife’s memoir reveals the horror of Mother and Baby Home in Bessborough, Cork
Amnesty International calls for urgent investigation

ETA: Many of these links via @nwbrux

Jo Anderton, GUARDIAN: not a review

The nice people at Australian publishing company Fablecroft sent me a review copy of Jo Anderton’s Guardian. It’s the third book in a series that begins with Debris. I did not realise this until I tried to read it. It sounds like an interesting series, but Guardian is not a good place for new reader to enter the ongoing story.

So. That is why this is not a review.

Najwan Darwish, NOTHING MORE TO LOSE

Amal El-Mohtar said such fine things about Najwan Darwish’s Nothing More to Lose that I resolved upon the instant to get a copy.

I don’t normally read poetry collections cover-to-cover. I own a handful only, that I dip into from time to time: Cavafy, Odysseus Elytis, Osip Mandelshtan, Yeats, Heaney, Eliot, Adrienne Rich, Pablo Neruda, some of the ancient poets (I keep meaning to get my hands on some of the twentieth century’s famous women poets’ collections, like St. Vincent Millay and Plath – some day soon!) but not many.

Nothing More to Lose, I read every page. These are gorgeous, glorious poems: the translator has done a brilliant job.

Powerful poems; some funny, some touching, some filled with pain and a kind of elegaic anger – like the last five lines of “Sleeping in Gaza”:

The earth is three nails
and mercy a hammer:
Strike, Lord
Strike with the planes

Are there any more to come?

or the three brief lines that comprise the entirety of “In Praise of the Family”:

There is but a single sentence fit to praise you:
You are the deep quarry
of my nightmares.

Some of his poems are available online, here. Read them. Especially “Jerusalem.”

When I leave you I turn to stone
and when I come back I turn to stone

I name you Medusa
I name you the older sister of Sodom and Gomorrah
you baptismal basin that burned Rome.