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.

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

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.

Birthday Q&A

This week’s video is me answering the weird and wonderful questions that everyone sent in over the last week. As ever there’s a (condensed) written version below the video if you don’t want to watch it.

There were lots of SFF themed things in there and lots of people interested to know where to start with my favourite genre so in addition to the video text I’ve also included a selection of links to some older videos where I recommend different things.

1. What’s your favourite Hugo award winning novel and why?
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (last year’s winner) because I’m still obsessed with it. But other than that it’s probably The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin because her writing is just so very good.

2. In the intro to his The Great Divorce, CS Lewis gives credit to an unknown scifi author for idea(s) Lewis then uses in his book. Who was this author & what book of hers or his did this idea/these ideas come from?
Charles F. Hall – The Man Who Lived Backwards published in Tales of Wonder 1938.

3. Are you into steampunk?
I’ve been known to enjoy it from time to time!

4. What did you want to be when you were growing up and what do you want to be now?
I was pretty appalling at thinking about careers as a kid. I once told my mother that I was going to be a vampire when I grew up. Possibly not such a valid choice this days. Now I am a grown up I still have no idea. 😀

5. What is your favourite episode of any Star Trek and why?
Time’s Arrow parts 1 & 2 (end of season 5, start of season 6). Because time travel and dressing up.

6. Who is your favourite Star Trek character?
Picard. Always and forever.

7. What was the first thing (tv show, movie, book) that got you into the genre to begin with?
It was books. Either THE SPACE MERCHANTS by Pohl & Kornbluth, or FOUNDATION by Isaac Asimov. I can’t remember which was first but they were both amazing. They were some of my dad’s books that I picked up as a kid and I just fell in love with the ideas.

8. From my mum – Dad says do you know what his favourite sci-fi books is?
No, I don’t. Which is weird. What is it?!

9. From my mum – What’s the only science fiction film I like?
Got to be Blade Runner.

10. Bearing in mind the Arthur C.Clarke quote “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”, how do you distinguish a science-fiction book from a fantasy one?
Okay, so there’s a pretty traditional explanation here which is that fantasy is something that could never be possible ever and science fiction could be maybe sort of possible one day (if you squint a bit and ignore some basic physics). To be honest, I think the genre lines are completely blurry and you can put them wherever you want.

11. Will you be reading the Hugo Award nominees again this year?
Yes, all of them.

12. Which science fiction books would you recommend for people who mostly read YA?
I’ve got a whole video on YA Science Fiction if you want to watch that. But also I’d recommend trying some bestsellers that just happen to be SF – READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline or THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir. Also classics like FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley and BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley.

13. What’s a food you can’t live without?
Gin. It totally counts.

14. What science fiction technology would be super beneficial to your life right now?
Some kind of super advanced robot to feed me and clean my house because I’m up to the eyeballs in coursework. But other than that some kind of super advanced medical technology to get rid of asthma would be lovely!

15. William Shatner or Patrick Stewart?
Is that even a question? Patrick Stewart.

16. To make a really good science fiction story does the science have to be accurate or will you forgive a fantastical story if the characters and plot are good?
I’ll totally forgive anything if the book is good. Science fiction should be fiction first. If I want to read pure science I’ll read a textbook.

17. Who is your favourite fictional character?
Helen Vaughn from THE GREAT GOD PAN by Arthur Machen because she’s badass.

18. What/why am I studying at the grand old age of 30?
As well as working in higher education, I’m doing a masters degree and it’s just super. I’m not at all stressed and overwhelmed and I find the topics scintillating. Hah. My thesis is about the impact of open access publishing on research funding in UK Higher Education. Can you imagine the lolz I have researching this? Can you?! :/

19. Least favourite book?
THE LAST BATTLE by C.S. Lewis. I HATE IT SO MUCH.

20. What do you envision your personal library looking like in the future?
A lot like it does now but moved around a bit. I tend to acquire and give away books on a regular basis so I don’t see myself having an ever-growing giant collection of doom or anything like that.

21. What’s your favourite space opera (book)?
THE EXPANSE series by James S.A. Corey. Though I do have a soft spot for FOUNDATION by Asimov.

22. Why science fiction?
Well there’s a hell of a question! And there are many possible answers. I spoke about one of them at the end of my science fiction history series when I said that it’s about looking into the maybes, the possible futures, the dreams of humanity. But also, I had this conversation once, about how Star Trek is basically the atheists vision of heaven because we don’t imagine anything for our own future. But for the future of somebody, of the world, it’s nice to see that it might possibly, maybe, go somewhere good.

23. What’s a good book for someone looking to get started in SF?
You can check out some of my old recommendations videos or just tell me the sort of things you like and I’m sure I can recommend something!
YA Science Fiction Recommendations
Fantasy recommendations
Science fiction and fantasy recommendations (very old!)
SFF without spaceships – recommendations

24. Who is your favourite villain and why?
Satan in PARADISE LOST by John Milton for having all the best lines.

25. Which villain would you most like to be?
One that didn’t get vanquished horribly!

26. If you could have a dinner party with four famous or notable people, dead or alive, who would they be?
Neal Stephenson, Kathleen Hanna, Ada Lovelace, Hedy Lamarr.

27. What was the first adult-themed (as in not teenagey, as opposed to sexy times) SF book that you really connected to?
Probably something like NEUROMANCER or IDORU by William Gibson. Science fiction but gritty and grownup and weird.

28. What are your favourite TV Shows?
Orange is the New Black, Deadwood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, King of the Hill.

29. If you could have any device/vehicle/shelter and any sidekick from and SFF novels what would they be and why?
A time machine from one of many time travel books. And Molly from NEUROMANCER because I think you’d probably need a badass ninja bodyguard when time travelling.

30. Favourite non-SFF book or genre?
Probably The Saint books by Leslie Charteris. But I’ve also got a whole video of my Non-SFF favourites if you want to see more.

31. Only physical books?
Nope, I’m happy with books in all formats.

32. Do you ever write SFF?
Nope, not a writer.

33. If you could meet your favourite alien character would you advise them to keep the ketchup in the fridge or the cupboard?
Mine is in the cupboard but I have no strong feelings either way.

34. Most view-changing book you’ve ever read?
NEUROMANCER because it was the first book I’d read that was so very unreal.

35. Which political climate that you’ve read about could mostly closely compare to the current day?
THE DIAMOND AGE by Neal Stephenson for it’s relevance to internet cultures.

36. What would you do if you sprouted a five foot long tail every time you laughed and it only disappeared when you stopped laughing?
Laugh a lot!

37. Character you wish you could give a piece of your mind to?
Dumbledore. Someone need to have words with that man.

38. What was the most awkward conversation you’ve ever had in a bookstore?
I had a very awkward conversation in a library trying to explain that it wasn’t a bookstore!

39. Favourite bands and musicians?
Varied things. I really enjoy stoner, doom, metal stuff like Sleep, Big Business, Black Sabbath. Also things like Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, FKA Twigs. And Russian choral music is another soft spot.

40. What’s a book you didn’t think you would like but really, really did?
AMONG OTHERS by Jo Walton.

Holy hell, that was a lot of questions.

Little facts about SF | Sorry time

This week’s video is a selection of odd facts about science fiction. If you’ve watched all my videos in the past you may recognise some of them from different places and if you’re interested by the weird SF history facts then definitely try watching my Science Fiction History series. But along with facts I also take you along to see a random day in my life. So yeah. But if you just want the facts (and no happy fun times – you misery!) then they’re all here underneath the video.

Also huge apologies for basically abandoning my blog this week. I’m trying to adjust to the terrifying course-load that is going on this semester and it’s hardcore. But hopefully I will get the hang of working without a break and never sleeping at some point soon and then it’ll be a-okay. (If you can sense the exhausted manic sarcasm in that sentence then here’s this one telling you that it was sarcastic and I’m dyinnnnnnnnnng.) But whatever.

Also, I’m (very slowly) reading The Female Factory  by Lisa L. Hannett & Angela Slatter and it’s SO VERY GOOD.

But, right, it was fact-time. Let’s do that:

1. Works by Isaac Asimov can be found in 9 of the 10 Dewey Decimal sections.

2. The World Science Fiction Conventions (WorldCons) have been held every year since 1939 with a couple of exceptions during World War II.

3. The Hugo Awards have been given out at the WorldCons every year since 1953. With the exception of 1954 because they weren’t expected to become an annual event.

4. The first book to win a Hugo Award was Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man (which is excellent).

5. Connie Willis is the author with the most awards for fiction (11).

6. But Robert Heinlein has the most awards for Best Novel (4 + 1 retro-Hugo).

7. David Langford is probably the person with the most Hugo Awards in total with 28 for various fan categories.

8. L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology was also a science fiction author and some parts of their beliefs are based on his works.

9. Another author who gained a serious following was Edward Bellamy in the 1880s. He wrote a book called Looking Backward 200-1880 which was a fictional history written from the point of view of utopian socialist future. People were so inspired by it that they founded hundreds of ‘Bellamy clubs’ that worked towards the vision he’d outlined.

10. In the 1940s the offices of Astounding Science Fiction were raided by the FBI after one of the published stories came a little to close to reality. (Deadline & The Cleve Cartmill affair.)

11. The word robot was coined in a Czech play called Rossum’s Universal Robots or RUR.

12. The first mentions of space travel in fiction are from the 2nd century AD in Lucian’s True History.

13. Time travel has been a thing in fiction for centuries but time machines didn’t feature in fiction until the mid-19th century.

14. The first mention of anything resembling a computer in fiction is generally given to Gulliver’s Travels by Joanathan Swift from 1726 (but it’s dubious).

15. Babbage’s Difference Engine, one of the forerunners of recognisable modern computing, was mentioned in fiction as early as the 1870s in a story called The Able-est Man in the World. It features a computer ‘better than the Difference engine’ that has been implanted into a man’s brain and turned him into a genius.

16. The term science fiction wasn’t used until the early 20th century.

17. The movie 2001: A Space Odyssey wasn’t based on the book of the same name, they were both written at the same time by Arthur C. Clarke (and are loosely based on his short fiction piece ‘The Sentinel’.

18. Jules Verne is credited as a writer on IMDB 185 times.

19. The highest grossing film ever is a science fiction film – Avatar. Though adjusted for inflation Avatar does drop to number 2 in the list (behind Gone with the Wind) but is joined in the top 10 by E.T. and Star Wars.

Many new books

Over on YouTube I’ve been talking about all the books I’ve acquired recently. As ever if you prefer not to watch the video (you not like my shiny face?) then you can read all about the books here. But I’m not putting in any pictures because if you wanted pictures you could have watched the moving ones in the video. Hah. That told you.

We’ll start with the little trip to the second hand bookshop.

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski is one of those giant books that looms on your reading horizon for long time. I’m not planning on reading it any time soon but wanted to have it there just in case. It’s about a guy who finds a notebook in a dead man’s house that tells the story of a very famous and well known family. Except nobody he knows has ever heard of it. It’s weirdness inside mysteries inside strangeness.

Then I got a copy of The Great God Pan and other stories by Arthur Machen. Machen is considered to be one of the grandaddies of weird fiction. He was a key inspiration for Lovecraft and Arthur Conan Doyle and Stephen King are among his fans. The Great God Pan is probably his best known work. At just 76 pages it’s an odd victorian tale of woman who is the child of human and Pan the god of nature and mischief and base instinct. Not things known to go down well in Victorian society. I’ve read it many time before and thoroughly recommend it.

Then still secondhand I got a couple of Gollancz SF Masterworks. RUR & War with the Newts by Karel Capek is actually one play and one novel bound up together. RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots) is regarded as the most important play in SF history. This is where the word robot comes from and began the concept of robots that we still know today.

Floating Worlds by Cecelia Holland is set a few thousand years into the future where humans are a space going anarchist culture and at war with the Styth an alien race who live on the solar system’s outer planets. We follow Paula Mendoza a young musician who must learn about the problems of power and the possibilities of different modes of culture as she seeks to broker a truce. It sounds utterly weird but is filled with explorations of some really big politically crunchy sort of questions.

Moving on I also got a couple books sent to me for free by Twelfth Planet Press. I’ve talked about some of their books before these 12 Planets series this one The Female Factory by Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter is the newest. I’ve really enjoyed all the other books from this publisher but this one sounds most up my alley with a selection of short stories all about reproduction and genetics. Very Frankenstein indeed.
They also sent Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti which has five interlinked shorts about power and its abuse. So superheroes, lawyers, police and so on. It sounds sinister and amazing.

Onwards to library books. I got God’s War by Kameron Hurley because I loved her book The Mirror Empire last year. This one is from an earlier series and tells the story of Nyx, an ex-assassin turned executioner who lives in a war-torn world that seems a mixture of science fiction, fantasy, and the grimmest darkest thriller you can imagine. It opens with the line Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, one the edge of the desert. And that’s just so weird and grim and odd that I had to pick it up.

Then there’s Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey. This is the fourth book in the Expanse series so I can’t really give you any kind of plot description except to say that the first three books were freaking amazing. A cross between Battlestar Galactica and Firefly and Game of Thrones.

And the final library book was An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay who most of you I’m sure will have heard of from her book Bad feminist. This is a novel about a rich young woman in Haiti who is kidnapped and held captive for a long time when her father decides to resist the kidnappers demands. It’s all about privilegdge in the face of poverty, about the destructive anger that appears in the face of corrupt governments and maybe about redemption.

And finally moving on the brand shiny new things.

First there’s a single ebook – The Life in Papers of Sofie K. by Octavia Cade. I read and reviewed Trading Rosemary by Cade last year and loved it so this was a no-brainer. It’s about a little girl raised on stories of monsters. But when she grows up and the monsters turn out to be real she if forced to ask some tough questions about what she herself might be.

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor tells the tale of three very different people who are walking along a beach in Lagos when a meteorite hits. Suddenly they are thrown together along with a visitor from beyond the stars to try and save the city. It’s part science fiction, part fairytale, and part realism that sounds wondrous.

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord is about an alien society some of whom have come to a distant planet populated by human-ish sort of people who may be evolved from a common ancestor. While there they hear that their home planet has been destroyed. Now these clashing societies have to work together to both preserve the alien ways of life and also adapt to their new planet. There’s a lot going on there.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel (there are cute Four Weddings and a Funeral clips in the video at this point and you’re missing them) is about a travelling shakespearean theatre in a post apocalyptic society and well that’s such a good premise and just about every book tuber I’ve watched has raved about it so here it is.

Penultimate book is Blackout by Connie Willis. Willis if you’ve never heard of her before is a bit of an SFF legend. She’s won 11 hugos and 7 nebulas – more than anyone else, she’s a SFWA Grand Master and in the SF hall of fame. So yeah big deal. This book won the 2010 hugo and it starts in the time travel labs at Oxford University in 2060 with academics going back to various points in time to study what’s going on. But the labs are in chaos, two historians going back to the second world war find themselves thoroughly unprepared for the reality of the situation, and the long held belief that time travel cannot alter the course of history is suddenly called into question. DUM DUM DUM. Oh my god.

And finally there’s Haruki Murakami’s cutest new little book – The Strange Library. It’s a fantastical illustrated weird wonderland of a story about a boy imprisoned in a nightmarish library. The tagline just says ‘All I did was go to the library to borrow some books’. Well we all know how well that sort of phrase ends.

Things I Like Thursday (on Friday)

Joyful salutations and happy things. Things I Like Thursdays is a new semi-regular feature where I can point out things that have caught my eye over the past week or two and I invite you to tell me other fun things that you’ve been loving. These might be new or upcoming books, interesting articles from around the web, videos from other booktubers, what-the fuck-ever.

The fact that the very first one of these is coming out on a Friday should illustrate the current state of organisation in my life.

Anyway, let’s get loving. [That sounded way dodgier than intended!]


Ammonite by Nicola Griffith

AmmoniteYou can actually blame this book (I am) for this post not going up yesterday. I sat down to read it for ten minutes and then eight chapters later it was time for bed! It stole my whole evening and I can’t even be mad because it’s so good!

I wrote about it the other week for Friday reads.

 

Queers Destroy Science Fiction essays

All our rockets are powered by sparkly gay feels.

All our rockets are powered by sparkly gay feels.

I backed this amazing Kickstarter campaign for a special edition of Lightspeed magazine dedicated to queer SFF without a second of hesitation. What I hadn’t noticed in my rush to the ‘take my money and give me all the queer goodies’ button was that they’re already publishing a series of essays to support this campaign by a whole host of Queer authors, editors, creators and bloggers.

Every single one has been making me smile and/or cry and that can only say good things about how amazing the actual anthology is going to be. A new one is being added as an update to the kickstarter every few days. There are only 10 days left in the campaign and I totally suggest backing it, reading all the essays, and getting very excited for the release date in June.

 Marvel’s Announcement of an All-Female The Avengers

Holy crap you guys. For this I really will start reading comics. I’ve watched almost all the Marvel movies and enjoyed them (though I’m still waiting impatiently for a fucking Black Widow movie, I mean seriously). And every so often I wonder if I should try reading some of the comics. I never actually picked them up though.

Me and graphic novels don’t get on very easily as I have trouble paying sufficient attention to the images without totally pulling myself out of the words but we try and get along from time to time. But for this I will damn well learn how to do it.

My bae Ronnie and the uncanny world of digitisation

Ron Lit is the best book channel and person on YouTube. She is a queen who can take academic critical theory and make it more fun than kitties and rainbows. Most of her content focuses on the classics, particularly 18th century badasses, but her most recent vid goes straight into the realms of science fiction: What happens when books go digital? 

I’m lucky enough to call Ron a friend and we talked last year about the ideas behind digitisation that I’m more familiar with from my escapades in SFF and my time working in libraries so I feel like I’ve got a little stake in this video. ❤

 Many Ancillary Justice related things

It’s official. I’m totally obsessed with all things Ancillary Justice (and Sword, and Mercy). I’ve already read Ancillary Justice twice and I’m contemplating another go so I can then re-read Ancillary Sword because I am looking at the calendar and realising quite how long it is until Ancillary Mercy comes out and I need more Breq in my life before October.

So to fend off the worst of my Ancillary-related cravings I’ve been enjoying the fruits of the fandom. Including:

This gif explanation of Seivarden:

Every other character discussing Seivarden: “Her speech is so old-fashioned and elegant! They just don’t speak like that anymore, todays youth ought to follow her example!”

Seivarden:

It's just so lyrical.

It’s just so lyrical.

This amazing piece of fan art.

Seivarden and Breq

Seivarden and Breq by isozyme. Click the image to go to their blog and see the full size wonderment.

The cover of the Subterranean Press printing of AJ.

It was very limited edition and is already totally sold-out. Not that I don’t adore the original covers but this is so close to my mental image of Breq and Seivarden. ❤

Ancillary Justice Cover

From subterraneanpress.com

This tiny little ficlet set in the world of Ancillary Sword

Without Means by tanyant [493 words]. I just love how it’s a minuscule glance back into the world of Breq and it certainly feels like it could almost be part of it. Teeny tiny not-really even a proper spoiler warning for book two (just in case you’re one of those people who likes to know nothing before they read the book).


 

So my lovely humans, tell me, what have you been loving this week? And what should I be checking out over the weekend?


 

Sparkly rocket love

(because I just found this clipart and it’s too cute)

EJ

Rainbow Rocket

On my parents’ shelves

This week’s video over on my YouTube channel is me pondering about what I’ve rather grandly called my “bookish inheritance”. You can watch the video here or read the text version below (or do both because shiny).

Last week I put out a video I’d filmed whilst visiting my parents at the weekend. They recently moved into a new house and were putting together their bookshelves – what better thing to do than ‘help’ them by pointing cameras at the process. But whilst we were heaving stacks of books out of boxes and on to the shelves I, inevitably, kept getting distracted by the books themselves.

Other people’s books are fascinating – they can tell us a lot about their interests, enthusiasms, and background. Even the placement of the books can be telling – an interesting juxtaposition may be random or it may throw light onto a never before seen connection between certain titles. My mother, for instance, has many books on textile arts (spinning, knitting, crochet, etc) and they’re sitting happily with The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine by Rozsika Palmer, and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. May your knitting ever strike fear in the hearts of your enemies!

(If you’ve never read Tale of Two Cities and encountered the terrifying tricoteuse Madame Defarge then this might not make any sense – read it!)

The revolution will be knitted

The revolution will be knitted – from Thread for Thought.

I actually started reading The Subversive Stitch and it looks AMAZING. I’m fascinated by the idea of subversive crafts and the blogs Thread for Thought and Kate Davies Designs have been distracting me a lot since then.

But to return to the shelves of my parents – another thing that became clear to me was how much their shelves were a reflection of my own reading history. There was the copy of The Hobbit that was read to me as my bedtime story, the classics I tentatively picked up and adored, the compendium of Orwell novels I read just because it was there and promptly had mind blown, those first science fiction books that opened a door into a new world. I read widely and with an open mind because I had a wide selection of things to read from and no judgement put on me about what I chose. And so Greek myths were intermingled with Sweet Valley Twins, pony stories with the history of the Coelacanth. As well as leaving me with a preponderance of strange facts that can be brought out at (in)opportune moments this wide variety of subjects and stories has left me with an unshakeable belief that just about everything is really quite interesting and wouldn’t it be nice to try and understand more of it? Quite the inheritance.

All those books were my first steps into a reading journey that has shaped my life and will continue to do so. In a way those bookshelves reflect me as much as they do my parents and it makes me look assessingly at my own shelves as I write this. Certainly there are already echoes of my parents’ shelves in my own – classics rub shoulders with crime thrillers, cookbooks live with art and history in perfectly muddled harmony. I inherited my dad’s love of The Saint books by Leslie Charteris, and of classic science fiction, though not of Tolkien. My mum’s degree in English literature inspired my love of the subject and we share many of the same theory books and classics as our interests overlapped. What will the books I have surrounded myself with pass on to my children (if/when I have any), how might they be shaped by them, which reading experiences do I want to pass on to the future?

—-

So what was your literary inheritance and what would you like to pass on to the future? And it also got me thinking about the books that aren’t on my shelves. Not because I haven’t bought them or didn’t like them but because they’re electronic. How are we passing on our ebooks – do you keep a digital family library as well as or instead of a physical one?

Crafting a different TBR

If you’ve read/seen my 2015 Goals, then you’ll know I’m trying to broaden my reading habits by reading more SFF by women, authors of non-binary genders, queer authors, authors of colour, and works in translation. Unfortunately, whenever I go wandering around my local library or bookshop, or browsing ebooks, I don’t find very many of these things. Or, at least, I’m not noticing them.

And that was something I wanted to examine because that’s a problem. It’s my problem that I’m not noticing things.  So that’s what the video is about. Obviously, this being my website and all, I suggest you watch the video but you can also read the (suuuuuper) shortened version below and check out some of the authors and titles I’ve been learning about below.

So often I pick up a particular book because of some previous knowledge of it; somebody mentioned it in a booktube video, it was featured in a blog post or a tweet, it caught my eye on goodreads. That pre-exisiting knowledge is a key factor in whether I’ll buy or read something and I think it is for so many of us. Once something has wormed its way into your consciousness you’re so much more likely to notice it or think of it again because our brains love patterns. There’s even a name for when you learn/see something new and then suddenly you notice it everywhere – the Baader Meinhof phenomenon.

What I’m doing, therefore, is trying to actively look for new authors or books to read and then learning a bit about them so they really sink into my brain. I want to keep seeing these interesting names so that these are the ones that pop into my head, that keep tempting me to read them next, and so that they’re as easy for me to recall as the big name authors that I hear mentioned every day. To that end I’ve started making the list that you can see below. It’s not a complete list and it’s a not a definite TBR. I’m not aiming to read all these things by any set date, I just want to keep noticing them and then I’ll probably pick them up at some point. So goes than plan anyway. I guess we’ll see at the end of the year when I review my year in reading.

A few notes on the list:

  • Where an author is listed for one book but they have others you think are cool, please let me know because even if I already know about their others books the repetition helps my quest (and I might not know!).
  • If you have any amazing recommendations then please, please, please let me know either in blog comments, YouTube comments or on twitter.
  • The links are mostly affiliate links because I need pennies to buy tickets to SF conventions. Feel free to avoid clicking on them if you don’t like that kind of thing.

The list: 

Dawn (Lilith’s Brood – Book One) by Octavia Butler
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
The Stars Change by Mary Anne Mohanraj
The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias
Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai
The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna
Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff
Ammonite by Nicola Griffith
Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction (The World of Riverside) by Brit Mandelo (ed.)
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany
The Female Man by Joanna Russ
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree Jr
Any short stories by John Chu (like this one)
Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman
Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Through a Brazen Mirror by Delia Sherman
Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner
Yukikaze by Chohei Kambayashi
Hard-Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World by Haruki Murakami
The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin
Six Months, Three Days by Charlie Jane Anders
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
The Shadowed Sun by N.K. Jemisin
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord