Discworld Reading Order

This week’s video is a tribute to the late, and very great, Terry Pratchett. It’s my own special answer to the question ‘where should I get started with Discworld?’.

I’ve included the lyrics below the video if you want to avoid my singing. I still cannot believe I did this despite hating musicals and not being able sing. And if I never have to hear this song again, it would be too soon.

Let’s start at the very beginning a very good place to start
When you write you begin with
A, B, C.
When you read you begin with
1, 2, 3. (1, 2, 3).
1, 2, 3. The first three books just happen to be
1, 2, 3. (1, 2, 3.)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
Oh let’s see if I can make it easier.
Mmmm.
A disc, a world, a very big world.
A series with over 40 books.
Yes, I know, that’s quite a lot.
Hard to just  jump in and start.
So I get asked a lot of times.
Where should I best jump in.
Can I start anywhere.
And I just have to say no, no, no, NO.
I mean yes, of course you can.
Start wherever the hell you like.
But if you ask for my advice
Then this is what I have to say
Read the book in order
Yes they’re very different
From the first one to the last
What the fuck did you expect
There’s a lot, Of reading guides
That map the different story arcs
Start they say, with Sam Vimes
Follow him in all his different books
Sure that’s a great idea
But it misses so much out
You might know what’s going on
But you’re missing all the jokes
That were set up in books 1, 2, 3,4, 5, 6, 7, 8
So just start with the first book.
You will the love the world you find.
When you read the series through, you will see the subtleties.
Once you step into this world you will never want to leave.
A disc, a world, a very big world.
A series with only 40 books.
That really is not enough at all.
Because they are so very good.
Read them as they came out
Trust in Terry’s great mind
You really won’t regret
Stepping into the discworld.
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Where to get started with graphic novels?

This week’s video comes in two parts. As ever you can read a text version underneath the video.
  • Part 1: A Hugo Award readalong!
  • Part 2: Graphic Novels.

Part 1 – Hugo Award Readalong!

If you were watching my videos as far back as last year then you may remember that I read all the Hugo award nominees between April and August (when the ceremony happens). I was planning on doing so again and now the lovely Nicole over at Nicole’s Adventures in Science Fiction has organised a read along group on Goodreads. So if you want to join in and chat with me, and everyone else, about the awards and the books, then come over and say hi!
Myself, Nicole and a few other youtubers will also be doing a live show about the nominees on Saturday April 11th – I’ll keep you posted.

Where to start with Graphic Novels?

graphic novels covers

I have noticed with my sleuth like senses that there’s a whole world of books that I’m missing out on. They’re creeping into my library rubbing shoulders with the science fiction section, they’re in the bookshop with their back to front covers, and apparently all of you are already reading them. I am talking of course about graphic novels and comics. They’re everywhere and everyone reads them. Except me.
The extent of my graphic novel experience, if you can call it that, is Garfield and Our Wullie. Newspaper cartoons. Oh and I once tried to read an Arkham Asylum graphic novel years ago but apparently Batman just isn’t my thing.
Saga #1 cover imageBut then I got given a Star Trek: The Next Generation graphic novel omnibus which I never knew was a thing so now I’m kind of interested to try it out and while I’m there I might as well try a few other things!
So today’s post isn’t really me talking to you about graphic novels (because I know nothing), it’s me asking you guys questions about graphic novels. Where do I start? How do I know what sort of stuff to try out? Like I don’t even know if there are like different genre names or something. Oh sweet universe I hate being the noob. Be nice.
Mostly it’s can you give me some recommendations? Please! I’m looking for things in my areas of interest already – so science fiction, a bit of weird fantasy, and things with cool female characters. But mostly science fiction. Things that will hold my attention because I have a tendency to just read the words which kind of misses the point of the whole exercise. I’ve already had a recommendation from Amanda, whose comics channel is very lovely, for Locke & Key by Joe Hill. And also before you all tell me – yes I will try Saga.

Cthulu Mama! Review of The Female Factory

Female Factory coverAuthor: Lisa L. Hannett & Angela Slatter

Publisher: Twelfth Planet Press

Publication Date: December 2014

Length: Short story collection (146 pages)

Format I read: Paperback

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher.

An excellent little collection of short stories, The Female Factory is the eleventh in Twelfth Planet’s eponymous Twelve Planets series – twelve books of short stories by some of Australia’s best female SFF writers. I’ve read a bunch of the previous twelve and they’ve all been excellent. This one’s definitely in the running for my favourite so far!


 

Hopeful mothers-to-be try everything. Fertility clinics. Pills. Wombs for hire. Babies are no longer made in bedrooms, but engineered in boardrooms. A quirk of genetics allows lucky surrogates to carry multiple eggs, to control when they are fertilised, and by whom—but corporations market and sell the offspring. The souls of lost embryos are never wasted; captured in software, they give electronics their voice. Spirits born into the wrong bodies can brave the charged waters of a hidden billabong, and change their fate. Industrious orphans learn to manipulate scientific advances, creating mothers of their own choosing. From Australia’s near-future all the way back in time to its convict past, these stories spin and sever the ties between parents and children.

I was once taught that, in the gothic, the grotesque body can be encapsulated by things that are ‘of the body and yet not of the body’. Hair on your head is good, cut hair on the floor of the barbershop is repellant. The female body is accordingly a more grotesque body than the male. It is a leaking vessel – bleeding, producing milk, and, worst of all, birthing children. Pregnancy is a very literal moment of a body containing something that is of the body and yet not of it and children are the walking, talking embodiment of it.  The female body is thus a creator of gothic.

As a theory it’s at once hideously sexist and incredibly cool. Because who doesn’t want to be Cthulu-mama?

teeny octopus

 

Anyway……The uncanny nature of reproduction is captured in these four stories in a way that leaves you feeling like they really could just come true at any moment. They are gleefully, creepily, almost normal.

The IVF treatments controlled by giant corporations, unwanted embryos captured in software, risking death to change our trapped selves, female bodies controlled, taken apart, and constructed by those around them. Something in each story feels very familiar and despite their fantastical or science fictional settings. It’s that little hook back to real life that leaves you wondering, worrying, waiting for it all to come true.

4.5 out of 5 stars

The best thing ever? Uncanny Magazine #2

Cover of Uncanny 2 by Julie DillonFirst on my list of ‘things I should have reviewed ages ago’ (aka never do an MSc) is Uncanny Magazine #2.

I reviewed Issue One back in January and enjoyed it a lot so I had high hopes for the second issue.

Imagine my hopes, if you will, as shiny little glass ornaments, sitting quietly on the mantelpieces occasionally shining in a bit of sun. And then Uncanny #2 comes along and it smashes them. Shattered them. Ground them down into sand.

And then remade them into sparkling shining pillar of shimmer wonderment and art. What I am clumsily trying to say here is ZOMG, SO GOOD, SO DAMNED GOOD.

Six stories, three poems, two interviews, and a handful of articles = 5 gleaming stars of perfection.


The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History by Sam J. Miller 

A strange history of the Stonewall Riots that brings a touch of that eponymous uncanny to the telling. What if those events were even more revolutionary than we know? What if strange things were sparked in heat of the battle? I enjoyed how Miller managed to keep this story focused on the importance of the real events whilst simultaneously adding a layer of weird uncertainty. Clever, engaging, well told. 5 stars.

Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu
This was one of the science fiction stories that conjures up an idea so totally intriguing that I find myself thinking about it weeks and months later. Set in a future Beijing that rotates and folds in on itself to allow for three separate versions of itself to exist – with citizens of each placed in a kind of hibernation whilst their city is folded away. The concept and description of it alone are brilliant on their own. But, Jingfang uses the strange manipulations of physical space and time to highlight the inequality of life that exists in this city, and in our own world, and it just blew me away. Totally magnificent. 5 stars

Love Letters to Things Lost and Gained by Sunny Moraine
A story narrated by an amputee to their new artificial arm, this may well be the most unusual story I’ve read for a while. I found the narrator’s struggles to accept this strange new limb to be really thought provoking – it’s something so often held up as a purely positive experience but one which must require huge mental readjustment. Plus the gradual creep into the weird uncanny finish was masterfully done. 5 stars

Anyone With a Care for Their Image by Richard Bowes
A strange future world where people appear in public via the means of lifelike robot dolls whose actions are recorded as part of the person’s online presence. It’s playing with a very literal version of the idea of avatars and how we chose to represent ourselves online. 4 stars

Pockets by Amal El-Mohtar
A sweet story about someone who keeps finding the strangest things in their pockets. And I mean the strangest: antique maps, flintlock pistols, trombones, definitely not things that live in pockets. Beautifully written, as one would expect from a poet, this was a light and lovely piece. 4 stars

The Nalendar by Ann Leckie
A classic piece from Leckie this is a reprint of one of her stories from 2008. But it way my first read and, damn, it’s good! A young woman travelling along a river in a world overflowing with gods is drawn into a quest and forced to face the one person she was trying to run away from. It tackles ideas about power – in terms of both supernatural and the power we hold over ourselves and others. Leckie manages to tackle this big idea whilst keeping the tone of the story remarkably light and playful. 5 stars

Poetry
I didn’t mention the poetry in my last review but I feel like that was a mistake. The three poems in this issue are so very good. Each deals with an aftermath and each left my heart aching.

  • After the Moon Princess Leaves by Isabel Yap
  • After the Dance by Mari Ness
  • archival testimony fragments / minersong by Rose Lemberg

There are also interviews with Ann Leckie and Hao Jingfang and non-fiction essays about nerd rock, women in conventions, and the politics of writing comfortable characters. All very much worth reading.


This is a magazine that really feels like it has an identity already. The sense of uncannyruns through all the selected pieces and brings them together – that (un)familiar feeling, the need for a second glance, the known become unknown. Issue #3 is already out and ready for reading so get over to Uncanny Magazine and spread the joy.

Great Science Fiction Authors

 

Hello lovely humans. Today’s video is all about some great SF authors. I’ve spoken briefly in a previous video about how I’ve found that familiarity with author’s names or books can help us want to pick them up or spot them in the bookshop. Well, today I want to share with you a whole bunch of well known and not so well known SF authors and tell you a little tiny bit about them to share the love and introduce those new SF to some great names. And if you’re interested in trying some new things maybe you’ll pick them up too. Plus I’d really love to know if you’ve got any recommendations for more SF authors that I should know about or missed out. But enough ramble, let’s get going (a written version of the entire thing is below the video).

Ursula Le GuinUrsula Le Guin – the obvious. No list is complete without her. An American born in 1929 and first published in the 1960s she is the undisputed queen of science fiction and fantasy. Her Hainish cycle of interlinked but standalone works incorporate some of her very best science fiction novels including The Left Hand of Darkness and Planet of Exile. Read her for beautiful prose and ideas bigger than the books.


 

AlietteAliette de Bodard is a French-American author who writes some of the most enchanting but often dark short works of science fiction. In particular her Xuya universe set in an alternate history future of mindships and space stations controlled by human minds implanted into the technology.

 


CJ Cherryh

 

C.J. Cherryh is an american author who has published over 60 novels since 1970s. Just woah. Her original degree was in classics and I feel like this shows through with the really deep way her worlds are drawn with histories and beliefs and languages that inform the present of their situation. One of her best known book is Downbelow Station which won the 1982 Hugo Award and is very good.

 


octavia

Octavia Butler is another one of science fiction great names. She published from the early 1970s until just before her death in 2006 exploring ideas about society, race, gender, alienation, all kinds of things and often using science fictional themes to reflect the lives of african-american in the 20th century.

 


Joanna

Joanna Russ was an american writer of science fiction, fantasy and non-fiction best known for her strong feminist stance. She wrote a lot of short fiction and literary criticism and was extremely critical of the male-dominated science fiction industry. Two of her best known works are The Female Man set on a world much like ours but with only one sex, and How to Suppress Women’s Writing a terrifyingly still relevant guidebook.


 

KameronKameron Hurley is an american writer I only discovered recently and her work is just so interesting. It’s this amazing combination of science fiction and fantasy brought together in brutal and cleverly imagined worlds that play with your ideas about society and technology and what science fiction and fantasy can be all at the same time.

 


James Tiptree Jr

James Tiptree Jr was an american science fiction author who is held up as the person who broke down the idea that science fiction writing was inherently gendered. Because James was actually Alice Sheldon. In addition to smashing people’s preconceptions when her identity was revealed her works also have astrong feminist voice and she has a literary award named in her honour.

 


Ann Leckie

Ann Leckie – moon of my life, my sun and stars, writer of the all award winning Ancillary Justice AKA the best book ever. Ever. In addition to the nearly complete imperial Radch series Leckie has been writing short fiction for many years and it is very very very good.

 


 

LoisLois McMaster Bujold is an american multi-Hugo award winning superduper star of SFF. She’s well known for both her fantasy series and her science fiction work. The Vorkosigan Saga is a huge sprawling series of space opera novels about an intergalactic mercenary spy detective guy. Fun times.

 


Pat CadiganPat Cadigan has been a science fiction editor and author of both novels and short fiction. She is usually known as a cyberpunk author – her writing is all wrapped up with the ideas of the human brain and its interaction with technology and how that affects our perceptions of reality.

 


Connie Willis

Connie Willis is a science fiction author with a whole lot of awards to her name. 11 Hugos, a handful of Nebulas, and a bunch more. Probably best known for her works incorporating time travel she creates big seriously studied worlds that question the effect of technology on society but whilst also maintaining a sense of fun.

 


Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian-American author of both science fiction and fantasy and works that blur the boundaries between. She brings in elements of mythology, fairytale and folklore and incorporates them into strangely familiar visions of the future.

 


 

Well there you go. That’s quite a long selection but far far from complete. Yes, I’m aware that this list turned out to be all women – and? It more than stands up to any other list of great authors I could have made so don’t even try and sulk. I’d love to hear your suggestion for great science fiction authors that I failed to include or don’t yet know about or if you’ve read any of these guys and want to squee about them then please talk to me in the comments or over on twitter.

Ciao

EJ

x

Friday Reads – 6 March 2015

 Long time, no see!

looming shark

I feel like I’ve forgotten something important…

Oh my goodness, hey there.

Yeah, first up huuuuuuuuuuge apologies for slacking on the blog front. Thanks for sticking with me. Still not quite got a handle on balancing  blog, videos, assignments, and work. It’ll happen, I’m sure. Just keep swimming right?!

 

On the plus side of things I am finally settling into some books and reading them all the way through. This in contrast to last month where I started six different books and didn’t finish a single one of them.

 So what am I reading at the moment?

Strange genre-blurring books of wonderment, that’s what! Read on my precious, read on.


Lagoon cover image

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor 

When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.

So far I am adoring this story. It mixes science fiction, fairytale, and a disturbing look at reality to create a very weird world for the reader to inhabit. Plus, that cover. Squiiiiiiiiiiiiid.

Lagoon is currently shortlisted for the BSFA Award.


God's War cover

God’s War by Kameron Hurley

On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx is the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war–but at what price?

Brutal and fast paced this book has had me gripped from the first line.  Hurley’s worlds are like nothing else in SFF. Part fantasy, part science fiction, they are horribly, vividly believable. Religion, science, planetary colonisation, war, blood, and bugs. You can’t look away.


Et tu, darlings?

What about you guys? What are you all reading at the moment or planning to read over the weekend? Anything super exciting I neeeeeeed to know about? (I may have acquired an amazon voucher that needs spending…)

Happy reading!

EJ

 

February – Not enough reading?

My video on Wednesday was meant to be my standard end of the month wrap-up of everything I’d read until I realised I’ve actually hardly finished anything this month. I was all set to abandon that plan and do something else when it got me wondering about why I felt it necessary to conceal how little I’d read. Why is it shameful to have been busy, for other areas of my life to have taken priority for a few weeks? It’s really not. So in the video I talk about that very briefly before showing the things that I did finish and a bunch of books I started but haven’t completed. As ever, a transcript is below the video.

 

So often when you’re in the world of book blogging and book tubing things are very much focused on quantity. How many books have you read this week, this month, this year. How many have you bought. How fast can you get through a book. How many pages can read in this sprint.

Well fuck it. Congratulations I finished two books this month and they were mostly started in January anyway. But you know what I also got a whole bunch of assignments done and wrote my thesis proposal and had a birthday. And that’s a good thing.

I don’t want this to turn into a rant about whether or how we put pressure on ourselves and on the people who watch these videos to read more and faster and competitively which I don’t think are good thing. I just wanted to not put out this false image that I am someone who is always reading. I’m not.

But this is a book blog/channel so for the rest of the video I’m going to show you the magnificent two things I finished this month and all the things I did not read. You’ll see.


 

Ammonite cover A new planet

First up there was Ammonite by Nicola Griffith. This won the Lambda Literary award for LGBT fiction and the James Tiptree award that’s given out for SFF that expands our understanding of gender. So as you can probably guess this book explores some interesting issues. It’s based on a planet that for hundreds of years has only been populated by women. Earth’s armed forces attempted to make contact and lost half their forces to the disease. Now an anthropologist called Marge Taishan is risking death by testing out a new vaccine and trying to find out how these women survive and continue to reproduce. As her examinations begin to reveal much of the dark hidden histories, Marge realises that her actions are threatening to change the entire society just as it is already changing her.

It’s well written and exciting and such an interesting way of completely taking apart societies into their composite pieces and just having ago at rearranging them and building some new.
Ammonite – 4 out of 5 stars.


 

Golem and Djinni cover A new world

Then there was The Golem and The Djinni by Helene Wecker. This book was just enchanting. It’s set in 19th century New York where a thousand year old Djinni and brand new masterless golem woman are both arriving along with the thousands of immigrants who began new lives in America during this period. Both can pass as human with some difficulties and during the course of their adventures they meet and strike up an unlikely friendship.

It is a beautiful and fantastical read but also full of big ideas. I felt like it was very much rooted in ideas about duology of the self. One of these is the idea of immigration and the two selves that brings. For the golem and the djinni this is their supernatural selves and their human facades but they are surrounded by characters who must do the same with their old national identities and their new american ones. And then there’s the internal self with it’s anxieties and terrible thoughts and the face we must present to society. It’s brilliant and clever and I loved it.

The Golem and The Djinni – 5 out 5 stars.


 

All the things we cannot read

So that’s all things I actually finished this month but I thought I’d also show you what happens when I am stressed and feel like I should be reading. I start things. And then I start other things. These are all the books I did not read this month.

  • Half of The Female Factory by Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter. It’s a collection of short fiction all about reproduction and so far it’s really amazing and it’s ridiculous that I haven’t just finished it because it’s only 146 pages long.
  • The first few pages of An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay. Put down because I know it’s going to be hardcore emotionally harrowing and that was not what I needed in the middle of having a breakdown about my thesis.
  • About 50 pages of Babylon Steel by Gaie Sebold. A fun fantasy romp about an ex-sword for hire turned brothel mistress who is forced to take up her sword once again. It sounds great but it just didn’t happen because I’m a big fail.
  • And the first two chapters of Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins which I got out of the library after a recommendation from Steph over at Stephanie Spines and Tim and oh my god they were two amazing amazing chapters. I will read this entire thing soon. I just couldn’t at the time. but seriously check it out.
  • And 50 pages of God’s War by Kameron Hurley. Yet another fantasy about a badass female mercenary. Seeing some kind of suppressed rage issues going on here with the choice of books. Anyway it’s excellent so far.

I’ve also read a metric ton of Avengers fan fiction because that’s all my brain is good for after a day of writing about research funding but the less we say about that the less likely I’ll have to put an adult rating on this post. Because oh my.


 

In conclusion…

Looking back that’s actually a month full of reading but just not finishing things. Oh me. You are a one.

My plan for March is to definitely finish God’s War because I’ve now got it on audiobook which is a lot easier to fit in around work and stuff. And I’m also meant to be joining in with a read along for Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor which is being led by Nicole of Nicole’s Adventure’s in SFF. Who knows how that’ll go. And maybe I’ll try and finish some of this lot.