All posts by SF Bluestocking

The SF Bluestocking 2018 Fall Reading List

Well, this is belated, obviously. It turns out that pouring about four and a half weeks’ worth of day job work hours into the first three weeks of October is not very conducive to accomplishing anything even remotely blogging related. And continuing to work 50+ hours/week has not been helping with my non-day-job-related productivity. Getting this together also hasn’t been helped by the fact that–real talk–there’s just not that much going on in this final quarter of 2018, books-wise. In the couple of years I’ve been doing these reading lists, this is by far the shortest one, and this fall marks the first time in quite a while that I’ve found myself quite so much without a strict plan for what I’ll be reading in the coming months.

That’s not to say that the end of 2018 is completely without books that I’m excited about, but I’m also expecting to spend a good amount of time catching up on things that I’ve missed earlier in the year (and perhaps even on some 2017 titles that I never got around to). Here’s what’s on my list for the rest of this year.

Tor.com Publishing

It’s a light couple of months from Tor.com, but I’ve already read the newest Murderbot and can’t wait to read Finding Baba Yaga and Kate Heartfield’s Alice Payne Arrives.

  • Exit Strategy by Martha Wells – 10/2
    Martha Wells definitely nails the landing on this series, and I cannot wait to read Murderbot novels in the future.
  • Finding Baba Yaga by Jane Yolen – 10/30
    A novel in verse by a legend. What’s not to be excited about?
  • Static Ruin by Corey J. White – 11/6
    I never did get around to reading the second book in this trilogy, though I liked the first. Novellas have, in general, been exactly what I want to read lately, so I’m hoping to fit it in before the end of the year.
  • Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield – 11/6
    I haven’t read a good time travel story in a long time, and I’ve got high hopes for this one.
  • Bedfellow by Jeremy C. Shipp – 11/13
    I’m not very keen on horror, so I’ll probably skip this one, but surely it will be a great read for somebody.

Comics and Graphic Novels

  • Saga, Vol. 9 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples – 10/2
    I read this the day my pre-order arrived, and I still haven’t recovered. What a fucking time for a year-long hiatus.

Novels

  • Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang – 10/2
  • There Before the Chaos by K.B. Wagers – 10/9
  • The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera – 10/9
    One of the books I skipped in 2017 was The Tiger’s Daughter, but the release of its sequel and a couple of promising reviews prompted me to finally get a copy of it, which is currently on my shelf waiting to be opened sometime soon.
  • The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi – 10/16
  • The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson – 10/30
    The Traitor Baru Cormorant was a book that is so well-plotted and compulsively readable that I couldn’t put it down, but it’s also the worst sort of exploitative queer tragedy played for shock value that I’ve ever read.
  • Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri – 11/13
  • Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer – 11/13
  • City of Broken Magic by Mirah Bolender – 11/20
  • A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy by Alex White – 12/11

Realistically.

Because one must be realistic about these things.

I haven’t worked less than 50 hours in a week at my physically demanding day job in a couple of months, and I am wiped out. Between election stress and day job stress and sheer physical exhaustion, I haven’t had that much time for reading, and most of what I’ve been reading lately is novella-length. There are a few things on this list that I will definitely be making time for, but the most likely scenario between now and the end of 2018 (which is, natch, approximately a thousand years from now) is that I will be spending a lot of time reading backlist titles and catching up on things that I missed earlier this year (I’m coming for you, The Moons of Barsk).

Most of all, I’m hoping to just spend the rest of this year chilling the heck out and recharging so I can get back into some proper blogging in the new year.

Book Review: Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames

Nicholas Eames’ freshman novel, Kings of the Wyld, was one of my favorite reads of 2017, a well-written, cleverly observed and often hilariously funny adventure fantasy pastiche that adhered to genre forms while gently poking fun at well-worn tropes and presenting a refreshingly positive and downright heartwarming portrait of non-toxic masculinity in action. So I was pretty hyped to see what Eames would make of this sequel, which showcases a mixed-gender cast from the point of view of a queer teenage girl. Unfortunately, Bloody Rose doesn’t quite rise to the level of excellence of its predecessor, although it’s also by no means a complete failure at the perhaps-too-many things it sets out to accomplish.

Let’s talk about that queer girl narrator first. Tam Hashford is a potentially great character with a pretty solid, if entirely expected, backstory—parents in a band, dead mom, sad childhood—that nevertheless manages to impart her with a reasonable amount of depth and complexity to carry her through her hero’s journey over the course of the novel. There’s a lot to like about Tam, but Eames leans heavily on the dead mom thing for character motivation and to craft moments of emotional resonance while never actually creating the mother as an actual character. Sure, a dead mom is sad, but Tam’s particular story of having a dead mom lacks many specific details that would have made Tam’s pain at losing her mother feel more real. Even more disappointingly, Tam’s relationships with her father and uncle are full of those sorts of specific details, right there on the page where they belong, which makes those relationships compelling and well-drawn but also serves to highlight the lack of care taken with the story of Tam’s mother. As a further consequence of this lopsided attention to detail, Tam’s relationships with her father and uncle really feel meaningful in a way that her relationship with her dead mother never quite manages to. Instead, Tam’s relationship with her mother is best represented by Tam’s relationship to her mother’s musical instrument, and let’s just say—without spoilers—that the symbolism of this instrument in the narrative is confused.

All that said, choosing Tam as the book’s primary point of view is nevertheless a smart move on the author’s part. Writing from the perspective of a relative outsider to—albeit one with some inside knowledge of—the mercenary band life, gives the book a nice balance of distance and intimacy with its subject matter. Tam has plenty of room to grow over the course of the band’s meandering adventures, and Eames pretty much nails every step of her coming of age story. I loved reading her transformation from conflicted, self-conscious girl to confident, self-assured woman. There’s just not much more satisfying to read than a well-executed bildungsroman, and in that respect, Bloody Rose is a true success.

Where Eames also shines as a writer is in the overall crafting of the serial adventures that make up the majority of the book. The chapters are largely episodic, following Tam, Bloody Rose and the rest of Fable as they make their way towards a contract of epic scale, only to find out that the job isn’t what they thought it was. There’s something pleasantly cozy about the intimacy that forms between the characters as their friendships deepen over the course of their travels. However, though there’s a lot to like about the character dynamics in Bloody Rose, they never do quite manage to match the lived-in feel of the relationships between characters in Kings of the Wyld. This is most obviously apparent when it comes to the book’s romances. The longstanding romance between Rose and Freecloud feels lopsided and a bit too told-and-not-shown (and with tragedy telegraphed through nearly every one of their interactions), and the romance that Tam ultimately finds for herself feels abruptly settled, wholly unearned, and far short of fully logical, even within the framework of Eames’s fantasy setting.

On the bright side, that fantasy setting itself feels more alive and fuller of excitement and interest than ever before. There are numerous new characters to join familiar friends and foes from the first book, and Fable’s travels expand impressively upon the world without ever becoming a self-indulgent worldbuilding exercise as epic fantasies can be prone to do. Perhaps more impressively, Eames sets out to really look at and interrogate the world he crafted for Kings of the Wyld and does so in a compelling way that naturally drives story and character growth throughout this novel. As Tam (and the reader) is more immersed in mercenary culture, there are ongoing revelations and developments that reshape her (and our) understanding of her world and the place of herself and her friends in it.

Still, I’m not certain that it’s enough to simply question the underpinnings of one’s own worldbuilding without resolving many of the central questions raised. Bloody Rose is at times deeply concerned with the role and function of mercenary bands in its world and highlights some of the injustices perpetrated by a system that treats bands as celebrities and commoditizes their work, but the ending of the book largely amounts to a return to the status quo. Some characters may have changed or evolved throughout the story, but there’s a good deal of ambiguity about whether the world itself has been fundamentally changed by even the most momentous events of the novel. One can only hope that exploration of some of the deeper themes that were given short shrift in Bloody Rose will provide good fodder for a third book—which I will certainly be looking forward to.

The SF Bluestocking 2018 Summer Reading List

I am still alive! And still reading, though having a physically challenging day job where I’m often in overtime (hopefully soon to change now that I have just received a promotion) has certainly impacted the amount of time I have for books (and has severely impacted my writing). Still, I’m here. And there is so, so much to look forward to over the rest of the summer.

I’m no longer pretending, even to myself, that I’ll get around to reading everything on this list, but this is what I’ve got my eye on in July, August and September of 2018.

Tor.com Publishing

One look at my list of books I’ve actually read this year will tell you that I have given up trying to read every single novella Tor.com publishes. There’s just too many, and while I have always appreciated that reading them all took me outside my comfort zone and got me to read genres and styles that I don’t normally seek out, less time to actually spend reading in general means that I’m getting a little more selective about where I take risks. After absolutely despising Myke Cole’s The Armored Saint (apparently 2018 is not a year in which I want to read stories where the bodies of women and girls are destroyed in service of taking hackneyed jabs at organized religion), I have to admit the shine wore off of Tor.com for me a little bit. That feeling, combined with an uninspiring publication schedule full of too many sequels to things that I liked-but-didn’t-love has meant a lot less Tor.com novella-reading for me this year.

That said, there’s a lot to look forward to from Tor.com Publishing over the remainder of this summer.

  • Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys – 7/10
    I know someone must just be eating up all the Lovecraftian reimaginings Tor.com has published in the last couple of years, but I am not that someone.
  • The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky – 7/17
    I rather loved Tchaikovsky’s D&D-esque adventure novel, Spiderlight, but this book sounds basically nothing like that at all. I’m not sure I’m down for it, to be honest, but we’ll see how the early reviews of it shape up.
  • The Binti Trilogy hardcovers – 7/24
    I don’t usually buy hardcovers, especially after I’ve already bought and read ebooks, but have you seen how fantastically beautiful these redesigns are?
  • The Descent of Monsters by JY Yang – 7/31
    Hurray for more Tensorate!
  • Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells – 8/7
    Hurray for more Murderbot!
  • The Million by Karl Schroeder – 8/14
  • The Black God’s Drums by P. Djeli Clark – 8/21
    Having been informed by P. Djeli Clark’s essays and moved by his short fiction, I’m thrilled to see what he does with this longer format.
  • Warcry by Brian McClellan – 8/28
  • State Tectonics by Malka Older – 9/11
    I’m so excited for this book, but I’m also so sad that it’s the last in its series. I fully expect it to be one of my favorite reads of 2018.
  • The Queen of Crows by Myke Cole – 9/18
    Nope.

Novels

  • Space Unicorn Blues by T.J. Berry – 7/3
  • The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal – 7/3
    It’s a Lady Astronaut novel.
  • Heroine’s Journey by Sarah Kuhn – 7/3
    Book 3! It’s about Bea Tanaka!
  • Lost Gods by Micah Yongo – 7/3
  • European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss – 7/10
    A sequel to last year’s The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter.
  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik – 7/10
    I haven’t gotten my hands on an ARC of this, but it sounds like an expansion of Novik’s story of the same title in The Starlit Wood. I loved that story, and I have high hopes for this novel.
  • Suicide Club: A Novel About Living by Rachel Heng – 7/10
  • Competence by Gail Carriger – 7/17
    In all likelihood, I’ll hold off on reading this one til its companion comes out in another year or so, but I’m still looking forward to it. In the meantime, I will continue eating up Gail Carriger’s delicious novella-length works as fast as she can churn them out.
  • Apocalypse Nix by Kameron Hurley – 7/17
  • The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvahna Headley – 7/17
    I’m surprisingly hyped for this Beowulf in the suburbs novel.
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers – 7/24
    Probably my most-anticipated book of 2018.
  • Kill the Farmboy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne – 7/24
    This seems like it might be cute.
  • A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole – 7/31
    I don’t read much romance these days, but I loved the first book in Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series and preordered this one as soon as I finished the first.
  • Temper by Nicky Drayden – 8/7
    I really liked Nicky Drayden’s debut novel, The Prey of Gods, so I’m interested to see what she does next.
  • The Moons of Barsk by Lawrence M. Schoen – 8/14
    2015’s Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard was a tragically underappreciated gem that was done a great disservice with its 12/28 release date, and it’s been a long wait for this sequel. I’d love to see
  • The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal – 8/21
    It’s another Lady Astronaut novel.
  • Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames – 8/28
    Kings of the Wyld
    was a surprising entry on my Best of 2017 list, and I cannot wait to read this sequel/companion to it.
  • The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner – 9/25

Collections and Anthologies

  • Worlds Seen in Passing edited by Irene Gallo – 9/4
    A collection of short fiction from the first ten years of Tor.com. I don’t know if it’s the sort of thing that I’ll read cover to cover, but it should be a great addition to my collection of anthologies that I slowly work through over the course of some years.
  • A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard – 9/25
    I believe this is mostly previously-published work, but there’s quite a lot of it that I haven’t read and I’m very excited to read the Arthurian novella that’s included in the collection.

37491890Comics and Graphic Novels

  • Monstress, Volume 3: Haven by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
    I don’t read many comics, but I’ll never miss a trade paperback of this one. If you are a collector of trade paperbacks, you may also want to check out Barnes & Noble’s exclusive edition of this title, which comes with an alternate cover and a double-sided poster.

Magazines

  • FIYAH Literary Magazine, Issue 7, “Music”
    FIYAH continues to be one of the most exciting and important SFF markets in publication.
  • Fireside Quarterly
    I’ve already received my copy of this, and it is a stunningly beautiful little book. It’s printed on gorgeous satiny paper, sports top-notch interior design, and has gorgeous artwork–including multiple fold-out pages. It’s a truly impressive piece of work. You can get your own by supporting FIreside at the $10/month level on Drip or on Patreon.
  • Apex Magazine #110, #111, #112I
    I’m still getting the paperback issues of Apex as well, which are getting slightly nicer each issue as they work out some design kinks and get things a little better put together each time.
  • Clarkesworld #142, #143, #144
  • Uncanny #23, #24
    Issue 23 is DINOSAUR-themed.

 

Let’s Read! Gormenghast: Titus Groan, Chapters 32-35

So, it’s been a while, admittedly, but I never forgot about this project, and now is (finally) the time to get back to it. Right now, I’m hoping to finish Titus Groan by the end of the summer, at which point I’ll figure out a workable schedule for the other two books in the trilogy. I’ve also still got G. Peter Winnington’s biography of Mervyn Peake (Mervyn Peake’s Vast Alchemies) to read as well, and I haven’t decided yet if I want to read it after Titus Groan or wait until I’ve finished the entire series on my own. That is a decision for Future Bridget to make, though. Present Bridget is busy focusing on parsing all the shades of irony, melancholy and sly humor in chapters 32 through 35 of Titus Groan.

Chapter 32: ”The Fir Cones”

“The Fir Cones” is a chapter made of two distinct and disparate parts. The first is a character sketch of Steerpike, largely concerned with how he spends his nights while living with the Prunesquallors. This is followed by the story of the meeting between Lord Sepulchrave, Flay, Nannie Slagg and the infant Titus, a story which ends with a sad commentary on the character of Sepulchrave.

Much of what I call character sketch of Steerpike is, in fact, description of how Steerpike sees himself. Like Fuchsia, Ladies Cora and Clarice, and even Sepulchrave, Steerpike has an intense and active imagination that deeply informs the way he moves through his world, no matter how much he may think of himself as a man of logic with a mind “like an efficient machine.” As Steerpike spends his evenings walking the grounds of the castle, inventing poisons, reading books and polishing his [marvelously phallicly-described] “swordstick,” he’s also scheming and planning, imagining the ways in which he may manipulate Gormenghast’s other inhabitants for his own gain. However, perhaps the most compelling thing about the Steerpike passages in this chapter is the way Peake paints Steerpike as a man of deep contradictions: patient but also short-sighted, full of grandiose ideas but also self-absorbed, brilliant yet superstitious. These kinds of contradictory dual natures seem to be common in Gormenghast, but this chapter and the next are heavily focused on exploring the multitudes contained in their individual characters.

The meeting between Sepulchrave, Flay and Slagg—as observed by (read: spied upon by) Steerpike—contains just a kernel of plot: Sepulchrave wants to have a celebratory breakfast for his son. This is literally the only actual event that occurs in this chapter, and it’s really just exposition about a future event. What this section is about, to the degree that it’s about anything at all, is Sepulchrave, his depression, and his failings as a father. Sepulchrave’s idiosyncratic gift of fir cones to his infant son is about as well-received as one could expect. Nannie Slagg is effervescent in her gratitude, but the cones are of little interest to three-month-old Titus, who simply chews on them a little while the adults talk—or, rather, while Slagg and Flay listen to Sepulchrave’s specific-yet-vague instructions for Titus’s breakfast party.

The chapter ends with Sephulchrave sending Slagg, Flay and Titus away when he becomes overwhelmed with his feelings of anger and inadequacy over what he seems to understand as Titus’s rejection of the gift of fir cones. This is explicitly related to Sepulchrave’s depression, even as Sepulchrave lashes out in anger, externalizing his feelings of shame and failure in a violent outburst only to then double down on the very behaviors that caused his feelings.

“He was too proud and melancholy to unbend and be the father of the boy in anything but fact; he would not cease to isolate himself.”

Sepulchrave isn’t able to fully externalize his feelings, however. The final line of the chapter—“He sat back again in the chair, but he could not read.”—suggests that he is deeply effected by his emotions, to the point that his preoccupation is even preventing him from engaging in his most cherished activity. It’s a wonderfully effective note on which to end the chapter.

Chapter 33: “Keda and Rantel”

“When Keda came back to her people, the cacti were dripping with the rain.”

Let it not be said, however, that Mervyn Peake’s best sentences are final ones. Chapter 33 opens as marvelously as the previous chapter closes and then goes on to end as beautifully, as well. “Keda and Rantel” is Peake’s prose at its best, full of gorgeous imagery and evocative turns of phrase. Peake often subordinates story and plot to moody, atmospheric descriptions of setting, but here he balances these concerns. The story of Keda’s love triangle is a compelling exploration of Keda as a character and a thoughtful rumination on what “freedom” means for a young woman whose choices have been as constrained as hers have been.

Darkness and gloom are common features of Gormenghast, and here Peake combines them with vivid nature, seasonal and weather language to convey Keda’s emotional state as she leaves the castle and returns to the Mud Dwellings. “This was the darkness she knew of,” Peake writes, a sentence simple enough by current standards to be cliché. Similarly, Peake’s explicit way of mirroring Keda’s mood in the weather—at one point, clouds literally part as Keda’s feelings shift—feels unfashionably on the nose. Light and darkness and the changing of weather and seasons are classic natural symbols and metaphors, and Peake utilizes them, but it’s easy for any writer to slip into hackneyed phrases. It’s the less obvious ideas and words that stand out on reading this novel in 2018, such as the way Peake describes Keda’s apprehension about her homecoming and how it changes to something less bleak and more hopeful, or at least alive with possibility:

“This, the very moment which she had anticipated would fill her with anxiety—when the problems, to escape which she had taken refuge in the castle, would lower themselves over her like an impenetrable fog and frighten her—was now an evening of leaves and flame, a night of ripples.”

That last line, “and evening of leaves and flame, a night of ripples,” is particularly lovely, evoking warmth, change, and movement. With the chapter opening with an image of water (albeit not still water), this sentence also positions Keda as a metaphorical stone from whom change reverberates when she enters the place of water. She is an actor whose agency affects her surroundings, which is appropriate in a chapter that centers so closely on her and her decisions, both past and present.

This chapter also functions as an exploration of dual natures, and it’s layered with language to that effect. The Mud Dwellings are a place both comforting and frightening. The dwarf dog that Keda encounters is disgusting, yet lovable. The detailed description of the ancient horse and rider statue that is “the pride of the Mud Dwellers” paints a picture both beautiful and horrifying.

Keda’s predicament, as well—a love triangle in which she must choose between two suitors—points to duality, though Rantel and Braigon don’t represent aspects of Keda’s personality or possible paths for her life in the same heavy-handed fashion that characterizes most more modern love triangle stories. Rather, both men seem to be equally appealing options, and Keda’s preference for each of them is dependent more on which one is in front of her than on any particular qualities the men possess. Keda herself recognizes the tragedy of her situation when Rantel and Braigon determine to duel over her, and the bird motif that’s been so persistent throughout the novel reappears in the final paragraph of the chapter:

“Keda,” she said to herself, “Keda, this is a tragedy.” But as her words hung emptily in the morning air, she clenched her hands, for she could feel no anguish and the bright bird that filled her breast was still singing… was still singing.”

Chapter 31: “The Room of Roots”

This is a chapter mostly about Ladies Cora and Clarice Groan and mostly in their POV, which is an interesting perspective that provides ample opportunities for Peake to showcase his sense of slyly humorous irony. The sisters’ misdirected resentment towards Gertrude is expounded upon some more, but perhaps what’s most compelling about this chapter is the way in which it picks up and carries on the sense of uneasy nihilism that the previous chapter ended with. There’s a growing sense throughout Titus Groan that nothing means anything at all, that events in the book simply happen, that characters simply exist and that the setting—suffused as it is with a sort of timeless, dour gloom—could be any time or place or none. There’s a sort of nonsense logic to it all that obviously recalls the work of Lewis Carroll, a writer of similarly surreal landscapes and characters, though Peake seems somewhat more concerned than Carroll ever was with communicating some kind of truth about the human condition.

The theme of duality continues to be explored through the characters of the twins, and the story of the Room of Roots interestingly combines the bird motif that has continuously threaded throughout the novel with the botanical nature imagery that has appeared in the previous few chapters. The titular Room is dug out from the roots of, presumably, an enormous tree, and Cora and Clarice’s resentment of Gertrude is reiterated to be about the birds that the twins think Gertrude has stolen from them.

The showpiece of this chapter, however, is Clarice’s story about how she tried to humiliate Gertrude by throwing ink on her, only to find that Gertrude was wearing a black dress. It combines all the things that are delightful about Peake’s portrayal of Cora and Clarice: dry humor, irony, nonsense logic, and the implicit suggestion that life is meaningless and struggle against fate is futile.

Chapter 32: “Inklings of Glory”

Chapter 32 finds us back in Steerpike’s point of view as he hatches a plot with the twins to destroy Sepulchrave’s books by burning the library, which makes it about as plot-focused a chapter as any in the book. It also contains Steerpike’s realization that Cora and Clarice truly are both stupid and mad, though he still believes that he can manipulate and control them. It remains to be seen if this is true.

Miscellany:

  • One day, I want to write a book on the fantasy trope of things being ancient and unchanging for centuries. It’s one of those tropes that I never thought about as a child and young person but that always reads as absurd to me as I approach middle age. Just the idea that any culture would remain largely in stasis for hundreds of years is patently silly, whether it’s being described by Mervyn Peake or J.R.R. Tolkien or George R.R. Martin.
  • So, I guess the “old dark-skinned lady” that is Cora and Clarice’s servant might be the only person of color in the book so far. It’s not surprising, but there’s also not much to comment on here. This is a pretty run-of-the-mill example of the ways in which people of color are included in a lot of medieval-ish fantasy work, and it’s always unfortunate.

State of the Blog and Weekend Links: April 22, 2018

Welp, last week was exhausting, and this week–and today, specifically, in which I worked a bit over ten hours at the day job–hasn’t been much better, though it has been slightly more productive. Only slightly, though, and most of that productivity was expended on selecting blog material for the Hugo Award voter’s packet and putting it together in ebook form. Plus reading Space Opera, which is the first perfect book I’ve read this year. Now I’ve moved on to A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole, and it is delightful and exactly the sort of light read I needed after Space Opera.

This coming week is probably still going to be busy and tiring, so I’m not sure what I’ll be able to accomplish. In spite of my desire to work more like 25 hours a week, I’ve been working pretty much full time the last few weeks, which is a huge barrier to blogging. Even just consuming media has been more than I’m up for most days, and the sort of active critical engagement necessary for writing is mostly completely beyond me right now. I’ve also got a lot going on, just in general. This week, on top of work, I’ll be busy planning and executing my daughter’s birthday party (she just turned 15, which makes me feel a little old), taking her to a doctor appointment, and trying to squeeze in an appointment for me to get my hair cut and colored (thinking of going platinum). Tomorrow, I think we’re going to see The Cat Returns, and Wednesday my daughter’s a cappella group has a performance.

Fortunately, even if I’m not being productive, plenty of other people are, so I’ve got two weeks’ worth of links to share.

I still haven’t read Ilana C. Myer’s first novel, Last Song Before Night, but the more I read about her new book, Fire Dance, the more I think I ought to carve some time out for it.

Breaking the Glass Slipper has Five Questions with Martha Wells. The next book in Wells’ Murderbot Diaries, Artificial Condition, comes out May 1.

Catherynne M. Valente shared her Big Idea last week as well as five things she learned writing Space Opera.

Did you know there is a collection of short fiction inspired by Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation?

Fantasy Faction interviewed Ruthanna Emrys about her upcoming Lovecraftian novel, Deep Roots, the sequel to last year’s Winter Tide.

Catch 6 Books with Emma Newman over at nerds of a feather.

You can also find Emma Newman this week being interviewed at The Illustrated Page.

Also at The Illustrated Page, an interview with R.F. Kuang, whose debut novel, The Poppy War, just keeps creeping up towards to the top of my TBR even though it sounds much darker than I’ve had much taste for lately.

At the Book Smugglers, Michael R. Underwood talks inspirations and influences for Born to the Blade.

Matt Wallace talks about finishing up his fantastic Sin Du Jour series.

Jeanette Ng writes about reclaiming classics for today.

L.D. Lewis’s novella, A Ruin of Shadows, comes out this week. Preorder it! I did! If you aren’t convinced yet, be sure to read this Q&A with the author over at Dancing Star Press.

Ann Leckie’s 2019 fantasy novel, The Raven Tower, has a cover.

So does Ana Mardoll’s first short fiction collection, No Man of Woman Born.

Read an excerpt from Micah Yongo’s Lost Gods.

Bogi Takács kicked off a new series on QUILTBAG speculative classics over at Tor.com. FIrst up: The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez.

Also at Tor.com, an appreciation of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.

Emily Asher-Perrin breaks down the myth of Robin Hood.

Chloe N. Clark’s Horror 101 series continues with a look at Private vs. Global horror.

Atlas Obscura asks (and answers), why do fantasy novels have so much food?

It’s time for Fantasy Book Cafe’s annual Women in SFF Month again!

  • Renay from Lady Business started things off with a post about reading challenges and reading diversely.
  • Cass Morris wrote about historical fantasy.
  • Kim Wilkins shared her memories of falling in love with Princess Leia.
  • Peng Shepherd shared the book that served as her gateway to the genre.
  • Rowenna Miller wrote about women and the authenticity falsehood in fantasy.
  • R.F. Kuang shared a Chinese legend and what it means to her and how it influences her work.
  • Melissa Caruso talks fighting in ballgowns.
  • Ausma Zehanat Khan expounded upon the main theme of her Khorasan Archives series (which, incidentally, led to me finally ordering the first book).
  • Jeannette Ng offered a taxonomy of fairies.
  • Claire North had some thoughts about strong women.

State of the Blog and Weekend Links: April 8, 2018

Well, today has been a Day, and it comes at the end of a Week. Readers, I am worn out. I’m also disappointed that I didn’t get nearly as much accomplished this week as I’d hoped to, but mostly I’m just ready to go to bed, even though it’s only 9:30. Fortunately, this coming week finally sees my availability change go into effect at the day job, which means far fewer too-early nights and hopefully much more productive time in the afternoons and evenings.

did manage to read a couple of books this week–Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation (it’s great, and you should be reading it right now instead of this) and The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg (also good)–and I watched Jesus Christ Superstar Live, which was excellent. I also managed to get out my Spring Reading List, and I’m doing some Gormenghast re-reading as well so that I can get back to work on that project this week. It was also my partner’s birthday on Thursday, as well as my day off work, so we had a nice day together and a good dinner at a good local pizza place. Mostly, though, I’ve been working and tired from work, which seems to be the story of my life so far this year, and even I’m getting bored of it.

That said, I’m stoked to be getting back to work on Gormenghast, and I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll be able to write about The Expanse, season three of which starts this Wednesday, and Into the Badlands, which is back on in two weeks.

Speaking of Into the Badlands, I’m still kind of pissed about Veil being fridged at the end of season two, but season three looks pretty good:

And speaking of Gormenghast, it looks like it may be getting another television adaptation.

Meanwhile, Orientalism is Alive and Well in American Cinema.

Molly Ringwald looked back on the movies she made with John Hughes and how her feelings about them have changed in the era of #MeToo.

It makes sense that current criticisms of Ready Player One would be part of a cultural shift in response to Gamergate.

Tor.com is giving away the ebook of All Systems Red by Martha Wells for FREE through April 10. It’s fab, and you definitely want it if you don’t already have it.

Pre-orders are open for L.D. Lewis’s A Ruin of Shadows, a novella set in the same world as her 2017 novelette, “Chesirah.”

Check out this World Sci-Fi Storybundle. It’s fantastic.

Justina Ireland was profiled at Vulture.

Catherynne M. Valente shared her Favorite Bit of Space Opera.

Tor.com has lists of this month’s new releases:

Mythcreants points out 6 illogical genre aesthetics.

This is something I struggle with, to be honest, but it’s okay to give up on mediocre books (because we’re all going to die).

Mary Berry is going to be on a new cooking show on BBC One!

On the one hand, I don’t super care about Lost in Space, like, at all, but on the other hand, Parker Posey is playing a gender-swapped Dr. Smith:

I am very slowly starting to get hyped for this Han Solo movie, in spite of myself. Tonight, for the first time, I admitted to my partner that I want to go see it at the theater.

The SF Bluestocking 2018 Spring Reading List

I’ve still got a couple of titles from my Winter Reading List that I’m hoping to squeeze in before moving on entirely to the next season of books, but there is so much that I’m excited about this spring, you guys. With the new day job, I have somewhat more disposable income, which means I’ve been buying more books, and I’m now subscribed to more magazines than I can reasonably read (not that I don’t read them, obv, but there are an unreasonable number of them).

On that note, reading more short fiction continues to be a focus of mine this year. I’m especially on the lookout for novelette length work, which I always feel is in short supply. I’m actually starting to cut back on the number of novellas I read; as much as I love Tor.com’s offerings, they release them at such a pace that I simply cannot keep up with all of them any longer, what with the day job and a couple of recent major disappointments in novella-reading, so I expect that I will be prioritizing the most promising ones from now on rather than basically reading them all. Still, a lot of them are very promising, so we’ll see.

I’m somewhat on the lookout for new and interesting YA novels. After having gone off YA for a couple of years, I’ve now gotten to a point where I feel like I’m actually missing out on things. I’m thinking of reading the Not-A-Hugo YA award finalist list over the next few months if I have time, but I’m also open to suggestions. What’s good in YA SFF these days? What are you most excited about that’s coming out this spring? Let me know in the comments if you have any must-read recs for me.

In the meantime, here’s what I’ve got on my actual TBR for April, May and June.

Tor.com Novellas

The only real must-reads on this list for me are Taste of Wrath, which will finish off Matt Wallace’s delightful Sin du Jour series, Artificial Condition, which brings back Murderboy, and C.L. Polk’s debut novel, Witchmark. I liked Margaret Killjoy’s first novella well enough, so I may try to make time for the new one, but I can’t get excited about Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Lovecraftian horror and I’m pretty sure it’s time to give up on Melissa F. Olson’s vaguely noir-ish vampires. The Shipp and McDonald titles don’t sound bad, but my absolute loathing for The Armored Saint has kind of put me off of giving any more chances to books by white dudes for a while.

  • The Barrow Will Send What it May by Margaret Killjoy – 4/3
  • Taste of Wrath by Matt Wallace – 4/10
  • The Atrocities by Jeremy C. Shipp – 4/17
  • Time Was by Ian McDonald – 4/24
  • Black Helicopters by Caitlin R. Kiernan – 5/1
  • Artificial Condition by Martha Wells – 5/8
  • Outbreak by Melissa F. Olson – 6/5
  • Witchmark by C.L. Polk – 6/19

Magazines

I have so/too many magazines to read. I am already loving getting the print edition of Apex, which I highly recommend; every issue is a little more polished than the one before, and they look nice on a shelf together. FIYAH is always excellent, and they are doing some of the most important work in the industry right now: In their first year alone, FIYAH debuted work by over twenty black writers of speculative fiction. I’ve been subscribing to Uncanny for two years now, and it continues to be one of the most consistently excellent publications available, especially when it comes to their non-fiction selections. Finally, now that I have a little more disposable income, I’ve started subscribing to both Clarkesworld and Fireside via Patreon. I’m still deciding if I want to keep reading both of those–there are only so many hours in a day, after all–but I figure I will give it a good six months or so to see if I can make all this into a manageable amount of reading. I’d like to be reading a good selection of short fiction and supporting a variety of publications, but I also don’t want to be stressing myself out by over-buying content that I don’t have time or energy to properly enjoy.

  • Apex Magazine Issues #107, #108, #109
  • FIYAH Literary Magazine #6, Big Mama Nature
  • Uncanny Magazine #22
  • Clarkesworld #139, #140, #141
  • Fireside #54, #55, #56

Anthologies/Collections

  • The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg – 3/13
    This is actually my current read and a holdover from the Winter Reading List, and it’s delightful.
  • Not So Stories edited by David Thomas Moore – 4/10
    There is no universe where I’m not going to read a collection of anti-colonialist stories in reaction to Rudyard Kipling’s work, and I have this on pre-order.
  • A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman – 6/26
    Reimagined folklore and mythology from East and South Asia with a fantastic table of contents.

Novels

  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland – 4/3
    This was a title I pre-ordered, and I’ve already sped through it in just a couple of days, blowing past bedtime a couple of times to finish it. Dread Nation is excellent, and you need to be reading it right now.
  • Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente – 4/10
    Cat Valente is pretty much my favorite author, and Eurovision in space is an A+ concept for a sci-fi novel.
  • Fire Dance by Ilana C. Myer – 4/10
    I still have never gotten around to reading Last Song Before Night, but I’m thinking of reading this one, which is apparently another standalone in the same universe.
  • Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller – 4/17
  • Before Mars by Emma Newman – 4/17
    I enjoyed Planetfall but skipped 2016’s After Atlas, so I wasn’t sure about this book, but the closer it gets to its release date, the more in the mood for it I find myself.
  • A Ruin of Shadows by L.D. Lewis – 4/24
    L.D. Lewis’s novelette, “Chesirah,” was on my Hugo nomination ballot this year, so I am very excited to read this short novella set in the same world. It’s currently available for pre-order from the publisher, Dancing Star Press.
  • The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang – 5/1
    I have a feeling that The Poppy War is going to lean a little more grimdark than I’ve been interested in reading lately, but I can’t bring myself to take it off my TBR just yet.
  • Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope – 5/1
    I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this, and I loved it.
  • Medusa Uploaded by Emily Davenport – 5/1
  • By Fire Above by Robyn Bennis – 5/15
    I adored Robyn Bennis’s debut, The Guns Above, so I’m very much looking forward to this sequel.
  • Armistice by Lara Elena Donnelly – 5/15
    The sequel to last year’s remarkable Amberlough.
  • Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro – 5/22
  • 84K by Claire North – 5/22
    I’m not sure I’m up to reading a dystopian novel this year, but if I am it’ll be this one.
  • Free Chocolate by Amber Royer – 6/5
    This is the first of a couple of very fun-sounding releases coming from Angry Robot this year (the other is Space Unicorn Blues), and I’m very much looking forward to it.
  • Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee – 6/12
    So excited for the finale of this trilogy but also sad that it’s soon to be over.
  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse – 6/26
    Rebecca Roanhorse’s short story, “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience,” was among last year’s best (and earned her Hugo and Nebula nominations), so her first novel is rightly among my most-anticipated reads of 2018.