What I Read – October 2015

Hello lovely humans, today I’m going to be talking about all the things I read in October which I am still failing to believe is already over. Like the hell, when did that happen? As ever you can watch the video or skip ahead to read a text version.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/adx2Dd2yakI

In October I finished three books and two graphic novels which doesn’t sound like much but I’ve been rather ill for the last half of the month so I’m quite pleased with it. If you don’t follow me on twitter you may not already know that I’ve had labyrinthitis for about two weeks. It was entirely not fun but I seem to be all better so Awoohoo.


Goblin Emperor cover

First of my reads was The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. This is a fantasy book about a young prince who very unexpectedly becomes emperor of the elvish kingdom despite being exiled and despised by his father and three elder brothers thanks to his half-goblin heritage.

It follows him from the discovery of his new position into the first few months of his reign as he come to terms with the memory of a father who didn’t love him, a government that doesn’t believe in him, and court of nobles about as easy to understand or trust as a nest of snakes.
I’ve become so used to fantasy books that are all violence and betrayal and general awfulness. Even when there’s romance or triumph in the end the main thrust is always a protagonist at odds with everyone, misunderstood or downtrodden or alone. And I kept expecting that and it never happened. This is heartwarming, a tale of learning and finding your place and voice and people who understand you. That whilst there is turmoil and horror there is kindness and friendship and loyalty. It’s a truly lovely story, well written & well executed with characters I came to love. Enchanting, delightful and totally unexpected.


 

Lock In by ScalziThen came Lock In by John Scalzi, a total change of pace to a fast-reading detective story set in a future where a percentage of the population are locked in their bodies because of a disease but are able to operate in the world by using future neural technologies that allow them to control other human bodies, with agreement, or human shaped robots knowns as threeps.
Our protagonist is a Haden starting his first day as an FBI agent and he’s thrown into a mystery that starts with a murder where the suspect claims to have been under the control of another and then gets way more complicated and dangerous when the murder starts linking to a much wider plot of corporate intrigue and somebody hacking the neural technology to take control of people’s minds.
Like all of Scalzi’s books this was a fun read, his writing is consistently good and damn readable. It’s a simple classic detective story with ideas about internet security and privacy and personal integrity and control all woven into a great future concept. It’s not going to blow you away with its complex literary ideas but that is so not the point. It’s damn good at what it wants to be.


 

Ancillary MercyAnd then, and then, oh my goodness, then came Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie. This is third and final book in Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series and I am both happy and sad to have read it. It’s really impossible to tell you any of the plot without totally ruining the first book but I will tell you that it was a wonderful ending to the series. As a whole they have blown me away.

Leckie has a way of creating characters and worlds that you come to know intimately and that reach far beyond the story that takes place on the pages. It was a relatively neat ending which was not necessarily what I expected but worked in that there was clearly more to come that we won’t ever see.

And that’s the magic of these books – there’s a huge universe of cultures and politics and ideas and people that we learn about and are inspired by and it’s just a taster of the many stories in that universe, it’s a beginning, even though this is the end. Goddamn it’s like Harry Potter all over again. I can’t cope.

Mourning the book

If you want to get schooled in elegant writing that can confront social and ethical issues with grace, and give you all the emotions about spaceships then read these books immediately.


 

Saga Vol. 5And the first of my two graphic novels was Saga Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples – the continuing epic which continues to be epic. The art is still lovely, still inspires moments of laugh out loud holy shit am I glad I’m not reading this in public like I did that one time because ohmygod that’s a big picture of a….lizard. I still really like it but I can’t deal with having my stories broken up so much. I need to know what happens.


 

 

Sex CriminalsAnd then for continued not to be read in public enjoyment there was Sex Criminal Volume 1 by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky. This is the story of a young woman for whom time stops after she orgasms. And then one day she meets a man for whom the same thing happens and they decided to use this amazing superpower to rob banks. Because of course. It is witty and clever and so so funny. The creators have obviously just taken these ideas of what you might do in that situation and when that situation might come up and it’s just cringingly, hilariously awful and yet amazing and sweet. Definitely worth a read – if you’re over 18.


 

And that’s it, that’s all she read! Thanks for reading.

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Scandalous Gothic Classics for Halloween

Hello lovely humans. It’s late October which means Halloween which means it’s time to read some spooky spine-tingling scary stories.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/GEzLKNdrmM8

Did you know that the spooky has also been tied up, shall we say, with the sexy for oh so many years. So today prepare your loins to be aquiver as I tell you of some shocking gothic classics from the 18th and 19th centuries. Beware my children these stories contain vampires, and ghosts, and monsters – oh my.

anticipation


 

The Monk by Matthew LewisFirst off is The Monk: A Memoir by Matthew Lewis. Not the most promising naughty title I’ll grant you but this little ditty from 1796 is amazeballs. Lewis was 19 when he wrote it and well it’s like a 19 year old’s dirty movie of ridiculous gothic silliness and death. It was scandalous when it came out. Mostly because fornicating nuns. Seriously.
Everyone has fantastic tragic backstories, there are secret pregnancies, mysteries prophecies, everyone is shagging everyone else, and everyone and everything is awful. Somehow it all makes sense at the time like the most insane soap opera populated by nuns and the cast of The Borgias. Yeaaaaaas. You will love it.


 

Carmilla by J Sheridan Le FanuAnd then comes Carmilla by J Sheridan Le Fanu. Who just has the best name. It’s from the 1870s and it’s about a young beautiful girl called Carmilla who because of dramatic circumstances comes to stay at the secluded house of an English gentleman and his pretty innocent daughter Laura.

Laura and Carmilla become desperately, passionately just good friends. And then Laura starts having the strangest dreams and Carmilla really does have palest skin, and the reddest lips. And what could possibly be going on?

Plus the it’s really short, available to read for free online, and the YouTube adaptation that came out last year is simply marvellous.


 

The Great God Pan by Arthur MachenAnd to, erm, finish us off may I suggest The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen from 1897. Machen isn’t hugely well known but he’s incredibly influential in the horror genre. he was one of the biggest inspirations for H.P. Lovecraft’s whole schtick, and Stephen King is huge fan.

It tells of weird science done on a dark dark night where an old god is called down onto the body of an innocent(ish) woman who nine months later gives birth to a girl. And then the horror begins as a beautiful girl grows up and tempts and corrupts and terrifies those around her.

I mean, a woman who likes sex?! How can such a monstrous creature be defeated? Read this book to find out.


And there you have it. A few suggestions for a shiveringly good time this Halloween. What are you going to be reading on that dark dark night? I know what my plans are!

EJ at home

My glamorous life: watching youtube, eating crisps!

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon | TBR

Hello lovely humans! In today’s video I’m talking about the things I’m aiming to read this weekend as part of Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon.

If you’d rather read a text version then skip below the video and get started.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/GQFSEEp1QXo 


 

About Dewey’s Readathon

According to the official readathon website: “for 24 hours, we read books, post to our blogs, Twitters, Tumblrs, Goodreads and MORE about our reading, and visit other readers’ homes online. We also participate in mini-challenges throughout the day. It happens twice a year, in April and in October.

It was created by the beloved Dewey (her blog has since been taken down, so the link won’t work). The first one was held in October 2007. Dewey died in late 2008. We’re still saddened by her absence, but the show must go on. The read-a-thon was renamed to honor its founder in 2009.”


 

The readathon is always great fun with lots of youtubers and bloggers joining in and chatting about what they’re reading.

For the eighteen month’s I’ve always ended up not joining in with any of the various readathons and challenges that have happened on YouTube because I’m always busy with something (essays, work, etc). And this weekend is no different to be honest (I’m in the process of writing up a dissertation chapter) but I just realised that if no time is ever good then I’m just going to join in anyway!

To make it a little easier on myself I’m going to be reading a TBR made up of entirely short fiction! The hope is to read 24 short stories over 24 hours. Which, to be honest, is fairly ambitious but I figure it’s worth a go!

I’ll be picking and choosing stories from a few different books and websites depending on what takes my fancy over the day. So here are some of my picks:


 

Accessing the FutureAccessing the Future by Kathryn Allen & Djibril Al-Ayad 

A collection of speculative stories of disability and mental illness in the future. From space pirates to battle robots every story and image is a quality, crafted work of science fiction in its own right. These are stories about people with disabilities in all of their complexity and diversity, that scream with passion and intensity.

Get it from Book Depository: http://goo.gl/yr9Vuw 


 

 

Book Smugglers

Book Smugglers Publishing

Book Smugglers have now released two collections of short fiction under the themes of First Contact & Fairytales Reimagined. I’ve read a few of them but now is the ideal time to catch up with the ones that I’ve missed!

Find them at: http://booksmugglerspub.com/ 


 

Uncanny Magazine 

Uncanny Magazine

Uncanny Magazine has been a favourite of mine since it started last year. I reviewed both Issue 1 and Issue 2 on the blog (sneaky preview: I LOVED them) but I’ve been falling behind on recent issues. Now seems that right time to catch up with some of their great authors.

Read Uncanny here: http://uncannymagazine.com/


 

I’ll also probably check out a few stories from both Clarkesworld and Strange Horizons – both consistently publish amazing short stories that I love.

strange horizons Clarkesworld


 

If you have any suggestions for other great sources of short fiction then do let me know. And let me know if you’re joining in with the readathon – what’s your TBR for the weekend?

Author Spotlight | Isaac Asimov

Hello lovely humans! Today I wanted to talk a little bit about the books of one particular author – this week I’ll be focusing on Isaac Asimov. So I’ll give a bit of an outline of his life and then tell you about my favourite books by him.

If you’d rather read a text version then skip below the video and get started.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on Youtube: https://youtu.be/nlTUQYX8Pb4 


Isaac AsimovIsaac Asimov, for anyone who hasn’t heard of him, is probably one of science fiction’s best known authors. He was incredibly prolific, writing, editing or contributing to over 500 books in his 72 years. Seriously, just check out his wikipedia bibliography pages! It’s kind of scary!

But there’s no need to be scared! Lots of Asimov’s works are very accessible and readable even to those who aren’t familiar with science fiction. He was one of the first science fiction authors I read as a kid and I was hooked immediately.

He was born in 1920 in Russia to a Jewish family though he himself was a renowned humanist throughout most his life. His family immigrated to America in 1923 and as a kid he read and loved the pulp fiction magazines that were super popular at the time and began writing his own stories at a really young age. He published his first short story at 19 and basically never stopped after that point! He also studied biochemistry at Columbia and went on to become a professor at Boston University. So he was a real deal scientist. He wrote a lot of popular science books as well as fiction.


 

So now onto my favourite works of his Like I said before Asimov was one of the first science fiction writers I read as it was the Foundation series that I picked up.

Foundation by Isaac AsimovThe first book, Foundation, begins in the centre of a vast galactic empire where a genius mathematician called Hari Seldon uses incredibly complex statistics and things to predict the future of humanity. He says that the empire is going to crumble and when it does it will bring a sort intellectual dark ages as planets are cut off from learning and knowledge. He persuades the empire to establish two colonies of humans at the far flung edges of the galaxy who will work to preserve the knowledge of civilisation and reduce the period of the dark age to a little as possible.

Of course it turns out to be far more complicated and devious than that and we get to watch the Foundation planet fight to survive the turbulent political upheavals of the following decades. It’s fascinating and fun and there’s spaceships and cunning plots and clever people winning the day.


I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

The Foundation series is still beloved amongst many science fiction fans though it hasn’t got the popular cultural impact of my other favourite the Robot stories.

 

I, Robot, the most famous of these, is a collection of some of the many Robot short stories that together tell the tale of a fictional history of robotics and how robots and humans have interacted. It deals with ideas of morality and intelligence and how we interact with non-human entities. A fair few focus on how we as humans can understand what robots think or how they think and he invented the term robotics (not robot, that came earlier) and set out the Three Laws of Robotics that are still familiar to us today.


 

The End of Eternity by Isaac AsimovAnother of his books that I think is totally great is The End of Eternity. In this Asimov deals with the concept of time travel. The protagonist Harlan is time-engineer who works in a place called The Eternity. It’s separated from the rest of time and the people who work there move up and down the timeline to adjust what happens at different points to try and minimise human suffering over all history. The problem is that Harlan falls in love with a woman from a particular time period and takes her out of it. It turns out that she’s not really what she pretends to be and that the entire process of adjusting time to reduce suffering is not a beneficial or benevolent as the Eternity engineers have been led to believe.


 

Now I can’t be totally positive about Asimov – he had his flaws just like all of us. The main issue is his treatment of women in his books. In some they are lacking completely and in other they are portrayed as crappy dated stereotypes. He did get better as he got older and this treatment of female characters was fairly par for the course for a lot of sci-fi written at the time but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point it out. It also doesn’t make his books totally bad. It is perfectly possible to love something and find it problematic at the same time.

And I do love his writing. There’s a common theme in most of Asimov’s books which is the importance of knowledge and wisdom but also of the potential perils of cleverness and information without emotion and morality. He’s held up for his hard science fiction based in his real knowledge of science but actually what I always find makes me love his work is his exploration of how science interacts with these more human qualities. Family, love, compassion, understanding, thinking beyond our own achievements toward the betterment of society and future generations. Asimov balances these two areas and brings them together to make really readable fiction.

Thanks for reading!

Bookish Jobs #6 – Ghostwriter (with Katy Weitz)

As part of my ongoing series of interviews about different book-related jobs, careers, and hobbies (catch-up blog posts coming soon), I talked to a ghost writer about her life as the ghost behind the name.

Katy worked as a features writers for national newspapers and independently before beginning to work on creating books for people who couldn’t, or didn’t want to, write their own. You can watch the interview in the video or scroll on down for a transcription.

 

EJ: Hello lovely humans and welcome to another bookish jobs interview. I’m here today with Katy Weitz who is a ghostwriter. She has worked on eight books for some of the UK’s biggest publishers, and runs her own press agency First Features. So, Katy, thank you for joining me. I’ve given you a basic introduction but would you like to introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what it is you do?

KW: Thanks for having me here today. Well, I writer other people’s real life stories for them.  So if somebody has had a very distressing, or shocking, or interesting life story and they can’t necessarily put it into words, I’m the person who does that for them.

We have many hours of interviewing and then I go away and I write it in the book form. And it’s done as a collaborative effort. So everything I write goes to the person whose story this is, the author, they edit it, make any changes, make any suggested alterations, and then it comes back to me. We go through the chapters that way until we have  a finished book.


 

EJ: That’s a really interesting job to have in general but I know this isn’t something you’ve always done. You worked as a features writer in newspapers. So writing in general is something you’ve done for a long time?


KW: I always wanted to write, yeah, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do necessarily, or how I wanted to write. I suppose I was always quite interested in current affairs and when I got to university I decided I’d just try student journalism. And I went into the student newspaper offices and I was just knocked out by the newsroom. The energy, the adrenaline, the excitement of it. I know it was only a student newspaper but still it was just thrilling. And I fell in love with journalism and writing stories and chasing stories. Just feeling at the cutting edge of things.

After university I studied with Trinity Mirror group so they trained me up as a journalist and I went and worked at all their titles for a few months as an intern and then I got my first job on the People newspaper as a feature writer and it just went on from there. I think feature writing came very naturally for me because even though I love stories it was the writing that I always really enjoyed the most.


 

EJ: So you did the student newspaper, was your degree an English degree or something completely different?

KW: No, no. I studied politics, philosophy and economics. Like I said I was interested in current affairs, I was always very politically minded. I quite liked English but I didn’t like studying it. I was quite energised by politics and I suppose journalism brought those two things together.


 

EJ: I suppose, journalism into ghostwriting, there’s actual a logical progression there in terms of writing stories.

KW: Absolutely, there’s a very natural path. I never thought I would write books, I mean it’s complete truism that as soon as you become a journalist everyone says ‘when are you going to write your first book?’ and my response was always ‘Never!’. Because it seemed like an awful lot of work! I was used to writing 500 words at a time, 1500 words tops. You know, I thought that’s about as much as I can do.

But then I guess I came across stories. And once I left national newspapers, and I was selling stories with my features agency to magazines, I came across these stories that just couldn’t be told in 1500 words and, I thought, I’m not doing them justice.

And then it was entirely coincidental, a friend had left the magazine to go into publishing and she said let me know if you come across any stories. And i came across this lady, Tina Davis, whose story was so extraordinary. It became my first book – Daddy’s Little Secret. I just told her all about it, I showed her the magazine article I wrote, and she took a punt on me which I thought was very brave because I didn’t know how to write a book (and I’d never tried). And once they’d offered me the advance I sort of panicked and though ‘Oh god what am I going to do?’ 75,000 words is a lot when you’ve only ever written 1500. But once I’d calmed down and worked it out in my head I thought okay, I’ll give it shot, and it was really good, I really enjoyed it!


 

EJ: It’s really interesting hearing how you got your first book but how does the process of ghostwriting start in other cases?

KW: There’s no set way that you get a story. I think in the same way that any journalist gets a story. You just have to keep your ears to the ground. I’ve had a lot of years as a journalist so my sense of what makes a good story has been honed. So they come to me different ways. Some stories come to me now directly because somebody has seen that I’m a ghostwriter, or they’ve read a book that I’ve written, and they want to know if I want to do their story. Some come through my agent, and others come through journalism contacts; people who are still working in the journalism business who don’t necessarily want to write books themselves but have handled stories that are very interesting to the public and they know would make good books.


 

EJ: So once you’ve got a story, what’s the day to day work of a ghostwriter like? What are the different processes that you have to do? Because it’s not like an ordinary writer just working on your ideas, there’s way more things that you’re getting on with.


KW: Yeah I suppose so. I think there are just two very distinct parts. There’s the interviewing and then there’s the writing bit. Every ghost is different, I don’t purport to be the voice of all ghosts, but the way I do it is that I interview intensely for 4 or 5 days. And I lock myself in a room with the person and we go through the whole story chronologically, we just start at the beginning and we power through. It’s a very intense process but it’s amazing because usually by the end you’ve learned things about this person that nobody has every learned before.

It’s very important, obviously, that I am writing things that are true, that come from somebody’s memory. So I have to make sure that they stay in that memory and that they can tell me everything. Like what colour the curtains were, what the smell was, what time of year it was. And all these little details are really important.

And then I go away, I transcribe all the interviews, which usually takes a couple of weeks. And then I sit back and I think where does everything go, how does it all fit together, and start putting it all in chapters. And that’s where the more creative part comes for me, because I have to tell a story that the reader wants to join in with, not just that somebody is telling. I have to create a narrative.


 

EJ: It sounds like you need some different skills to do this job. You’re going to need really good people skills to do something as intense as that!

KW: I think, like with a lot of journalism, it starts with interest. If you are interested in people, and if you are curious about people then everything else can flow from there. I think most journalism can be learned, I don’t think I do anything totally different from any other writer, but if you’re interested in people everything flows. But you need empathy, you need warmth, you need people to want to talk to you, and want to open up to you. And you need to be able to listen, and when to shut up and let somebody just empty their mind, their heart and their soul out! But I think it starts with just being curious.


 

EJ: How does it work between you and the publishers? Do you write the story and then shop it, or do they approach you and ask you to write something for someone they’ve found?


KW: Well now I’ve got an agent it’s a bit different. I got an agent three books in because I really needed someone who was batting on my side and knew about the contracts and stuff. But now if I think there’s a story that’s got legs i will work with the author on putting together a proposal. This is a really detailed outline of what’s in the book. It’s got a synopsis, chapter by chapter detail of what’s in it, as well as my theories of where this is placed in the market and what the chances are of it doing really well. And then my agent will give me a lot of feedback on that to make sure it’s the best proposal it can be and he puts that round to different publishers.

Occasionally a publisher approaches you saying ‘would you like to meet this author with a view to working on their book together’. I mean that hasn’t happened to me very often but I know there are plenty of other ghosts out there who are a bit more called upon. I think it depends on your speciality, I haven’t done a lot of celebrities. Celebrity memoirs it can be ‘ah well we’ll use that person because they’re good with celebrities’.


 

EJ: How does the self-promotion work with being a ghostwriter? Can you get your name out there or does it have to be a trade secret?


KW: It’s becoming less a trade secret. For example my sixth book, Tressa: The 12 Year Old Mum, has my name is on the front cover and the spine as well. I think it’s generally accepted now that ghostwriting is a common thing. I think we’re all a bit less coy and secretive about it. Especially since Zoella got her book ghostwritten and there was this big outcry because everyone was shocked she didn’t write it herself. But everyone in publishing was like ‘of course she didn’t write it herself, it’s really hard to write books!’. So I think it’s gradually becoming more accepted that you can put your name out there and that you can have your name up there with the author’s.


 

EJ: What are the things that make you excited to be a ghostwriter, to keep doing it? And what are the worst things?

KW: I think the bets is when somebody tells you something and you know nobody else has heard this before and it’s a real privilege that somebody has shared this with you.   Obviously when you get a deal that’s really exciting and filled with adrenaline. And the worst thing? Well writing is a slog! It can be hard.


 

EJ: I know you do a lot of other things besides writing so how do you fit that into your day?


KW: Well there is no typical ghostwriter so I’m going to just have to give you a day in my life because I also own a campsite. So the first thing I do is I get up and I answer all the campsite enquiries! I feed the chickens, and I feed my children and get them off to nursery and school. And then if I’m in the middle of a book I’ll take myself off somewhere. I just wake up that day and decide where I’m going tot go and write. And I write for four or five hours. I try to do one chapter a day which is about 3000 words, as well as check back over the previous chapter that I wrote the day before to edit it and get myself back into it.

If the muse isn’t there, if you’re not feeling it, well you don’t have any choice, you just keep going! But if it’s working it’s feeling nice then that’s it. I don’t write at night, it’s a job. So I do 10am-4pm and that’s my writing day and I try not to do any more. In the evenings I might talk to people on the phone and do a bit of admin but I don’t write any more.


 

EJ: If people are interested in knowing more about you or contacting you then where can they find you or what can they find?

KW: 

My twitter is @ghostwriterbook

My website is ghostwriter4hire.org

And they could also pick up my latest book! Sins of the Mother by Irene Kelly. It’s really interesting. It’s a story told from three perspectives: a mother, a father, and a daughter. And I’m really proud of this one. It’s one where structurally I did something very different and it’s quite exciting for me.

sins of the mother


Thank you to Katy for answering all my questions and I hope you all enjoyed reading her answers!


And I’ll return to the science fiction and fantasy programming in the next post, I promise!

Much love and sparkly rockets.

rainbow rocket

It’s not dead, it’s just “differently alive”. 

Hello lovely readers!

Long time, no blog. Yeah, I’m terrible at this. If you don’t care feel free to skip to the end. I’m just going to work through my guilt for a bit.

What happened?

I set up the blog, as a way of expanding on my YouTube channel, books and pieces. Over there I publish a video every week (sometimes twice a week), and I have done so consistently for over three years. I wanted a place where I could post things that weren’t necessarily video content or where those who like to read rather than watch could access the same reviews and thought pieces. I thought I’d be as consistent and productive with this as I was with the videos.

bitch please

Unfortunately, as it turns out, blogging takes time!

In the way of so many people who don’t have experience in a particular area, I assumed that doing this thing would be easy and quick. It isn’t!

duh

Blog posts became an additional time-suck during a period when I had very little time to spare. From late January to June I was doing the most difficult and time-consuming modules of my Masters degree, my day job got busier, I started the #booktubeSFF awards, and I still had to make my videos (and do regular life things).

Making the blog posts just kind of….fell to the wayside.

there there

Sympathy is for losers (I am a loser, be nice to meeeee).

So what next?

 

The blog never disappeared from my mind. I’ve been meaning to update it for a long time. I want to blog. That’s the key bit. I think I just need to re-adjust my own ideas about what the blog needs to be.

It’s not going to be a consistently updated thing. I still don’t have the mental bandwidth for it. I’m in the research & dissertation phase of my Masters until April 2016. Getting that done takes priority.

BUT I do want to keep this blog as a thing. I want to write more, create more, and have a central place for all my videos, book reviews, and other content.

So…yeah. I’ll be around, I’ll be updating again. There may be disapperances during times of stress. But this thing, this blog, it’s still here, I’m resurrecting it.

It's Alive!

 

Let’s just hope it doesn’t hate me for abandoning it for so long and chase me across Europe on some terrifying vengeance spree because I am so not making it another blog to keep it company.

A queer rainbow TBR

rainbow rocketI decided very last minute to join in with the #rainbowthon readathon that’s happening on booktube this week (15th-2s1t June). The basic idea is to read 4-6 books that are the colours of the rainbow (some books can serve for two colours). I decided to put a twist on it and make my rainbow book a pride rainbow and put together a TBR of queer SFF reads. Double the rainbow for your money!

 


Red

Darker Shade of Magic coverA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab is my choice for red. The book centres around Kell, one of the last Travellers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. Grey London is ruled by mad King George and has no magic. Red London reveres magic and Kell is raised with the prince himself. White London is a land of intrigue and murder where magic fights its users. And once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now….

The book features a canonically bisexual character which is rare enough to make me squee with joy when I discover such a thing.


 

Orange

Infidel book coverInfidel by Kameron Hurley is the second book in the Bel Dame series following Nyx Nissa a government assassin turned bounty hunter living in a world divided by a centuries long war. The world that Hurley has created in this series is brutal, dark, horribly believable, and wonderfully readable. Nyx is bisexual in the books and Hurley also identifies herself as ‘not the straightest arrow in the quiver’.  One of my favourite writers of the moment, her strongly spoken views on feminism, ethics, publishing, and more are always worth reading.


 

Yellow & Green 

Babel-17 cover

Babel-17 by Samuel Delany is my pick for yellow and green. Samuel Delany is one of the great masters of science fiction and is gay. Babel-17 is set in a distant future where humanity hes begun receiving strange communications from an alien race. It’s all about the power of language, (mis)communication, and understanding. One of those been-meaning-to-read-it-forever books!

 


 

Blue

Lightspeed QDSF coverLightspeed: Queers Destroy Science Fiction is a bumper-sized special edition of Lightspeed magazine that I help kickstart a few months ago. It’s been entirely written and edited by queer creators and is filled with original short fiction, flash fiction, and non-fiction essays that encompass a great swathe of the QUILTBAG spectrum. I may have sneakily already started this one and, let me tell you, it’s fantastic.


 

Purple

Heiresses of Russ coverHeiresses of Russ 2014 by Melissa Scott and Steve Berman (eds.) is an anthology of the year’s best lesbian speculative fiction. It includes eighteen stories that vary from shapeshifting sidekicks to magical fertility rites to the delayed gratification of soulmate countdowns. The thing I like the most about the descriptions is that it promises that the women in this books “will find themselves tested not because of their sexual identity but rather the identity they have composed, constructed, and spun”.


 

And there you have it – a double rainbow of pride month fabulousness. Long may it shine.

rainbow rocket

Things I Like Thursday – 11th June 2015

It’s been a long day at work so I thought I’d count my ducklings (who doesn’t love ducklings) and talk about all things that I’ve been loving recently.

duckling

Women in SFF

I love discovering and celebrating SFF writers. I mean, obviously, that’s why I’m here writing blog posts and making videos. I will eternally be in awe of those people who can weave words into worlds.  To this end I’ve been happily discovering a host of great women writers.

Twitter love

The #femmeSFF tag on twitter has been joyous this evening. Hundreds of posts dedicated to reminding us of the great women authors of SFF who are all too often ignored and pushed to the side while their male counterparts’ names are repeated ad infinitum.

I have some reservations about the appropriation of the word ‘femme’ in this context (removing it from the queer context seems inappropriate and kind of blind to the intersection of lesbian authors and readers) but I do appreciate the sentiment behind the movement. If you’re looking for a new book to read then get your eyeballs over to the tag on twitter.

SF MistressWorks

On a similar note I’ve also been browsing through the archives of the SF Mistressworks blog. Dedicated to reviewing and promoting great female authors of SF, this blog is a goldmine for discovering quite how many female authors there have always been in SFF.  Go there and let them blow your tiny mind with the pure greatness of the mistresses of SFF.

Mistressworks logo

The Martian gets a trailer

adored The Martian by Andy Weir when I first read it. This was science fiction that got my heart pumping, that made me stare up at the stars and look for Mars, it was man versus nature on the most extreme of scales.

Luckily it appears that just about everyone in the world agreed with me and they started making the movie. Adaptation is a scary business for fans. The ways in which you can fuck up my favourite things; LET ME COUNT THEM FOR YOU. Luckily this trailer looks gooooooood. I am cautiously optimistic. Let’s science the shit out of it.

 

Queers Destroy Science Fiction

Many moons ago (okay not that many) I wrote about backing the Lightspeed: QDSF Kickstarter. And on the 1st of June those darling humans delivered my copy. It is magic. The introductory essays had me in tears, happy and sad. I’m not finished reading it yet so I won’t go into any details but the fiction is fantastic. It makes me extraordinarily happy that there is both new fiction and old re-prints. Just like with the female authors that get forgotten, it’s so easy to say that SF history was largely straight and fail to mention the queer authors that were there all along, even if they were fewer in number. There have always been queer authors writing genre fiction and there always will be. Go read some of them over at Lightspeed Issue 61!

lightspeed


 

There are more squee-worth things to be discussed, of course, but these will suffice for today.

Until next time lovely humans.

x

7 Thrilling Adventure Novels (for a rip-roaring good time)

Hello lovely humans. This week’s video was all about adventure novels! I recently read Harry Harrison’s Deathworld, a ridiculous but also ridiculously fun, science fiction book about a mysteriously murderous planet. It reminded me of how much I really enjoy an uncomplicated bit of thrilling adventure time and so I wanted to recommend great adventures to read when you also need some thrills, spills and chills. Watch the video or read on for the extended text version.


Cover of Love and Romanpunk

Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts is a collection of short stories that shows us the monstrous secrets of an ancient Roman family and the line of hunters who must chase them down through history. The stories stretch from a 1st century AD bestiary all the way up a fight to death aboard an airship in future Australia. Pure good fun. You may never think about Mary Shelley in quite the same way ever again.


Cover of Old Man's War

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi is a fantastic military science fiction adventure. In a distant future humanity squabbles with alien races to populate the few habitable planets and so the Colonial Defence Force recruits soldiers from Earth to help the cause. But the CDF don’t want young people, they recruit you on your 75th birthday. How it works nobody knows but our protagonist signs up and begins his military career and the adventure of a new lifetime. Lot’s of tension, lots of excitement, and if you like it there’s a whole bunch more in the series.


 

lovelace and babbage coverThe Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua pretty much chose itself for this list. It’s a graphic novel about Charles Babbage who invented one of the early forerunners of modern computers, The Analytical Engine, and Ada Lovelace who basically invented coding. Starting with the very true story of their lives it then pops us over into a pocket parallel universe where Lovelace and Babbage use their giant steam powered computer to fight crime and have adventures. As is only right and good. Possibly the most perfect book ever.


Hundred Thousand cover

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemison is about a young woman, Yeine, who is, to her shock, named as the heir to the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. But this is a kingdom whose power comes from their control of gods whom they enslaved in the distant past. Yeine struggles in the treacherous environment of the castle – making dangerous deals with the strange gods and fighting to stay alive in the political power struggle for control of the kingdom. Surprising, tense, and thoroughly enjoyable.


 

Enter the Saint coverThe Saint books by Leslie Charteris are some of my favourite old fashioned adventures. The series started back in the 1920s following Simon Templar, a vigilante better known by his alias The Saint. He steals from criminals and he does it in style. This is James Bond before James Bond was invented. Perfect tailoring, car chases, fisticuffs, x marks the spot, and few detours to fight the nazis. Forget James Bond, forget Robin Hood, meet The Saint.


 

Rat Queens #1 coverRat Queens by Kurtis J. Weibe is a comic book graphic novel series about a gang of hard drinking, bad-ass mercenary adventurers in a fantasy world full of dark elves, vampires, trolls, and evil squid gods. Not one for the kids, the Rat Queens must fight to save themselves from being banished and then to save their town from the mysterious evil forces threatening it with, well, evil. Hilarious, irreverent, and deliciously violent.


 

Throne of the Crescent Moon coverThrone of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed is a fantasy adventure following an old ghoul-hunter, Adoulla Makhslood, who just wants a quiet life and a nice cup of tea. Unfortunately he’s kind of sucked into a huge adventure as a series of supernatural murders spread across his city. As Adoulla and his assistants discover terrible political connections to these unearthly killings their lives and lives of the entire kingdom are suddenly at risk. If you like your cup of tea with a side order of blood and magic then this the book for you.


 

So those are some of my favourite books to go to for some pure fun adventure time. What are yours? I’d love to know.

What I Read in May

Today’s post is a quick roundup of my thoughts about all the things I read in May. May was the first month where I was relatively free from university deadlines and so I had plenty of time to read, In fact I’ve got 14 titles to cover about so I best get a move on. You can watch the video version or scroll past to read the extended text version.


Dawn cover

First up I finished off Dawn by Octavia Butler. Butler is an author I’ve been meaning to read forever and this was an intriguing place to start. The dilemma of Lillith, deciding the fate of humanity and resigning herself to be the betrayer, was tense and well thought out. The characters themselves were nuanced and made me seriously look at how I thought about prejudice, human-ness, and my attitude to the new and unknown. I look forward to seeing how she moves the world forward in the next book. A reflective and meditative, yet dramatic, read. 


 

Female Man book coverThe Female Man by Joanna Russ is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Uncomfortable, frenetic, literary, and GODDAMNED MAGNIFICENT. I really haven’t figured out a way to explain quite why I loved it the way I did but I was in awe of this perfect thing I was reading the entire way through. The way Russ seems to paint a scene with the barest of strokes and yet conjure up perfectly vivid characters was astounding. Within the space of two pages I’d go from tears of laughter to a gut-searing rage watching the horrors of the world move before me. I cannot say much beyond: read it.


Irregularity coverThen I picked up Irregularity by Jared Shurin (ed.), a collection of short speculative fiction stories all themed around the idea of the Age of Reason and the history of scientific enquiry.  It’s not often that I can read short fiction collections straight through (I need a break between each one) but I flew through this. From strange sea clocks powered by bodily fluids to a murderous time-travelling bohemian rhapsody quoting Isaac Newton, every story is a strange individual snowflake and yet they come together under the theme just perfectly. Evocative, sickening, amusing, haunted, and haunting – a joy to read. 


Annihilation coverAnnihilation by Jeff Vandermeer is classified by the author as weird nature fiction and, well, it’s pretty damned weird! The plot centres around the mystery of Area X – a section of land abandoned by human beings for no known reason. Previous explorations have all ended strangely and from the outset nothing is quite right. It’s uncanny and unsettling in the best of ways. It was a clever book as an exploration of the gothic trope but something about it just didn’t gel with me and I never got further than appreciating its cleverness. Clever concept, not my cup of tea. 

Disclosure: received for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Seveneves coverFinally, after months and months of (im)patient waiting, it was time for Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. This is a hefty beast of a book; 861 pages long and weighing nearly 3lbs. But, oh my goodness, it’s worth hefting around. Split between a near future where Earth is beset with natural disaster and humanity flees to space, and a distant future where the space-faring descendants of humans must return to this alien world of Earth, the story is as detailed and clever as I’ve come to expect of Stephenson’s work. His writing is a joy and you always come out of his books feeling smarter than when you went in. I never knew that learning about orbital velocity could be so much fun!


 

Lord of scoundrels coverIn the middle of Seveneves I had a little bit of a break for something where 7 billion people hadn’t just been wiped out and indulged in some romance. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase tells of a mad, bad and dangerous to know lord marrying a clever, witty lady and, well, you know how it goes. It was fun but a little over the top even for me – in one short novel there was the hate, love, hate, love, scandal, marriage of a standard romance plot but also a whole extra section of angsty love-child side plot and villainous frenemies that felt kind of superfluous. Either cut it or add two hundred extra pages and turn it into a sequel.


 

Love and other scandals coverLove & Other Scandals by Caroline Linden was a thoroughly enjoyable story of the wallflower determined to get away from the wall, and the scandalous (but nice) lord with whom she has some rather, shall we say, heated, arguments. The running thread of the series is a steamy ladies magazine/sex guide that provides the female characters with a positive attitude to, and knowledge of, sex that is often lacking in historical romance. Real history was not short of smutty books and explicit sex education and it’s nice to see romance novels play with this. No ridiculous angst, plenty of frocks, good attitude toward sex.


 

Cover of Runaways Vol. 1The Runaways by Brian K Vaughn was a series of comics/graphic novels about a group of kids who discover that their parents are actually all supervillains so they run away and become teen superheroes. It was cancelled after a few years but has since been resurrected by different Marvel authors. I read the first three collected volumes: Pride and Joy, Teenage Wasteland, and The Good Die Young. The first volume was a cute concept, with cute art, and the cutest pet dinosaur all interspersed with some rather shocking violence. Unfortunately I got gradually less interested over the next two volumes and remain uncertain about continuing.


 

Cover of deathnote v.1-2 (Black edition)Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba is an insanely popular and extensive manga series about a teenage boy who finds the notebook of a death god. Anyone whose name he writes in the notebook will die exactly as he specifies and so he decides to rid the world of all evil and create a utopian society by going on what can only be described as a killing spree. I can see why the series is popular, there was some great detective versus killer cat-and-mouse games going on, but it’s also filled with ridiculously illogical actions and way too much sexism for me to really enjoy it or want to continue. Not so good. 

(I read Black Edition: Volume 1 which combines the ordinary volumes 1 & 2)


 

Cover of LumberjanesLuckily I also read Lumberjanes Volume 1 by Noelle Stevenson which is just the most perfect and wonderous comic every created. Seriously, I think I’m in love. Every boy’s own adventure book I read as a kid has been expertly transformed into this totally fantastic badass lady-types, rip-roaring, fun never stops, comic of perfection. The characters are just screamingly fabulous; the art – a breath of fresh air; the story- hilarious. If you know anyone who is, or loves, a badass lady-type then make them read this because they will love it forever. Perfection. 


Cover of deathworldDeathworld by Harry Harrison was my last read in May chosen purely because of the best blurb on earth: “The settlers on Pyrrus were supermen…twice as strong as ordinary men and with milli-second reflexes. They had to be. For their business was murder…”  So much yes.  And it really is just like that. It’s every ingredient of pulp and golden age science fiction stirred into 150 pages of adventuring, drinking manly booze, a sexy lady, monsters, telepathy, spaceships, and guns. High literature this is not, original, ethical and unpredictable – also no, fun – YES. James Bond has an angry interplanetary adventure – you can’t say no. 


 

How was your reading month in May and what on earth are you reading in June?

Oh an don’t forget to put your nominations in for the BooktubeSFF Awards!