#24in48 Readathon

Update 7/23/17

Okay, look. I have not been posting a ton of blog updates in this readathon because I’ve been yammering on Twitter BUT: I made a book spine poem, and I am so proud of it that I need to share it with you. Look at this business.

Here is a transcript of my faboo poem. It is called “music of the ghosts.” You can tell that’s the title because I have helpfully set it off with the opposite side of the book spine. I have done the same for the stanzas.

music of the ghosts

the dearly departed
release
the killing moon

when morning comes
phantom pains
kill the boy band

no one is coming to save us

You. Are. Welcome.

WE ARE DOING THIS, BLOGOSPHERE. I happened to see my pal Janani posting about this readalong, and I happened to have a weekend with some free time, and the rest is history. As usual, I have a normal and reasonable number of books lined up to potentially read. Moderation is my middle name.

I need to read The Education of Margot Sanchez for sure as it will soon be falling due at the library, and I’m guessing that these novellas are going to get knocked out pretty quickly too. Aside from that, any recommendations?

Rewatching the Wrinkle in Time Trailer: A Links Round-Up

Last weekend was so, so much if you are a nerdy girl. First there was this magical Wrinkle in Time teaser trailer, which made me want to buy Storm Reid a thousand bouquets of flowers forever. Then there was some Star Wars footage with Oscar Isaac giving Carrie Fisher a kiss, plus these excellent red posters for The Last Jedi (BUT NO POSTER OF ROSE AND I AM FURIOUS ABOUT IT). And THEN as if that weren’t enough, the Thirteenth Doctor was announced to be A WOMAN and I just, wow, it just was really, really a lot.

How to be an author on social media.

David Brooks wrote an insane article claiming that cultural barriers are more significant than structural ones, and also ?sandwiches are confusing to uneducated people? look I don’t even know. Anyway, this response about faking it is really good.

Some Spiderman comics to read now that you’ve seen and loved Spiderman: Homecoming.

Lindy West asks: Will men stick up for me?

“We can love a thing and still critique it. In fact, that’s the only way to really love a thing.” Daniel Jose Older on the whiteness of book publishing and how to change it.

Just some solid gold internet content right here.

Okay, I guess in addition to Serena Williams and Pete Sampras, Andy Murray can take up residence in the smallish tennis player corner of my heart. This is nice.

Tony Kushner is writing a Donald Trump play. I should have seen this coming. I can’t wait for it to come out, you know, twenty years from now.

The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler turns fifty.

I have been hearing about this webseries adaptation of Middlemarch QUITE A LOT lately, and although I have been burned by some non-LBD webserieses before, I’m inclined to give love a chance. This decision is in no way influenced by the fact that I’ve recently convinced two friends to watch Lizzie Bennet Diaries and am working on a third. (One of them is sending me text updates and it’s magical.)

The brilliant Clare McBride offers an overview of furry history over at Syfy Wire.

And something really marvelous to end on: The Millions has released their second half of 2017 book preview. HEAVEN.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends! Watch the Wrinkle in Time trailer as many times as you need to: You deserve it.

Review: Take Us to Your Chief, Drew Hayden Taylor

Between Neil Gaiman and Nalo Hopkinson and now Drew Hayden Taylor, I may need to reconsider my stated position that I am not a fan of short story collections. The emended version of this position — triggered by my reading of Drew Hayden Taylor’s collection Take Us to Your Chief — is that I am not a fan of short story collections unless they are SFF.

Take Us to Your Chief

Take Us to Your Chief is a wonderfully charming, clever, melancholy collection of what Taylor describes as Native sci-fi. The author is an Ojibway from the Curve Lake First Nations, and indigenous traditions and ways of living and thinking inform every one of these stories. In one, dream-catchers turn ominous; in another, a newly born artificial intelligence tries to find a place for its soul within native beliefs.

I was aware of Taylor as a playwright — I keep trying to convince my library to order alterNatives but so far no dice — and, more recently, as a humorist, but this is my first introduction to his SFF. As he notes in the afterword, this book exists because he didn’t have enough money to pay potential contributors to a Canadian Native sci-fi anthology; so it may also have been his first introduction to his SFF. At times there’s a little clumsiness with conveying complicated premises, but his writing is very assured overall. He weaves Native influences into familiar types of stories (first contact, government’s-gonna-get-you, etc.) in a way that makes them seem utterly fresh.

I also love the idea of a Native SFF anthology. Does that exist? Can someone point me to it? Failing that, I’d love to be pointed towards more First Nations / Indigenous / Indian authors of speculative fiction. Any recommendations?

Review: Thorn, Intisar Khanani

“I don’t know what justice is,” I tell him. “But I am trying to get what I can right.”

The above paragraph is a perfect summation of why I loved Thorn, and of why I love Intisar Khanani so much as an author. In Thorn, as in all her books, she writes about characters who may be in bad situations but who are trying their best. Characters who are trying their best are balm to my frazzled soul in these difficult times, so I am pushing Intisar Khanani’s books on people like they are ebags dot com packing cubes. Consider them pushed upon you. Go get you some.1

Thorn is a retelling of the fairy tale “The Goose Girl.” It’s a good fairy tale, full of details with that specifically fairy tale brand of weirdness. In this one, a princess is sent to marry a prince in a faraway land; on the way to her wedding, her chambermaid changes clothes with her and ultimately marries the prince in her stead. The true princess has to serve as the goose girl and comfort herself by talking to the head of her horse Falada, whom the chambermaid has had killed in fear that Falada would tell the truth about her. (Go with it; it’s a fairy tale.) Matters proceed from there.

Thorn does a typically (for Intisar Khanani) sincere and sweet retelling of this story, providing a backstory for the fairy tale weirdness that absolutely works. The maidservant, Valka, has made a deal with a wicked witch to switch bodies with the princess Alyrra, so that the witch can gain access to prince Kestrin. If Alyrra tries to tell what happened to her, the witch’s spell will choke her to death. She takes on the nickname Thorn and bides her time to see if she can save the prince from the witch’s curse.

In the hands of an author whose faith in people is less genuine, Thorn could have been a mess. Huge swathes of the plot depend on people appreciating Thorn for not being a jerk in a world where jerkiness runs rampant. If her goodness had felt forced, or their gratitude untruthful, the book would have fallen apart. But I am particularly in need of books where people are kind because they are trying to be good, even when the circumstances around them may not be conducive to goodness. In Thorn, the characters try to be good because they want to see goodness in the world, but they can only control themselves and their own actions. Which is, you know, pretty hashtag-relatable right now.

Who here still hasn’t read Intisar Khanani? How can I convince you to give her a go?

  1. I am still not being paid by ebags dot com although I think that I should be because I have convinced three people this year alone to buy their product.

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep. 86: How to Love Your Authors, Plus John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War

What time is it? SHOW TIME. It’s Wednesday, and I double-posted but not because I don’t love you; just because it’s really important to me to give Milky Collins his due. This week, we were honored to be joined by the wonderful Renay of Fangirl Happy Hour and Lady Business. We updated her on our progress with her SF Starter Pack, chatted about what we do when we find an author we truly adore, and discussed John Scalzi’s SF classic Old Man’s War.

You can listen using the embedded player below or download the file directly here to take with you on the go.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Here are the time signatures, if you want to skip around:

1:45 – What we’re reading
8:47 – SEA OR SPACE
10:24 – What comes next when we fall in love with an author
29:55 – SF starter pack update
35:23 – Old Man’s War, John Scalzi
47:35 – Choose Your Own Adventure
54:58 – What We’re Reading Next Time!

Books and Links

One Piece, Eiichiro Oda
Here’s Renay’s One Piece readalong!
Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, Ari Berman
A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers
Wilkie Collins, Andrew Lycett
and watching Black Sails, the greatest show of our time
Here’s the Rec Center’s primer on Black Sails!
The Kairos Mechanism, Kate Milford (author of The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands)
The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner
Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Salman Rushdie
October Daye books, Seanan Maguire (the first one is Rosemary and Rue)
The Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor
the Company series, Kage Baker (the first one is In the Garden of Iden)
Here’s the Neil Gaiman post about visiting Alabama!
White Tears, Hari Kunzru
Gods without Men, Hari Kunzru
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, Benjamin Alire Saenz
Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club, Benjamin Alire Saenz
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Saenz
Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters
The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters
The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters
Fingersmith, Sarah Waters
Affinity, Sarah Waters
Night Watch, Sarah Waters
Binti, Nnedi Okorafor
Binti: Home, Nnedi Okorafor
Larklight, Philip Reeve
Star Crossed, Philip Reeve
Mars Evacuees, Sophia McDougall
Karen Memory, Elizabeth Bear
White Is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi
The Secret History, Donna Tartt
The People in the Trees, Hanya Yanagihara
Old Man’s War, John Scalzi

Should you wish to play Whiskey Jenny’s Choose Your Own Adventure game, you can do so here.

Get at me on Twitter, email the podcast, and friend me (Gin Jenny) and Whiskey Jenny on Goodreads, as well as Ashley. Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Theme song by: Jessie Barbour

Rest in Peace, Wilkie Collins Readalong

After two weeks of anxious waiting for my damn book to arrive and two weeks of enthusiastic readalong participation, the Wilkie Collins: A Life of Sensation has reached its close. It was a magical and sensational time in which we found that it is hard to write a biography of someone who sensibly avoids putting incriminating information in writing.

Wilkie Collins

The main surprise to me in this readalong is how together Wilkie Collins was. I always thought of him sort of the same way I think of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, high all the time, unworldly, and perpetually strapped for cash. This could not have been more wrong. Wilkie Collins was savvy af, all the time thinking of ways to increase his exposure as an author and maintain copyright protections. He was constantly meeting deadlines! PLUS:

On his return, he finalised details of yet another will, this time specifically dividing his estate between Caroline and Martha [his two paramours] (with their children as subsidiary beneficiaries. [He also] ensur[ed] that a character reference for his manservant Edward Grosvisier was in order.

Like. That is the total opposite of how I pictured Wilkie Collins. I have been so wrong all this time. I have been doing him an Injustice.

His attitude [toward Washington DC] may have been colored by the inebriated congressman in Washington who insisted on calling him “Milky” and saying how much he liked his books, including The Lay of the Last Minstrel, which was by Walter Scott.

Bahahahah and to think that all this time we’ve been missing the opportunity to call him Milky.

Lycett also finds the time to confirm what Alice has long suspected ie that old Milky was an ass man:

I too think the back view of a finely-formed woman the loveliest view — and her hips and her bottom the most precious part of that view. The line of beauty in those quarters enchants me.

Oh, Milky. You do not have to explain this. It is obvious to anyone who read The Woman in White. Like I do not know how anyone in the world would read that book and have any interest in insipid Laura when Marion is around with her sweet, sweet ass and searing intellect.

Oscar Wilde did not care for Wilkie Collins’s work. I am immensely grieved. Surely if given the opportunity, they would have gotten on brilliantly? I suspect Oscar Wilde just didn’t like what Wilkie Collins represented, ie the literary establishment which Oscar Wilde loved to scandalize and also badly wished to be a part of slash remake in his own image. In terms of amiability and love of melodrama, I really think that Oscar Wilde and Milky could have been great friends. They are probs up in heaven having drinks together as we speak.

Well. I have done Wilkie Collins a great wrong, and I am glad that Alice organized this readalong so that wrong could be corrected. Thank you, Alice. I am sorry, Wilkie. In future if anyone asks about you, I will be sure to tell them about the Milky thing and then emphasize your practicality, discretion, and work ethic.

23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism, Ha-Joon Chang

Okay, so y’all know how I am on a quest to one day know everything?

What I have discovered on this quest is that it is possible to become interested in just about anything. Most things (maybe all things? I have not fully tested the hypothesis) are only boring until you know enough about them to get past the 101-level stuff, and then they quickly become very very interesting indeed. It’s like that thing where you’re never more than one really good story arc away from loving a certain superhero in comics? Seems weird now, but a few short years ago, I thought African history was boring.

I KNOW. I KNOW.

Or to give another example, I’ve never been hugely interested in East and Southeast Asian history, but recently I learned a little bit more about Chinese history while reading up on the terracotta army guy, and I learned a little bit more about Vietnamese history from my Enormous Genocide Book, and now I’m kind of feeling like I should start dipping my toe in those waters. Like, the Opium Wars? Gotta know about that, right? That shit was insane!

So I think the stages are:

  1. Don’t know/care about the topic and feel fine about it
  2. Don’t know/care about the topic but feel guilty about it
  3. Feel guilty enough to grudgingly read an article/compile a mini-reading list about the topic
  4. Read a little bit about the topic but then feel annoyed that I still don’t know enough to speak with any authority on the topic
  5. Become mildly-to-very obsessed with the topic

I have been at Stage Two with economics since oh, around the end of the Bush Jr presidency, when the economy was shot to hell and everything was terrible and I couldn’t understand one damn explanation as to why. (Of course, the definition of terrible has since been reset by the Trump presidency and now basically has no bottom so I shouldn’t have worried my pretty little head about it, really.) I reached Stage Three like around maybe mid-2014, and reading 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism has nudged me into Stage Four.

Everyone I talk to regularly is now glancing at the exits as they contemplate the prospect of living with me if I should reach Stage Five with economics, the topic I have always claimed is the most boring topics in the entire fucking world and from which, therefore, they have probably felt they were secure from having to hear all about nonstop for weeks.

–my friends and relations, probably

All of that is to say that while I appreciated 23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism for the critical eye that it casts on myths of the free market and why they are misleading, I do not feel I understood more than, oh, 30% of what the book was telling me. 30% is a generous estimate, really. The thing is (this is always the thing at Stage Four) that I do not know enough information to have any means of assessing the information 23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism was providing me. I am a babe in the woods when it comes to economics. I hate being a babe in the woods. I HATE IT.

Here’s the one single thing I feel absolutely certain I have grasped and can believe: Ha-Joon Chang says early on in 23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism that the free market only seems free because we take for granted many market regulations such as immigration control. Because immigration control prevents the “free” market in developed countries like the US from capitalizing on cheap labor from developing nations. As soon as Chang said it, it seemed obvious, but that had never occurred to me before.

Anyway, I guess I now have to learn everything about economics. God damn it.

The Future of Football: A Links Round-Up

IT IS FRIDAY. Every week is a thousand years long, and I have a weird SF video thing to share with you first:

What will football look like in the future (the far, far future)? SB Nation has a go at figuring it out.

Following the death of Otto Wambier, journalist and Korea expert Suki Kim argues that tourism to North Korea serves no legitimate purpose.

Some people get very mad when JK Rowling says stuff about Harry Potter. My pal Ben Lindbergh argues at The Ringer that there’s no point being mad about it.

This movie review is magical. I loved every word of it, from the first line all the way through to the ending. Props.

This book review is also magical. Reviews are magic. Thank you, God, for giving us reviews like these.

Three books about (kind of) One Direction fandom that sound great. And I mean, one of them is great. Cause I read it. And I really liked it.

Janet Mock on “pretty privilege,” which is for sure a real thing.

In honor of the Fourth of July, Karan Mahajan writes about the American institution of small talk (and its trickiness to master).

Juliet Litman weighs in on the mess that the Bachelor franchise has made of itself.

The Public Religion Research Institute has a new study about the way Americans in different demographics perceive discrimination in this country and what should be done about it.

This story about the Philip Pullman bid in Authors for Grenfell Tower will never not make me teary.

What are the books that colleges are giving incoming freshman to read? My main takeaway from this article is that everyone else got to read awesome stuff and we had to read goddamn Fast Food Nation.

Have a great weekend, my lovelies! I will be making homemade Oreos, editing podcast, constructing a dollhouse, and hopefully getting some reading done and WATCHING BLACK SAILS OMG.

Parachuting in to the Wilkie Collins Readalong

I DID NOT FORGET ABOUT WILKIE COLLINS. Wilkie Collins has been perpetually on my mind since last we spoke of him. Though I said the words “chillest Wilkie Collins readalong ever,” I did not intend for that to mean that I would altogether fail to participate in the readalong until it was halfway over. It’s just that I ordered a used copy of the book because it maybe wasn’t published in the US? and then it took a really long time for it to reach me.

First up, I’d like to apologize for making a small joke at Alice’s expense about the greatness of this cover. Live and in person, this cover is fantastic. I underestimated it when I saw it online. Wilkie’s hat is particularly magnificent in real life.

You guys, the hugest relief in this section — because I saw Alice mention that Wilkie Collins was going to acquire a new paramour, and I was so worried about Caroline and especially about little bb Harriet (who I guess by then was Young Lady Harriet, an even more worrying prospect) — is when poor Caroline gets married. This, for people not doing the readalong, is Wilkie Collins’s lover of low birth, whom he has been supporting for the last, like, decade, but steadfastly refusing to marry because he enjoys so much going Abroad with Dickens and banging prostitutes and not talking about it in his letters. Luckily:

She surprised everyone by walking down the aisle . . . on the arm of Joseph Charles Clow — the son of a distiller’s agent — who was aged twenty-three. She was thirty-seven and quite what she saw in this mere stripling is hard to determine.

Okay, number one, you would never say this about a thirty-seven-year-old dude in this era (or now!) marrying a twenty-three-year-old lady. Number two, the very next paragraph describes his family as “upwardly mobile.” DING DING DING I HAVE FOUND THE SOLUTION.

You guys. This is like when I read a Black Sails recap (by a dude) that was like “what was Eleanor Guthrie’s motive for having sex with Charles Vane?” For reference, here’s what Charles Vane looks like in this show:

Yes, so bewildering, what possibly could have been her motive for wanting to bang this gentleman? And not to objectify a dude from a scene where his character was just grievously wounded and then buried alive and then fighting for his life, but available evidence (though admittedly covered in blood and graveyard dirt) suggests that his dick is, uh, nothing to be ashamed of, also? Maybe that might have been in play here too I DUNNO JUST SPITBALLING.

Whatever, I was happy for Caroline when I got to that part. She deserves some financial security, and so does poor little Harriet. Wilkie is totally that bro your girlfriends dated in college who was like “babe I just can’t be tied down, that’s just the kind of person I am, I need freedom, like societal norms just aren’t as meaningful as we make them, you know?”

Of course, five seconds later, Caroline’s marriage is over, and someone who may or may not be her husband (but seems like is?) has headed off to Australia, I guess to distill things Down Under. And Caroline moves back in with Wilkie. And his new lady, Martha. And his two daughters with Martha. I am sure that wasn’t awkward at all.

The other item of note in this section (apart from Wilkie’s ongoing very conflicted feelings about Ladies) is this:

Wilkie was poking fun at British reserve. Having no such inhibitions himself, he regularly kissed his male friends, particularly the effusive Fechter.

GOOD FOR YOU WILKERSON. It’s really not fair that societal constructions of gender have left so little space for dudes to express platonic affection physically. Like I am not personally a person who is wild about touching people and giving hugs and kisses all the time? But a lot of people are, including a lot of man, and it sucks that they can’t do that without people being snide about it.

Oh, and Dickens dies. Had to happen at some point. Join us next week for Wilkie to also die. I hope that he’s able to leave adequate provision for his two sets of daughters and long-term wife-ish persons. STERN GLARE.

Review: Jubilee, Margaret Walker

I’d like a show of hands who’s heard of Margaret Walker’s book Jubilee, a 50th-anniversary edition of which was just recently released. Because I hadn’t, and I’m mostly angry with myself about that, but largely angry with America. There’s honestly no reason we should still be talking all the time about Gone with the Wind and I’ve never heard of Margaret Walker’s book Jubilee. Seriously.

(A note: You don’t need to defend Gone with the Wind to me in the comments. It has plenty of defenders already and it is doing absolutely fine even now that I have mildly criticized it. It will continue to propagate its shitty, glossed-over, sentimentalized version of American history for many decades yet to come.)

(Okay, now I have criticized it un-mildly. But it is still doing fine, I promise, and also, it would be okay if it stopped doing fine and fell out of print. We would all survive that.)

Jubilee is about a girl called Vyry who is born into slavery, the daughter of a slave mother and the white man who owns her. As the story goes on, we witness the progress of the Civil War and follow Vyry through emancipation and after, as she and her family struggles to find a safe home for themselves through the Reconstruction years.

I didn’t exactly like Jubilee, because I always don’t like historical fiction set in America (my most positive feelings about American settings for historical fiction are approx. three stars, which is where I’m at on Jubilee). At the same time, I can’t see any reason I didn’t read this book in school. It’s a classic, it’s accessible and reads quickly, it draws from Margaret Walker’s historical research as well as her family’s oral history, and there’s none of the kind of language or sexual violence (except the violence implied by Vyry’s parentage) that tends to give book-banning parents itchy trigger fingers. It’s courteously nuanced in its treatment of the white characters, so nobody could scream “reverse racism” at it,1 and it covers years of American history (the Reconstruction era) that often get skimmed through in favor of getting on to the wars of the twentieth century. Why wouldn’t this book be as standard an element of American curriculum as, for instance, Huck Finn?

It’s okay, y’all. I already know the answer. The answer is racism.

  1. Yes they could. People will scream “reverse racism” at anything, I have learned.