This Thing for Books Called Goodreads

Goodreads 2015 list

There’s a social network for everything. So of course there’s a social network for books. How did it take me so long to jump on the Goodreads bandwagon? Well, it took me two years to sew a new button on my coat, so my underlying personal failings are probably the same for both.

The point is, I’m on Goodreads now. I generally don’t leave negative reviews unless a book was truly vile and/or I felt duped into reading it, so you can check out Goodreads to see what I’ve read and what I’m reading and how great it all is.

Any recommendations I should add to my list?

Things Worth Reading: Scarier than Ghosts

Ghost Tours Turn Women’s Abuse into Family Friendly Entertainment, by Elena Gormley

In which I realize while reading all the rape stories I have heard packaged in a family-friendly way to the point of not even realizing what was going on, because we are nothing if not fucked up about how we talk about rape.

10 Haunting Documentaries that are Stranger than Fiction, by Sarah Watts

In which I am reminded I owe about 75% of my sophisticated cultural knowledge to my friend Charlie, who introduced me to Grizzly Man and others in high school.

The Unsinkable Effie Brown Makes HBO’s ‘Project Greenlight’ a Must-See: “I’m not his favorite person”, by Anne Thompson

In which the amazing black female producer Effie Brown (responsible for Rocket Science, one of my stealth faves) talks about what a pain in the ass it was to deal with some rich, famous whiny white guys, which is always a nightmare beyond imagining.

I love the Victorian era. So I decided to live in it. by Sarah A. Chrisman

In which two privileged white people adopt all the things from a historical era while divorcing it from its social and cultural context, and then get high and mighty about it.

Essential followups are Vox’s Victorians, which points out among other things that Ida B. Wells would probably agree it’s not right to be harassed for being different, and I love the Flintstones Era. So I decided to live in it. because sometimes the only response to the absurd is the absurd.

Read anything good lately?

March Roundup

The last time I did a roundup was in November, which feels long enough ago to be another life. Funny how the problems in front of my face seem so eternal and insurmountable, but I can barely remember the problems I know I must have had then.

Books read: Zoo City by Lauren Beukes; All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka; Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham; Dark Currents: Agent of Hel by Jaqueline Carey

Chapters edited: 6

Pictures taken:

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And other notables:

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My apartment now occupies two.

Don’t buy, adopt.

Read This Week: Supernatural Hijinks Ensue

Read this week: All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka; Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Up next: Dark Currents: Agent of Hel by Jaqueline Carey

cover_allyouneediskill veronicamars02 darkcurrents

I have all sorts of thoughts on All You Need is Kill and the second, rape-focused Veronica Mars book, but no time at all to jot them down. The short version is they both could have done better, but they both could have done worse. Mr. Kiss and Tell certainly felt like Rob Thomas (or the stronger voice of Jennifer Graham) trying to make up for season 3 of the television show. As far as All You Need is Kill, I’ll just say I find it interesting how many alien species wanting to colonize Earth act pretty much exactly like humans, except they’re not humans, therefore destructive terraforming and genocide of indigenous life becomes bad.

I love Jacqueline Carey so I’m giving her urban fantasy (romance?) a go.

Read This Week: All the Goggles

Read this week: Ganymede by Cherie Priest, The Ex* by Jenny Trout

Up next: Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest

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Spoilery thoughts on Ganymede:

Ganymede continued the run of entertaining Civil War steampunk with zombies stories by Cherie Priest, but I’ve got to take issue with her hamfisted handling of a trans woman. Ruthie Dorniker is a minor character in the Ganymede story, and though her part is not insignificant, the narrative is never about her. That’s why the dramatic (and anatomically based) reveal of her trans status is more than a little gross – it’s a moment for our two protagonists and POV characters to have the narrative say something about them, but not actually a moment that contributes anything to Ruthie’s characterization or story. It is, if anything, a moment of fear and embarrassment for Ruthie as she is outed very much against her will, and wherein she is mostly silent while one protagonist misgenders her and another corrects the misgendering.

I am 100% for the presence of trans characters in any and all narratives, in parts of any size. What I’m not a fan of is those trans characters functioning as tools for our cisgender characters to demonstrate their goodness, or badness, or learn a lesson. One argument, I’m sure, is that without Ruthie’s wardrobe malfunction, we the audience never would have learned she was trans, and therefore her inclusion would be erased because it was never made explicit (see: Dumbledore is gay). I’d suggest that in a third person limited POV where one of the two POVs knows Ruthie is trans, where Ruthie’s personality, wants, and desires have already been demonstrated to some degree, and where the two had at least one conversation that hinted at such, there are about a million** ways besides a ripped dress to clue the reader in.

By the afterword in which Cherie Priest mentions why she included Ruthie (short version: trans people exist, they have always existed, it is important to acknowledge their existence) I know she wanted to do something positive with that inclusion. She also set up an excellent subplot with Ruthie that, had it been combined with a reveal that Ruthie had some agency in and any step toward resolution, would have made her trans status part of her story rather than part of someone else’s. I hope if she writes trans characters again (and she may have already! there are lots more books of hers I need to read) she lets them have their stories.

*In brief, because this is a SFW blog, The Ex is really good. The whole series is fantastic. Buy it for any sad, sad fools in your life who read Fifty Shades of Grey. The Ex (and the other books before it) are actually sexy and actually not about an abusive relationship. Imagine that.

**Actual scientific calculation.

Reading for Writers

When I see the same handful of books getting recommended again and again, I figure there must be something to it. Despite going to a nationally recognized creative writing program, I didn’t actually get a lot of the foundational education in story structure, style, composition – you know, the kind of important stuff. What I write now straddles somewhere between instinctual (“This sounds good.”) and piecemeal self-taught (free 7-point plot structure templates yeaaaah). I could stand to pick up some more of these books and be more systematic about it.

Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose

On Writing by Stephen King is the one I own. I got it so many years ago it’s printed on actual paper. I still remember his ear infection story.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

The Philosophy of Composition by Edgar Allan Poe

Elements of Style by Strunk & White

Reading Writing About Writing Books from Phil Athans

I only own one book about writing or to inform writing, Stephen King’s On Writing. Phil Athans has a way longer list of some good stuff, some random stuff, and some clever stuff (birthday wishlist: The Law Enforcement Handbook).

Loads of information is available on the web now, but I think there’s something to be said for a nice, contained, theoretically vetted volume on your topic of choice. If Wikipedia is all you reference your info’s bound to be wrong, or boring, or both.

December Reading List

I’m going to start doing these lists monthly, hopefully more toward the beginning of the month. Why? 1) Writers should read to be better writers. 2) I can’t remember what I read more than two books back. 3) Some of these are really good books and I want to talk about them.

And thus!

Reading:

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor (book 2 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy)

Finished Reading:

Blackout by Mira Grant (book 3 of the Newsflesh trilogy)

Going to Read:

The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin (book 1 of the Dreamblood trilogy)

I have got to quit reading trilogies that aren’t finished. But damn Laini Taylor is good, and N.K. Jemisin I am chronically unable to put down.

2011 Hugo Award Nominees

Congrats to the 2011 Hugo Award nominees! A few of them have made appearances either here or on my bookshelf (thank you, public library) and the rest are definitely on my to-read list. From the official Hugo Awards site, the fiction writing nominees are:

Best Novel
Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (Ballantine Spectra)
Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (Gollancz; Pyr)
Feed by Mira Grant (Orbit), currently on my bookshelf and off to an amazing start.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit), currently on my bookshelf and next after I finish Feed and Spook Country.

Best Novella
“The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” by Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Magazine, Summer 2010)
The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang (Subterranean), featured in a Short Story Roundup
“The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” by Elizabeth Hand (Stories: All New Tales, William Morrow)
“The Sultan of the Clouds” by Geoffrey A. Landis (Asimov’s, September 2010)
“Troika” by Alastair Reynolds (Godlike Machines, Science Fiction Book Club)

Best Novelette
“Eight Miles” by Sean McMullen (Analog, September 2010)
“The Emperor of Mars” by Allen M. Steele (Asimov’s, June 2010)
“The Jaguar House, in Shadow” by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s, July 2010)
“Plus or Minus” by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s, December 2010)
“That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone (Analog, September 2010)

Best Short Story
“Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn (Lightspeed, June 2010), featured in a Short Story Roundup
“For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s, September 2010)
“Ponies” by Kij Johnson (Tor.com, November 17, 2010)
“The Things” by Peter Watts (Clarkesworld, January 2010)

Full list available on the Hugo Awards site.

And given my recent trend toward fanfic, can we all take a moment to appreciate that there are “best fan writer” and “best fan artist” categories?