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Marissa Lingen

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Books read, early August [Aug. 16th, 2014|09:27 pm]
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Kenneth Andrien, Andean Worlds: Indigenous History, Culture, and Consciousness Under Spanish Rule, 1532-1825. This title is a bit misleading: there is not nearly so much of the culture and consciousness as a person might want. And this period is mostly the post-mummy period. Still, moderately interesting stuff.


Maria Belozerskaya, The Medici Giraffe and Other Tales of Exotic Animals and Power. This was pretty disjointed. It was basically “zany rich animal collectors in history: some cool stories about them.” Which is fine as long as you’re not looking for something more, more thesis, more throughput of narrative.


Chaz Brenchley, Being Small. Kindle. Discussed elsewhere.


A.S. Byatt, The Shadow of the Sun. This was just horrifying. It was Byatt’s first novel, and the introduction alone is enough to curl your hair, that weird period when women, women we actually know now and still have around like A.S. Byatt, had established the right to an education but God forbid they should use it for anything simultaneously with doing anything else in life. And this novel deals with the weirdness of that period, only it does it from the inside, so there’s all sorts of stuff that you look at and say, “Uh…Antonia dear…uh…did you mean that to be a terrible creep show for which everyone needs slapping?” And it’s really nice to have read the things she’s written since and know that she doesn’t still need to stay in the guest room and eat soup and detox from the 1950s and early 1960s because MY LAND OH HONEY.


Rae Carson, The Shattered Mountain. Kindle. Fun novella backstory for one of the characters in the trilogy that starts with The Girl of Fire and Thorns, which I recommend you start with instead of this; this is a good time but will be better when you have more of the context of the world.


Carrie Harris, Sally Slick and the Steel Syndicate. A kids’ steampunk novel featuring racing tractors and a girl who can fix nearly anything except possibly her family dynamic. So that part spoke to me. It was rife with anachronisms, some of which seemed deliberate and others less well-considered, and that was less great. So…some hit and some miss here, depending on how much ill-considered anachronism sets your teeth on edge.


Jill Lepore, New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan. Jill Lepore is pretty much always good stuff. This time it’s about a supposed slave uprising in 1741 Manhattan, how a fire got deemed a slave conspiracy and dozens of people got executed for it. Oh, eighteenth century, I love you, but you are destructive and horrible and really awful sometimes. Lepore has a fascinating theory about the rise of conspiracy theories in the early eighteenth century to replace everything being Providence, because people remain really crap at “sometimes bad things really do just happen.” Lots of large and small things I did not know about colonial America per page here. (Possibly less revelatory to New Yorkers, who might be better educated about how their home state treated slaves and suspected crypto-papists in this period. Then again possibly not.)


H. C. Erik Midelfort, Mad Princes of Renaissance Germany. Mark looked at this and said, “I’m surprised it’s not a bigger book.” Yyyyyes. This is an overview. It’s an interesting overview, some fascinating case studies on who got the medical treatment of the time (and what that was) and who got treated theologically and why. But in fact there was enough “madness” (and Midelfort discusses his deliberate use of that very vague term pretty carefully) in that region and period that it could have been a bugcrusher instead of the slim volume it was.


Nicole Pope and Hugh Pope, Turkey Unveiled: A History of Modern Turkey. Very chatty, very light, and this is the “post-WWII” meaning of the word “modern.” (I may be a bit biased towards the “post-Renaissance” meaning of the word, or at least the “post-Romanticism” meaning.) If you don’t know anything about 20th century Turkish history, which hey, I don’t, it seems like it might give you some framework, but I feel like it’s only a start, not at all a stopping point, and once I keep going I have a feeling I may recoil and go, “urghhh, that was…not really it.” Because this was not a particularly well-organized book. It was trying to go chronologically and then kept remembering things that happened later that interested the authors. It was like…talking to me personally about the 20th century in Turkey. Which, y’know, I can’t judge per se? Except that when I’m writing something at book length I make more effort to organize my thoughts than if we’re having tea and I’m babbling at you about some cool things I know. And I feel that this might not be an unreasonable thing to ask of other people too.


Greg Rucka, Bravo. This is a pretty good thriller. The one that came before it in its series, Alpha, is one of my favorite thrillers ever, so it’s really hard to figure out how to write about one that’s pretty good when my expectations for it were that high. There is a folie a deux in it, and those…really hardly ever work for me. (It’s not that I find them unbelievable, it’s that I don’t enjoy them.) And one of the major plot points just flat out does not work for me in the sense of “find unbelievable,” so…yeah. I enjoyed it while reading it, it went fast, and I liked Alpha a lot. It’s easy to sound far more negative than I actually feel about this book. I don’t want to do that. It was fine.


Charles Stross, The Rhesus Chart. This far into the Laundry series, I think one of the best metrics for how much I will enjoy them is how much Stross is doing something beyond just sending up the trope he’s sending up. In this case it’s vampires, and I think he did a really good job of consistently thinking another step beyond the obvious. This is one of the better Laundry novels, and I like the Laundry novels very well in general.


Theresa Urbainczyk, Slave Revolts in Antiquity. This does a beautiful job of what it says on the tin. In the introduction, Ubrainczyk talks about the people who tried to discourage her from writing this book. I dislike these people. They don’t want me to have nice things. Urbainczyk is also beautifully snarky about people who are Just Sure of what helots could not possibly have thought or done or wanted, while being very careful about what she does not have evidence that they did think/do/want. Hurrah Urbainczyk go team.


Genevieve Valentine, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club. This is an historical novel set in the Roaring Twenties, using the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale as a framework. The Roaring Twenties are one of my favorite eras, and the Twelve Dancing Princesses are one of my favorite fairy tales, and this was just beautiful. Just a lovely book. (Straight-up historical, not fantasy. Family. Dancing. Things! Things! This book!)


Django Wexler, The Forbidden Library. Middle-grade fantasy with Readers as sorcerers, and sorcery as fairly nasty. I’m interested in where the nastiness in tone goes for kids this age, where the boundaries are. So that was interesting. This is very much a “first in a series,” not a complete story.


Laurence Yep, Dragon of the Lost Sea. This first in a series, on the other hand, told a complete story. Shapeshifter dragon and tricksy human child team up to attempt to restore her home to its former glory, and things…get complicated. I’m looking forward to more in this series. The dragon is awesome.


Jane Yolen, Cards of Grief. Kindle. Science fiction of a very anthropological type I don’t get enough of, multiple perspectives on the same story. Good stuff.


Sarah Zettel, Bad Luck Girl. Fun conclusion to this trilogy in Dirty Thirties Chicago, although the new allies for the conclusion felt…a little too new, for as important as they turned out to be in the third volume of a trilogy. Would have liked a little more sense of their import going in. Ah well, can’t have everything.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Being Small, by Chaz Brenchley [Aug. 10th, 2014|06:11 am]
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Review copy provided by author.


I don’t read horror, mostly. And this is horror-ish. And I read it anyway, and no, I don’t read everything that people send me to review, not even by authors whose stuff I’ve liked previously, not even by authors I’ve hung out with at cons and been online pals with. (Oh yeah. I should put that disclaimer in.)


I used to say things like “the stuff I like is dark fantasy, and the other stuff is horror,” but this is not, really, this is just horror. It’s the quiet psychological stuff. Michael had a dead fetal twin in his belly, cut out when he was tiny, and he’s had his dead fetal twin, Small, inhabiting his thoughts his whole life. Small is with him, shaping him, constraining him, losing to him at chess, complaining when he smokes pot, unable to read, unable to make friends, unable to forget.


Now Michael, isolated by his mother’s theories about how her twin sons–alive and dead–should think and learn, finally gets to meet his own oddly assorted set of friends–one of whom is dying. Michael feels that he knows something about this, having lived with a dead twin in his head for all of his sixteen years. The rest of his friends are kind and welcoming to him despite or because of that, but what role Small plays in Michael’s treatment of the dying is closely written and perfect for the 16-year-old they both are, living and dead. The spiraling ending is chilly and horrible and yet fits the warmer tones of the short book leading up to it perfectly.


Not my usual sort of thing, but if you’re not turned off by the description of what sort of internal/external ghost story this is, it may well be worth stepping outside your usual too.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Intellectual property and wills [Aug. 7th, 2014|05:20 pm]
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Every once in awhile something brings this to mind again, so consider this your annual-or-so reminder:


Please, please, please make a will. Please, please, please make a medical decision-making/power-of-attorney document. Discuss these things with your near and dear so that they know what you want. If your lives aren’t terribly complicated, they don’t have to be expensive. In many states you can do legally binding ones for free if you do them in your own handwriting or other stipulations–I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on the internet, please look up the details for yourself and/or consult an actual attorney such as this nice man–but please, please get them done. They aren’t just for rich people. They aren’t just for “important” people. You are important people. Make a will. Make your health care wishes clear. Do it today, do it tomorrow, wait until next week if you must. But please do it.


And the thing that brought it to my mind was this:


If you do substantial creative work. If you are a writer with a substantial body of work–novels, several short stories or poems–if you are a visual artist, anything that is that type of copyrighted intellectual property, please, please take the time to do this so that you establish who will be your literary executor*. This person does not have to be an heir. Sometimes family members who have been very dear and supportive of your career, who would want your work to be protected and perpetuated, are not people who have the background or the time to navigate the business of publishing. This doesn’t have to require malice! You can say, “Oh, my next of kin would be my sister Alice, and she loves my books!” But Alice has five children and a thriving practice as a cardiologist; if you are killed in a tragic meteor shower tomorrow, in five years, learning what she needs to know to do well by your work may not be Alice’s top priority. Or it might be! Alice might be awesome that way. But at least think through the personalities and skill sets involved.


The other thing I would like to say about this is: if you’ve already done this, hurrah! I salute you! But if you’ve already done this twenty, twenty-five, thirty years ago, please consider whether the people you selected are still the right people. Right now, my godchildren and my nieces are not the right people, and right now I have no children and don’t know whether I ever will.** In twenty or thirty years, my parents and my godchildren and my nieces will be in very different places in their lives, and we will know about the child hypothesis for sure. So: reevaluation. We used to joke about how upsetting it would be if something happened to Tim’s parents, not only because of losing them themselves, but also because they hadn’t changed their will, and we would miss Tim when he had to go live with his aunt and uncle. Obviously the guardianship of minor children goes away when those children reach majority. But designating a sibling instead of a child or a younger friend to be the literary executor does not. Sometimes that’s still the right thing. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes putting an extra layer of conditional statements into place–”my friend Chris if still available, my cousin Pat if not”–can help make everybody more comfortable with the situation.


I know, I know, this is one of my hot buttons, and I keep harping on it. But I think one of the things that happens is that our work sneaks up on us. We don’t think of ourselves as major authors, because major authors are always going to be the next rungs up. Even if you’re regularly making the New York Times bestseller list, even if you’re regularly winning major awards in your genre of choice, you’re always going to be able to say to yourself, “Yes, but I’m no Octavia Butler, a major author is someone like Octavia Butler.” But the thing is–well, two things. One, Octavia Butler probably didn’t think she was a major author when she wrote the stories I just read in Unexpected Stories, and I’m still immensely glad that she had the procedures in place so that people could get those stories published after her death, so that the rest of us could have them and love them. And two, it doesn’t matter if you’re major. If you make things, please let the rest of us protect your things. Please let this be the lantern glass around your bright spark, even if it’s a tiny spark.


*I’m going to use the language of literature from this point forward, since that’s the terminology I know, but if you’re another kind of artist, please look into protecting your work post mortem in the way that suits your type of work also. It’s still important–it’s just not the language I’ve got immediately to hand.


**I would like one. If it becomes possible, I will tell you. Until then, please don’t ask questions about it. Thanks.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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pre-order gets you the same pretty cover [Aug. 6th, 2014|03:36 pm]
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Just a quick note that the pre-orders are available for the Futures 2 anthology, in which I have a story–and so do 99 other people. Hard to beat that with a stick. Especially since it’s an ebook.


I would like to say something more here, but the neighbors behind us have let their dog out to bark since 8:30 this morning without more than 15 minutes of pause, and it turns out that I am able to focus through that to do three of the four of the following: 1) wrangle my own dog into not barking constantly; 2) write some fiction; 3) handle necessary house chores; 4) write a long blog post. So: sorry, folks. Tomorrow, I hope.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Books read, late July [Aug. 1st, 2014|12:21 pm]
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Madeline Ashby, iD. Not at all a stand-alone sequel, much of the emotional punch relying on vN. Very robot-y, very concerned with humans and consent and sex and reproduction. Interesting stuff, but not as compelling as the first, to my mind.


Octavia Butler, Unexpected Stories. Kindle. I could not make myself save these, even though they are likely the last new Octavia Butler I will have, barring another miracle like this one. The thing about Octavia Butler stories is that she understood the difference between being in power and being in leadership, and how you could be in the latter without having very much if any of the former. Oh my golly, did she understand that. And she left us these stories about being one of the people that other people turn to, and if you are one of those people it’s like being able to have a conversation with your best auntie across the years, across the miles, across never meeting each other. One of the stories in this pair is a perfectly fine Octavia Butler story, but the other one is one of the stories she left to make it okay or at least a little better than it was, a message in the bottle story for the people who needed it, even though it wasn’t as polished as the later ones, even though she was still figuring out what she was doing with it. Like “The Evening and the Morning and the Night.” Like Fledgling. To let us known that she understood, she was there, she will always be there somehow. Thanks, Octavia. I never met you, but you’re there for me, and I’ll be there for them, I promise.


Well, that took a turn, didn’t it?


M.R. Carey, The Girl With All the Gifts. This is a zombie novel. I hate zombie novels. This is one. It is briskly written and obsessed with fungi. I like fungi quite a lot, really. I can be lured with mycology and Mike Carey. But don’t let anyone tell you it’s not really a zombie novel, because it is, in fact, really a zombie novel. If you don’t hate zombie novels, by all means, read this one. The ending falls apart a bit, but the titular character is almost worth the price of admission.


Corey Doctorow and Jen Wang, In Real Life. Discussed elsewhere.


Dung Kai-Cheung, Atlas: The Geography of an Imaginary City. This is influenced by Eco, Borges, Calvino–all that sort of thing, and those names get cited directly in the text. Dung wrote it in ’97, when Hong Kong was joining with China, and the conceit is that it is a very “imaginary cities” narrative, as though Hong Kong had disappeared and was being reconstructed or reimagined in the future, with other theoretical/speculative/fantastical discussions of maps and cartography. Short, light, whimsical, and an interesting cultural counterpoint to the European and South American perspectives I’ve had on this type of narrative.


Rose Fox and Daniel Jose Older, Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. Lots of gems, some that didn’t resonate with me quite so much, but the standout for me was Sofia Samatar’s. I’m getting used to saying that, really–I think many of us are–and expect to be repeating it a lot as the years go by.


Max Gladstone, Full Fathom Five. Discussed elsewhere.


Ben Hatke, Julia’s House for Lost Creatures. Discussed elsewhere.


Robert W. Hefner, Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia. I wish that this book had spent more time on the civil structures that preceded colonialism (or even the civil structures that preceded Islam in Indonesia), but once it got past the de Tocquevillian throat-clearing, interesting to have a political history of Indonesia in the twentieth century and a counter-narrative to the “Islam vs. democracy” idea that crops up so often in the west–in Indonesia Islam was on all sides of every movement, so it was a great deal more complicated than that “vs.” would try to reduce it to.


Thorsten Henn, Colours of Iceland. A book of Icelandic photos. Inspirational.


Ann Bowman Jannetta, Epidemics and Mortality in Early Modern Japan. Analysis of who got killed by what when. Interesting stuff, particularly with the insight that the Tokugawa isolation nearly kept cholera out of Japan. Nearly. Oops. Ann Bowman Jannetta was strongly, strongly discouraged from this work when she turned up in Japan to do it, so I hope that there has been more of it since, because I, at least, found it fascinating.


Hilary McKay, Binny for Short. This is not one of the Casson family books, and I love it anyway. It has that brilliant McKay combination where one scene can be hilarious and emotionally wrenching at the same time, and she doesn’t pull punches in those scenes. For those unfamiliar with her books, it’s a mainstream British children’s novel, a book about family and friends, and it’s funny and wonderful and horrible and I love them, I love them so much. There are seals and dogs and awful aunts and loss and friendship and fierce, dedicated children experimenting with things that probably aren’t poisonous (but they can hope), and I love Hilary McKay. I do. So much.


Jonathan Spence, God’s Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan. This is one of the most utterly readable pieces of nonfiction I’ve picked up in a long time. It is the fastest, chattiest nonfiction writing that does not make me suspicious about what the author is trying to put past me. The Taiping Rebellion is one of those crazy fascinating historical events, and this is a really good accounting of it. Highly recommended.


Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, and The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two. Discussed elsewhere.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Full Fathom Five, by Max Gladstone [Jul. 31st, 2014|09:32 pm]
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Review copy provided by Tor.


It’s such a relief when someone is good on panels and pleasant to have lunch with at conventions, and you haven’t read any of their books, and then you pick one up and you like it and can say nice things about it. WHEW. Because saying smart things on panels is not actually correlated all that strongly with writing good books, or we wouldn’t have fans and critics who’ve never written a book at all on panels in the first place.


But here we are, Full Fathom Five! It’s the story of an island “paradise” that’s home to street children, bars, poetry slam taverns…and a consortium of spiritual consultants who have re-formed their bodies in large ways and small to become priests and priestesses who create gods (of sorts) to fit their clients’ needs. The idols live, after a fashion, while their ties to belief, soulstuff, and the other fundamentals of divine survival are strong enough. When their support network ebbs, it’s time for them to dissolve back into the waters.


In one case–not even a case that starts out special to her personally–Kai can’t quite accept that and dives in after the idol Seven Alpha, and that’s where all her trouble starts. She’s dragged from the water with her body still partly broken (and oh, the physical therapy and disability stuff, yes, definitely so) and has to figure out what the heck is going on with this particular idol–and with the rest of her order and the world she thought she knew.


Meanwhile, Izza and her gang of co-religionist street kids are finding that their gods are appearing and being eaten, one by one. She tries to help foreigners who can help her and tangles with various authority figures while she tries to steer clear of the enforcement that threatens as she approaches adulthood: a sentence to the inside of a torturous rock exoskeleton called a Penitent. Her life to date has taught her mistrust of pretty much everyone, and her gods’ disappearance doesn’t help.


This stuff is great fun, and the chapters are short and zippy. The parts where the idol-builders are talking to their clients about their soul-investment needs are flat-out hilarious. The plot is engaging, and I’m eager to get the rest of the books in this world. Hypothetically this is third in the series, but I’m living proof that it’s a great entry point. Go ahead and start here. If you’re missing something, it’ll be no hardship to reread later when you know what it is you’re missing, but honestly, I didn’t feel like I was shorted on any element of story from not having read the earlier Craft books.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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And the title’s a quite good one, too. [Jul. 30th, 2014|02:17 pm]
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You know what short story writers like?


Magazines. We really, really like magazines that publish short stories. (Y’know. Like the ones we write.) Which is why I commend to your attention the Kickstarter for Uncanny magazine. It’s the new project from the twisty, uncanny brains of the Thomases, who used to work with Apex and who were some of the editors I worked with on the Apex story some of you may have enjoyed earlier this summer. If I listened carefully (I’m pretty tired, so you should go listen carefully yourself), it looks like their business model is to have subscribers get an early e-book version of the magazine and then provide the stories online for the general reader, so if you help fund, there’s more stories for you early and then more stories for everyone eventually. I think pretty much everyone who reads this can get behind that idea.


So: Thomases! Weird speculative fiction projects! Track record good, outlook positive, go think about their new thing and whether you have two dimes to rub together and throw into making it go.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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In Real Life, by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang [Jul. 27th, 2014|10:43 pm]
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Review copy provided by First Second.


This story will be familiar to Doctorow’s short story fans as “Anda’s Game.” It’s adapted to the graphic novel format, but if you read primarily for story and have already read “Anda’s Game,” this will not present you with new story.


For those not familiar, “Anda’s Game” is the story of a girl who gets involved with an online gaming guild and its anti-gold-farming exploits, only to find that the situation of gold farmers in China and other countries is a great deal more complicated than she previously knew.


The comics adaptation does interesting visual things with contrasting Anda’s choices “in real life” with her choices in the game world, only to bring them close together as Anda realizes that the game world is part of her real life, part of everyone’s real life, and that the distinctions between them are pretty arbitrary. I didn’t find the illustrations gorgeous, but they served their purpose and fit with the style of other graphic novels I’ve read that are pitched to that demographic. While this is no longer ground-breaking, I expect that it has a fairly large audience that it should find easily.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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three Fairyland books by Catherynne M. Valente [Jul. 22nd, 2014|12:25 pm]
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Review copies provided by Macmillan.


This is the series that starts with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, goes on to The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, and finishes off with The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two. I say “finishes off” because that’s where we are as of the writing of this blog post, but it looks like Valente has stated publicly that there will be five books in this series. It’s an interesting thing to know, because the ending of soared is one I would want follow-up to but would not automatically assume, with my experience of its sub-genre, that all authors would want to provide follow-up to. So hurrah for not ending here.


This is the story of September and her adventures in Fairyland and the friends she makes there. Friends are very important to these books. Crucial. These books are very conscious about being a told story–the narrator is right there talking to you, personally, holding your hand and sometimes squeezing your shoulder, and if that bothers you, if you are attached to prose transparency, these are more decorative stained glass than clear, and these will not be the books for you. You can find out very readily what the voice is like just by reading a little bit of the beginning. They continue like that. If anything, the narrator gets chummier, more up close and personal, as the three books progress.


These books are not slaves to the cult of originality. In recognizing that they come from a long and beloved tradition of tales about trips to fairylands, they honor their past while allowing room for the places that Valente is genuinely original to shine through. You can simultaneously see how September is spiritual kin to Dorothy and Alice, that there are bits that remind you of The Phantom Tollbooth and Haroun and the Sea of Stories, while noting that really, a wyverary (a wyvern who is part library) is not something you’ve seen before or are likely to see again. There are bits and fragments of familiar tales woven throughout, but usually with a sideways joke. The serial structure of the original publication of the first book encouraged a new element, a new adventure each chapter, and that carried through into the non-serialized second and third, though they went into the underworld and up to the moon instead of through the lands of Fairyland proper.


The weak spot for me is the connection to our own world, and I think it will be weaker for me than for most readers because of exactly what that connection is. September is from the Omaha area in the time of WWII. I know the Omaha area well, and one of the relatives I grew up with was a schoolgirl at that time, so I am more likely to spot where those details are off than most readers. But the real world is a very secondary setting indeed–an anchor for September’s adventures rather than the source of them–so even for someone with an Omaha connection, it doesn’t ruin the tale.


These are the category of books for young people that are all-ages books. No book is to everyone’s taste, obviously, but some books are spoiled a bit by having read another one of those and knowing what’s coming around the corner. Having read dozens of trip to fairyland books will not tell you what’s coming around the corner. Having the plots told in the titles and in the chapter titles will still mostly not tell you what’s coming around the corner, since the title plot is a tiny fraction of what happens in each book, and either getting there will be most of the fun or no fun at all, and you will know which from reading just a tiny bit of the style of the telling. I have been careful not to burble about the wrench and the tapir and the Quiet Physickists and other favorite bits, but on second thought I will mention the wrench and the tapir and the Quiet Physickists and like that after all, because just saying those things can’t really spoil them; that’s not the kind of books they are.


Oh, and: if three points make a sub-genre, Ellen Kushner and Mike Ford now have a sub-genre for Authors Who Are, Despite Their Differences, Apparently Obsessed With Awesome Coats. There has been worse company to keep.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Prepare to help me hobbit! [Jul. 20th, 2014|03:00 pm]
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Today is Sunday, and my birthday is Saturday. I have already read two books (one paper, one ebook) that were early birthday presents, because I am spoiled and because apparently the concept of delayed gratification is not a strong suit at the moment. Anyway, in making a dinner reservation for this evening, I got asked, is it anybody’s birthday? and usually I lie and tell them no, because I don’t want to make the waitstaff feel obliged to sing as well as their real jobs, and I worry that they will give me a nasty piece of white cake instead of letting me decide whether I want good dessert or no dessert. But this time I chirped, “Yes, it’s mine!” Because this year, honestly, with all the horrible and disappointing news the world has brought us in the last week, I kind of feel the need for all the birthday assistance I can get.


This post is a list of things you can think about getting for yourself–or just drooling over if you don’t have the spare cash–as presents for yourself for my birthday. Sadly, I can’t get them for all of you. I am not that much of a wealthy hobbit, to be able to buy all of you these lovely things as presents for my birthday. But I will at least show you the shinies that I would get you, if I could have a proper hobbit party and give you all the proper hobbit presents that I would like to give you. (Please note that this is the opposite of the usual wishlist: I am not asking you to get this stuff for ME but for YOURSELVES. Not that I wouldn’t like it also, but some of it–like the Kickstarter stuff–I already have, and mostly: the point is you, not me.)


1. Nerd coloring books. Specifically, Dinosaurs With Jobs. Mostly I would get this for my old college friend Scott, but the rest of you might want it too.


2. Chad Jerzak Raku ceramics. Saw these at the St. Kate Art Festival. Very cool.


3. Fresh Mud Pottery. Also at the St. Kate Art Festival. So many things in the gallery, be sure you look at the slide show.


4. Elise’s Current Shinies. Ooh. Shiny. So many shinies, so few body parts to hang them from.


5. Tim always has lovely things. Here are two of his newer ones (that first link was from the Pop Art Minneapolis series, the second the newest Reader photo).


6. Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky are doing a Kickstarter. For those of us who have been yearning for another Cry Cry Cry album, even two-thirds as good will almost certainly be good enough. (Did you miss out on Cry Cry Cry? Here they are singing Northern Cross. The third member is Dar Williams. Oh, fine, here’s another: By Way of Sorrow.)


7. Julie Dillon, who has done the gorgeous art for my Tor.com stories, is also doing a Kickstarter. Many ways to support her art; go look.


Any other loveliness you want to share with each other? There’s a whole week before it’s my birthday, and the comments section lies before you.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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