Links du jour

From the Guardian: Murdered on the streets of Karachi: my friend who dared to believe in free speech.

From the Guardian, again: Cremated human bones in pot found in Crossrail dig. (I wouldn’t say “gruesome” ritual. Puzzling, maybe.)

From the Irish Times: It’s hard to accept yourself when your country doesn’t. (The one thing I like about the campaigning for this referendum is that it is making me feel as though Ireland is full of queer people, queer women, where before I didn’t… quite… believe that we were normal? – Yes, I’m getting used to using the word “we” when it comes to queer women. Took me a very long while to get comfortable with that.)

From the blog Per Lineam Valli (Along the Line of the Wall), a series all about Hadrian’s Wall. First post here.

Foz Meadows on how to learn to write about female desire. (This is an awesome post and I want to hug it. Because, desire itself aside, yeah, fanfiction? Once I started reading it? Actually gave me models for my own sexuality when I couldn’t really find many examples elsewhere.)

Strange Horizons roundtables “Representing Marginalised Voices in Historical Fiction and Fantasy,” with Joyce Chng, David Anthony Durham, and Kari Sperring, moderated by Vanessa Rose Phin.

Via Max Gladstone, “LIT MISERABLES, Or, Les Écrivains Misérables. Produced by Andrea Phillips, starring: Andrea Phillips [Ensemble], Max Gladstone [Javert, Marius], Fran Wilde [Gavroche], Sarah Pinsker [Eponine], Lynne Thomas [Fantine, Marius, Thenadiers, Eponine], James Sutter [Javert], Mishell Baker [Cosette], Martin Cahill.” This? This is awesome.

It’s about ethics in book reviewing!

No, really, it is.

So I started a Patreon about a month ago. It’s reached its basic goal already – which is a little startling to me – so as soon as I sort out a couple of things on the paperwork/back-end, it’ll be bringing More Book Reviews to an Internet Near You…

…ahem. Which brings us to the ethics part. It hasn’t escaped my notice that at least half a dozen of my patrons are themselves Publishing Professionals. That’s obviously a potential conflict of interest right there, so clearly I need to set forth a policy, or at least articulate my position on reviewing books that are connected to people who are providing me material support.

The thing is, book reviews are never objective. Responses to art are always personal and subjective, even when we find objective arguments to support our subjective reactions. And that’s even before we move into personal connections. I know – and feel sufficiently friendly towards – enough writers to be aware that how I think of them as people affects how I react to their work. I try my best not to let it affect how I present those arguments and reactions, but let’s be honest: if I tried to pretend it absolutely didn’t, I’d be either deluding myself or a lying hypocrite.

On the other hand, just because someone buys me a drink (or lunch, to take another example, or lets me sleep in their spare room for a couple of nights), it doesn’t mean I owe them anything other than a reciprocal drink or lunch at some future point – or if the opportunity for equivalent reciprocity never arises, to pay it forward.

With Patreon, supporters are paying for the production of reviews. The content? Will reflect my own tastes and biases, as always.

Just in case you were wondering.

Review copies

I'm never going to get caught up on all my reading, am I?

I’m never going to get caught up on all my reading, am I?

So, courtesy of Tor Books, Peter Orullian’s THE UNREMEMBERED, Melanie Rawn’s WINDOW WALL, and Daryl Gregory’s HARRISON SQUARED. Courtesy of DAW Books, Margaret Fortune’s NOVA.


Brief books anecdote: remember those Carrie Bebris Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mysteries that showed up here last week? So I was reading the first one, halfway through. I put it down for a while, and my mother wanders past – “Oh, a new mystery series! You don’t mind if I borrow it?”

“I’m sort of in the middle of it…”

I go looking for the book later, only to discover that it has been abducted. And that, dear friends, is why I probably won’t be finishing it anytime soon…

Review copies!

Five from yesterday

Five from yesterday

Three from today

Three from today

So the nice folks at Tor are determined to convert me to Mr. and Mrs. Darcy FIGHT CRIME: that’s Carrie Bebris’s Pride and Prescience, Suspense and Sensibility, North by Northanger, The Intrigue at Highbury, The Matters at Mansfield, and The Deception at Lyme.

Courtesy of Gollancz, we have Al Robertson’s CRASHING HEAVEN, and courtesy of Night Shade Books, Ellen Datlow’s anthology of THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR.

Books. Lots. Eeep.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, DRAGON IN EXILE

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Dragon in Exile. Baen, 2015 (forthcoming).

I have lost track of how many volumes Lee and Miller’s Liaden series runs to now. They aren’t all consecutive, that’s for sure.

Dragon in Exile is the latest, taking place after Dragon Ship and Necessity’s Child but returning to focus primarily on (mis)adventures of the main branch of Clan Korval on the planet of Surebleak, rather than on the trials and tribulations of Theo Waitley – or the somewhat exoticised “space Roma” that play so large a part in Necessity’s Child.

This is very definitely a series novel: it cannot stand on its own. The cast is large and various, and difficult for me to keep track of – and I’ve read the whole series, albeit no volume more recently than six months ago. Several incidents take place, but none seem to be the focus of the novel: indeed, the book seems to be setting up the pieces for conflict further down the road.

If you like spending time with the characters – and to be honest, I really rather do – you’ll probably enjoy this book. But to me it feels rather slight and directionless, and not the exciting new space opera I was hoping for. More explosions next time out, maybe?

Links of interest

Sonya Taaffe is running a Patreon for her discussion of films, among other things. One encourages supporting her.

Aliette de Bodard writes moving on “The stories I wanted to read:”

When someone who does look or sound familiar appears; when someone seems like they’re going to respect their ancestors and value their families–they’re the aliens. They’re the funny guys with odd customs colonists meet, the ones they try to commerce with or understand or (in the worst cases) subjugate. They’re the invaders that have to be fought back for the sake of civilisation.

And I think “what civilisation?”

Tansy Rayner Roberts writes about “All The Musketeer Ladies (2015).”

This xkcd might be my favourite.

Hi! I still have a Patreon! Only another $10 until I start producing long reviews JUST FOR YOU. (Well, for you as well.)

Asking to be paid for one’s work is weird. I mean, objectively, I think my labour is worth cash money. (I wish I didn’t have to think in money terms, but we’re not yet living in the post-scarcity socialist paradise.) But actually asking for money is odd. Runs up against all those old inculcated class prejudices about crass commerce and putting oneself forward.

(Alas! Love’s a lovely thing, but it doesn’t keep the lights on.)

Links of interest!

BBC Radio 4 on “Ursula Le Guin at 85”: Naomi Alderman talks to leading novelist Ursula Le Guin about her life and work and hears from literary fans including David Mitchell and Neil Gaiman. (And Karen Joy Fowler, too.)

It is a bloody awesome radio programme, I want to say. Le Guin is amazing. Also BBC Radio 4 will soon be broadcasting radio adaptations of The Left Hand of Darkness and the first three Earthsea books. This is BRILLIANT news.

Max Gladstone writes about action scenes and writing in “Fighting Words: Thoughts On Prose Style Prompted By John Wick.” (Why does Max Gladstone keep writing smart things? It makes a body jealous.)

Maureen Kincaid Speller writes a very interesting piece on “We Need To Talk About Dragons – John Mullan, George RR Martin, Game of Thrones and the triumph of fantasy fiction.”

CALIBAN’S WAR by James S.A. Corey

James S.A. Corey, Caliban’s War. Orbit, 2013 (2012).

Caliban’s War is the second novel in Corey’s “Expanse” series. All things considered, it is a much stronger novel, doing a number of things that interest me much more, than its predecessor. Caliban’s War builds on the setting of Leviathan Wakes, but its pacing is much stronger, and the three new viewpoint characters added to Holden’s are much more interesting than the Holden-and-Miller show of Leviathan Wakes.

Give me the POV of cranky old-lady super-politician-diplomats and badass female marines and my investment in a narrative goes well up, is what I’m saying. And Prax, the scientist whose search for his missing daughter drives a good section of the narrative, is a pure delight to read.

Holden remains, unfortunately, boring in the square-jawed American-hero way. Fortunately the characters around him are much more interesting.

It strikes me that this makes two books in a row in this series where the search for a missing female person has played a significant role in the development of the narrative. I wonder if that’s going to be an ongoing pattern?

This is a stronger book than its predecessor, and I’m glad I read it. It is also making me a convincing argument to keep reading: things exploded very entertainingly here.

I have a Patreon now. Please consider supporting.

Recently arrived review copies

Eight is a lot.

Eight is a lot.

Gollancz seems happy to send me their entire month’s worth of paperbacks. I’m not complaining, exactly – complain about receiving books? NEVER! – but I am starting to wonder exactly how fast the publicity department over there thinks one person can read.

So that’s Jon Wallace’s BARRICADE of infamous memory, Kristen Britain’s MIRROR SIGHT, Peter Higgins’ WOLFHOUND CENTURY and TRUTH AND FEAR (damn, but I think those are good books – I think I reviewed both of them when they were published in hardcover), Tim Powers’ EXPIRATION DATE, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s HARD TO BE A GOD, Robert Silverberg’s DOWNWARD TO THE EARTH, and a choose-your-own-adventure book by Michael J. Ward called DESTINY QUEST: THE EYE OF WINTER’S FURY.