Today I wrote about Ray Bradbury over on GamingAngels, please head on over and share any memories you have about this sf/f grandmaster. He will be missed.
I totally cheated on this one, and picked it out myself, had the store wrap it, and told the kids they bought me a present when I got home.* How could a book called The Big-Ass Book of Crafts go wrong? Ok, the kids were a bit appalled that they bought me a book with a bad word in the title, but they got over it, since they didn’t actually have to lay out any cash, .
I want to make approximately 20 crafts in this book RIGHT NOW, but since I will have to gather supplies first, I have to content myself with making a list of the crafts I want to do as soon as possible.
Lace Glass Plates
3-D Blossom Box
Art Switch Plates
Fabric-Covered Salt and Pepper Shakers
Kid Art Napkins
Bathroom Tile Coasters
Seashell Encrusted Bookends
Kitchen Art Tray
Tin Can Luminaries
Rolled Magazine Bowl and Basket
I could go on, but this is probably enough to keep me busy for a while. Also, I couldn’t help but notice that there is a second book in the series, and a home decor book by the same author, so the crafts will never end! Hooray!
Pictures to come, no doubt until everyone is sick of them.
* What, did you think I was going to say something about my kids’ love or something sentimental like that? No, not when there are crafts to talk about!
I used to read all the time. I would meet people at work, people I could not recall ever seeing before, and they would say “Oh yes, you are the one with a book all the time,” because I would keep reading as I walked in the building, until I got to my desk, then start again as soon as I left my desk in the afternoon. In fact, I read so much, I kept a spreadsheet to keep track of it all for a few years.
This is an idea I got from a friend at work. He and his wife started tracking book completions in order to try to encourage his stepson to read more. That didn’t really work, but he kept the list anyway. When we were both keeping a list, he read an average of 30 books per year vs. my average of 80 or so. I remember telling him one day that the reason I read so much more was that I didn’t write regularly like he did, and as a single person, I don’t have another adult in my house that expects me to talk to them all the time, unlike him with his wife. I am still single, but I recently told him that I was totally right on the writing thing. Since I have gotten more serious about writing, I read a LOT less.
Part of this is due to the sheer amount of time available to me in a day. I have spent a lot of time this year rearranging my daily patterns in a lot of ways. More writing, definitely, but also better housekeeping routines, more cooking at home, more exercise, and making a point of doing more social activities out of the home so I don’t turn into a hermit.* All of these things take away some of the time I used to devote to reading.
But it is also due to all the things I can do and read online. When I post my menu to Menu Plan Mondays, I like to look at what everyone else is doing, too. Twitter is hard to break away from–there are so many interesting people to follow, and they link to so many interesting articles. I learn a lot of things about topics I wouldn’t have even known to search out this way, and lots more about topics in which I am already interested. I have a problem, in that I follow people in many areas–books, writing, science fiction, feminism, economics, gardening, DIY, environmentalism–all of these topics having thriving online communities that can suck up hours of my time every time I go online.
I do love learning all of these things, but lately I am missing my longer form reading. I have been carrying books on the train with me for my commute, but then using all my time to try to catch up on Twitter, as if that is possible. This morning I was determined to read my book, not my phone, and that is what I did. It was a much more relaxing commute, I have to say. I’ve also been putting the phone down at night and reading a bit before I go to sleep, which makes for a much more relaxing transition. I even had the whole family reading for awhile yesterday afternoon. I took inspiration from my son’s school and declared it was SQUIRT time–Super Quiet Uninterrupted Reading Time. It was so nice with all of us hanging out in the living room reading.
Right now, I am reading The House on Durrow Street, by Galen Beckett. What are you reading?
* As an aside, I would totally turn into a crazy cat lady except for one thing–I am so very allergic to cats,
As I think I mentioned before, I am volunteering to do some statistics on women in SF for Broad Universe. We are trying to get some more detailed and current information than what is on the site now. As you can imagine, this is a very time-consuming process, but it is interesting. A few quick thoughts:
- I am looking at the Nebula Awards now, and it is interesting to note how many years there are no female nominees at all. If there were any years with no male nominees, I wouldn’t think that was necessarily a sign of bias–maybe some years the men were just stronger. It defies belief, though, to think that could be true and it would never be the other way around.
- I have been spending a bunch of time on Wikipedia, checking the gender of authors that are not immediately clear from the name (androgynous names like Chris or Alex, initials instead of names, vague ideas I heard that might be a woman–that sort of thing), and I find that I really wish I had more time to flesh out the entries of the female authors. There are a few stubs for male authors, but there are a lot for the women.
- People who put up big websites with big websites with lots of information, like http://feministsf.org/ must really love what they doing–this stuff takes a lot of time! It is great to have an SF community with people who love it enough to provide all kinds of information on their own time.
Look, it is yet another article expressing great surprise that the ladies like anything other than insipid romantic comedies!
First, this quote cracks me up:
Traditionally, networks — especially broadcast networks — have attempted to grab young women viewers with romantic comedies, keeping the mindset that fantasy is for boys and romance is for girls.
Reworded: The mindset is that fantasy is for boys, and fantasy is for girls (but only if it is as bland as we can possibly make it).
Another telling quote:
The anecdotal evidence is everywhere. There was “Xena: Warrior Princess,” Dana Scully on “The X-Files,” Claire Bennett on “Heroes,” and many others. More recently, “True Blood,” which features heroine Sookie Stackhouse and vampires Pam and Jessica, has become one of HBO’s hottest properties….Still, it’s an uphill battle for geek girls to get recognized as a consumer force to be reckoned with — even when it comes to HBO.
Reworded: Even though we have plenty of evidence that women like this stuff, we still can’t believe it doesn’t offend their delicate sensibilities, and besides, we know what they want better than they do.
It is laughably easy to find women who love science fiction. You don’t have to be an inspired researcher to find them. You can go to one of the many blogs for female geeks. You can hang out on the Feminist SF board at LibraryThing. You can go to a convention. You can go to your local bookstore and hang out in the sf section (just try not to look too creepy).
Another great resource is the blogs of female sf writers. A few awesome ones:
The problem about writing about this is that there are so many interesting things out on the internet, research degenerates into a long bout of reading interesting things that other people have to say on the topic. I had to stop at 4 examples of author blogs because I couldn’t afford to spend 30 – 60 minutes apiece reading on any more of them. I have been writing this post for two days now, . (Hey, did you know that female fandom began organizing isn the 1970s? Wikipedia has more information, as usual.) Plus, thinking everything I have already thought about this and trying to distill it into a coherent blog post is nearly impossible. I am all “What about Tiptree? What about all those women who loved Buffy? And Joss Whedon is amazing! And all my cool friends love sf! And what the &^$% is wrong with these people?!?”
I have been talking about sf here and elsewhere for decades now, and I have never had any real trouble finding other women who share my interest. I get so tired of finding that people are surprised that it is possible to have two X chromosomes and be interested in stories about ideas at the same time.
I was very excited to see the Nebula award nominees this year—for the best novel, 5 out of 6 authors are women! Three of the books (Who Fears Death, Shades of Milk and Honey, and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms) are books that I was already excited about reading. I am reading Who Fears Death now actually, and it is amazing. I am also happy to see Ted Chiang, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Rachel Swirsky nominated in the novella category and Adam-Troy Castro in the short story category, because I like them a lot. Of the remaining writers, many of whom I don’t recognize, there seems to be a fair amount of gender and cultural diversity, which I love to see. And I am particularly happy that there are a lot of links to the nominated stories!
I want to read as many of these stories and books as I can before the awards banquet on May 21. Some, I surely won’t get to. For instance, I probably won’t read Echo, by Jack McDevitt, because I haven’t read the earlier books in the series, and I hate to start in the middle. I think I may have the first book somewhere, though, so maybe I will hunt that down. The same is true for Mockingjay, the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy, and a nominee in the Young Adult category. And, chances are good I won’t get to the Connie Willis books, because I really didn’t like To Say Nothing of the Dog, the only Willis book I have read. I liked some things about it, and I thought Willis was a good writer, but the plot was needlessly convoluted and her characters were SO STUPID, in my opinion, so I just am not that excited about reading her books. I may give them a try if I can get them from the library, though.
I think I will get most, if not all, of the Young Adult category nominees. My daughter likes science fiction and fantasy, which I like to encourage, and I can read them after she does, which would be fun. We can have a mini Nebula nominee book club! Maybe we could even do some read alouds, and include my 8 year old son; he would probably like that, too.
In no particular order, what I have been reading since Christmas (when I got another gift card from my awesome brother):
1. The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, by Galen Beckett
A very cool combination of fantasy and classic literature. The idea is to take a heroine from Austen or the Bronte sisters, and put them in a society where magic is real, and the restrictions faced by women are based on this sort of real danger. I really enjoyed this book. Several other reviews mentioned that Beckett was perhaps a bit too constrained by imitation, and that the later books may be a bit more in his voice; I am looking forward to seeing if this is true.
2. The Unincorporated Man, by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin
There are a couple of interesting themes in this book. First, the idea that incorporation would spread to individuals and what that would do to the concepts of freedom and interpersonal relationships. And, more interestingly to me, the idea that a society can seem utopic, but really be setting the majority of people up for slavery. The way the incorporation of individuals is set up, everyone thinks that it is a great idea, and they defend it vigorously when the main character is found to have been cryogenically frozen from a previous time, and he refuses to incorporate. Most of the characters think incorporation is a great idea, and they articulate well-thought-out, humane reasons why it works better than previous social structures. They are so convincing, you almost start to think it really is a great idea. Of course, things turn out to be more complicated than that, but it is an interesting thought experiment.
3. Gateway, by Frederick Pohl
Great book about space exploration, artificial intelligence, and guilt. Plus, the thing I really love in a book, the last sentence is breath-taking.
4. Shadowman, by Melissa Scott
On a world where 20% of people are born with some characteristics of both males and females, but only male and female are recognized legal genders, there is bound to be unrest. Requiring a large minority of your population to deny who they are is never a stable social environment. Very interesting, well-written book.
5. Moxyland, by Lauren Beukes
I heard of this author from William Gibson’s twitter feed, and I am so glad that I did. The near-future world in this book is pretty grim, with some sort of plague affecting many people in Africa, and the general populace controlled by their phones, which allow cops to send a powerful electric volt through someone’s phone to control their behavior right away. An even bigger punishment is to render their phone inoperative for a period of time determined by the crime, since all economic transactions are done through mobiles, as well as identification for things like entering your apartment. An interesting world and an interesting story.
6. The Gate to Women’s Country, by Sheri S. Tepper
I love this book so much, and it gets better every time I read it.
7. Our Kind of Traitor, by John Le Carre
This was the first book I got from the library for my new Nook Color. Checking out books for the Nook is so much better than checking out real books, because you don’t have to make sure to get back to the library before they expire! The book was great, as expected (it is a Le Carre, after all.) I did not really like the end, but it was an interesting take on the spy novel, with two people on vacation, completely outside the spy game, being drawn in by a charismatic Russian criminal. This was a fairly dark vision of British government, I have to say, not least because there is no reason to think it isn’t realistic.
My reading this year has been a bit more grim than I might have expected, and nowhere is that more true than here. I just don’t expect dark and grim from Scalzi. Not that he doesn’t write about serious stuff, what with all the war and potential species annhilation, but the general tone of his books is a bit more positive. This was a very interesting take on religion, though.
9. I’d Know You Anywhere, by Laura Lippman
Lippman writes a detective series, which I will actually get to next, but up until recently, I had only read her standalone stories. These are still crime stories, but usually more in the aftermath. This one is like that–a woman who had been kidnapped by a serial killer when she was 15 is contacted by him again, from where he sits on Death Row. She is the only one of his victims that he did not kill, actually, and she is still afraid of his manipulation, not least because she has not told her children or any of her acquaintances about her past. I like the way these books look at the aftermath of crimes, and how keeping secrets harms people for a very long time.
10. Baltimore Blues, by Laura Lippman
This is the first book in Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series. On my Nook homepage, they were selling this for $0.99 as the featured book of February, which is smart, because now I am thinking I will need to buy the rest of the series. Fun characters, interesting puzzles, nice setting. I like series like this, because you can feel safe picking out a book from the series. I look forward to seeing how she grows her characters.
One of the reasons I love the Nook is that I can get this type of literary magazine and keep it around for future reference without having flimsy magazines cluttering up my house. I particularly like to read science fiction short story magazines for two reasons–science fiction has rich history with the short form, where ideas can be investigated that wouldn’t necessarily support a whole novel, or worlds can be tested and fleshed out for use in a larger work. Plus, I like that it makes it easier to find new authors. I am somewhat discouraged by the lack of women writing in this issue (only one story in each mag), but maybe this is unusual. I hope so. I don’t want to read only women writers, but I know that a lack of women writers means that the editors aren’t really choosing the best stories. So, if there are many missing stories, I need to find where they are. On the other hand, the stories themselves show a lot of interesting, strong female characters, and some investigation into gender issues, so that is good.
13. Venus Plus X, by Theodore Sturgeon
Theodore Sturgeon is a great, great writer, and definitely ahead of his time on gender issues. I;ve said it before, but I’ll say it again–I can’t believe he was writing at the same time as Alfred Bester, who was a brilliant but deeply misogynistic writer. This book, about a man who finds himself in a future society without gender, and the contrast between that society and the very gendered and commercial society of the 50’s, was quite an interesting though experiment and a very quick read. At least, it was fast and easy to read the actual words, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about what I read, which is what makes a really good book for me.
I have started a few other things, but this seems to sum up what I have been reading, unless I am forgetting something (definitely a possibility!). In the meantime, if anyone is still reading this despite my long absence from regular posting, does anyone have a recommendation for a good general interest science magazine? I want something that has good science, but not an academic journal. Thanks!
I went on a book buying spree last weekend, with a focus on Feminist Science Fiction. I went to my favorite used bookstore (right around the corner from my favorite brunch place, hooray!), pulled up the basic recommended list on feministsf.org, and started looking through the shelves. I was thrilled to find many books that were either on the list or by authors on the list. I know this is not a definitive list, but it is a good place to start, and I do love me some lists! Here is what I got:
Shore of Women, by Pamela Sargent
Inventing Memory, by Anne Harris
Dreaming Metal, by Melissa Scott
Black Wine, by Candas Jane Dorsey
Double Feature, by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly
Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You, by Dorothy Bryant
Daughters of Earth, by Judith Merrill
Venus Plus X, by Theodore Sturgeon
Sister Light, Sister Dark, by Jane Yolen
Doomsday Morning, by C.L. Moore
Other books on the list that I have or have read:
Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler
The Furies, by Suzy McKee Charnas
Dhalgren, by Samuel Delaney
“The Yellow Wallpaper” and Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Dreamsnake, by Vonda McIntyre
The Female Man, by Joanna Russ
Shadowman, by Melissa Scott
A Door Into Ocean, by Joan Slonczewski
I just read Shadowman on my new Nook Color last week, and it was very interesting. The idea of intersexed people as a relatively common minority in humanity does make some of the issues around our current views of sexuality and gender differences both more complex and more strikingly obvious. I read Venus Plus X and found it particularly interesting to read such a femeinst work coming from a man writing in the 1950′s and ’60′s. I am reading Black Wine now, and really enjoying it, even though I am not yet entirely sure what is going on. I am looking forward to finding out!
I will be writing a separate post about what I have been reading so far this year, but I did want to get this list out here. I was very excited to find so many books on the list when I went looking last weekend. I have been reading science fiction for nearly 30 years, and it never fails to surprise me how much I haven’t read, even as I think I have read a lot. It is helpful to have a focus for the kind of books I am looking to read. I am already interested in dystopias, post-humanity, and what might be called “hard science fiction,” which can many things, but in my case, it tends to mean dealing with the harder, more objective sciences. But a feminist viewpoint is another helpful lens that can encompass all of these.
About a year ago, I suddenly lost interest in my spreadsheet of books. I got behind on updating it, and I never got back to it. I am still reading, though!
Mostly, I am re-reading lately. I have re-read most of my Sheri S. Tepper books, which I always enjoy. I got a set of the Galactic Mileau series by Julian May, and that was a lot of fun to revisit. Now I need to get the Intervention and Pliocene Exile books. It has probably been 15 years since I read those books, long enough that I can re-read and be surprised by a few things. And, right now I am reading the Harry Potter books, 4 through 7. We seem to have lost the first 3, or I would be reading them, too.
I am re-reading for a couple of different reasons. First, obviously, is the economic reason–it doesn’t cost anything to read books that I already own! My children have reached ages where they seem to be outgoing all of their clothes all the time, no doubt because they eat all. the. time. So, it is nice to have a large library of books that I can go to for entertainment at no extra expense.
But, I also find it a bit comforting to re-read. I love picking up a book that I already know I will like. A lot of the books I re-read, I may not remember the details before I read them, but I remember what it was like to read them. I can revisit what it was like when the ideas were new, or I can remember things that were happening in my life when I read the books the first time around. This can lead to expense, though–sometimes I have to go out and buy a book that I remember but can no longer lay my hands upon. But I can usually find something on my shelves that meets my needs, which makes me feel good about keeping all these books. Yes, there was a point to keeping them!
I have many excuses about not updating this blog (holidays, parties, my daughter broke the monitor on my laptop, etc.), but let’s just pass over that, shall we? Here are the last 9 books I read last year:
73. Outliers by Malcom Gladwell
I really enjoyed this book that points out how talent and skill have to meet up with luck and demographics for someone like Bill Gates or the Beatles to acheive the success they have. Some very interesting concepts here.
74. Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper
This was the first Tepper book I read many years ago, so when I saw a nice hardcover copy at my local used bookstore, I pounced on it. It was just as good as I remembered it, and I was glad to re-read the story. I had forgotten that she looks at many fairy tales, not just Sleeping Beauty, so that was fun.
When I first picked this up, I didn’t realize it was short stories, so I found the second story deeply disorienting. When I started the third story, and it was again very different from what went before, I figured it out. Once I knew what I was reading, I very much enjoyed these stories. Richter has a very odd imagination, and the stories were really fascinating.
76. A Room With a View by E.M. Forster
I really loved this book. It is nice to see that people were writing about women as real people before modern times, and so well, too. I found Forster’s thoughts on family life and getting along in society very interesting, too.
77. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
Le Guin is one of my favorite authors, so I am not surprised I really liked this, even though I am not generally a big fantasy fan. I borrowed this from a friend, and I have at least the next two books in a pile at home.
Loved this book. The characters are well-realized, the story is fascinating and tragic and tight. This was the kind of book where I actively resented doing other things that meant I couldn’t read, like work and sleep and talk to my kids. Well, not the kids as much, but everything else.
One quibble, though–they kept talking about psychopaths when they meant sociopaths. That drove me crazy, especially since the character that introduced the term was a psychology major and should have known the difference. And, they are very different. It was a bit jarring, actually. Still, I wouldn’t let that hold you back from reading the book, which was excellent. I am going out to buy French’s next book today. (Note—Borders didn’t have it! I still need this book!)
79. The Private Patient by P.D. James
Excellent, tight story. I am going to miss these books. James is what, 82? 84? (Consulting Wikipedia: 88) Anyway, I am not counting on anymore from her. It would be wonderful to have more, but that might be too much to expect. This book clearly wrapped up some threads, with Kate Miskin being settled nicely, and Adam Dalgleish getting married.
81. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
This was an LT recommendation, and I am glad I read it. I am not a big graphic novel person, but I thought this was a good way to tell this story. I am going to look for part 2 soon.
82. Halting State by Charles Stross
I really enjoyed this book, too. Not a big surprise, since I liked Glasshouse so much. I like the way Stross creates believable characters that are well-rounded, whether the character in question is male or female. I was a bit thrown by the second person PPOV, especially since the story shifted between POVs of the three main characters, but it quickly became less jarring. I liked the combination of gaming, high-tech coding, business and old-fashioned human relations. I also liked the near-future extrapolation of many current trends, and how that made the world in the book seem both familiar and very foreign. I definitely recommend this one.
All in all, a pretty good year of reading, especially when you consider the whole house buying thing. Next up: A Look at the Statistics of the last year, and then the start of 2009. I am going to try for 100 again this year, and have already made a dent, with 5 books. I am also participating in Orange January, which is a great idea, and leading me to many wonderful reads.