frayadjacent: Dawn Summers resting her head on Tara's shoulder. Text says "seize the moment" (BtVS: Tara and Dawn)
What I've read since I last posted

Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor. I liked this even more than Binti, mainly because it dealt with the emotional aftermath of the events in that book, because I found Binti's relationships with her family really complex and interesting, and because it has quests in the wilderness . Both books deal with Binti becoming a different person than who she was raised to be. It dealt with coming home after leaving and all the complex emotions really well. But then, on top of all that, Binti discovers that who she thought she was, what she thought was her heritage, wasn't even true. I like how the stories interrogate the notion of a pure, authentic, true cultural heritage (which exists in opposition to corrupting outside influences). As with Binti, and as with The Book of Phoenix, I really wished this book had been longer, and spent more time with the characters just interacting and with less focus on the plot/action.

The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor. This is an older book that Binti. The story is in principle really interesting, but I actually stopped reading it about 3/4 through because...there was just so much plot, so much action, so much movement from one place to another. I wanted time for the characters. I wanted to spend time with Phoenix before she escaped the tower, so I would understand her motivations more, and how and why her belief about herself and the world changed so much, so fast. I wanted to see her everyday life during that year in Ghana, not just have it described to me by the narrator in retrospect. It really reminded me of Kate Elliott's A Passage of Stars, in which so much happens and the main character just keeps passing through various events and people's lives and...I just want time for the relationships to breathe.

Among Others by Jo Walton. Written as the journal entries of a disabled Welsh teenager at an English boarding school circa 1980. She knows magic, she loves to read, especially SF, and she's fled an abusive mother and a family who she loves but who didn't protect her. One of my favourite books this year. The prose was gorgeous; the main character so deeply felt. (I did have a "goddamn it, I got tricked into reading YA again" moment. It's not that I have any problem with YA, I just wish I could find more stories centred on women over 30.)  An added bonus: the character takes the train from Shrewsbury to Cardiff several times in the book, and I took the same train to/from VidUKon while I was reading it! This was my first book by Walton but I definitely want to read more.

I've come to realise that for a story to really stick for me, I almost always need there to be a slice of life element. I think that's just one of the reasons my three favourite tv shows all have a lot of episodes where the characters are just doing stuff, getting serial character development but no major long-term plot developments, before the Big Plot starts.

What am I reading now

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty. A clone murder mystery in space! I was already sold from the moment I heard that description (which is funny, none of those things in isolation is something I'd automatically go for, but  in combination they sounded fantastic). As it happens, it's also a big story with fascinating politics going back hundreds of years before the time the story is set. And presents clones and cloning in a very different way than I expected. The prose is not nearly as lovely as Among Others, which I finished just before, so it took me a while to come around to this. But the unfolding plot has been fun and interesting and now I like it a lot.

What I'll read next

I really want to read The Power by Naomi Alderman, but I'm putting it off till I've read more of the books I already own. Probably Redshirts by John Scalzi (another author I haven't read any of yet). I also now have two volumes of Saga to read, which means I probably need to go back and skim/reread all the rest of them.

frayadjacent: Aeryn Sun with her tongue out to taste the rain. Text says "let it rain" (Farscape: Aeryn rain)
I haven't posted a reading meme in a couple of months, but my reading has slowed down too.

What I've read since my last post (in chronological order)

After Atlas, by Emma Newman. A murder mystery set in the same universe at Planetfall. I loooovvvvved this book, and wrote a very spoilery, book-ruining post about it. The non-spoilery summary is: this book has just as strong point-of-view characterisation as Planetfall and probably has a stronger plot. (I'm personally even more drawn to Ren, the POV character of Planetfall, than to Carlos, the POV character in After Atlas, but he is excellent.) It also, in my opinion, makes the weird, frustrating ending of Planetfall more palatable. Highly recommended, and I can't wait for more in the series. (Content notes: suicide and disordered eating feature heavily in the story (I do not recall any fat-shaming -- the disordered eating is not connected to anything related to the character's physical appearance). There are also mentions of male-on-male sexual abuse. Feel free to ask me for more details on any of these.)

A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers. Oh, you guys. I almost didn't read this book, and I loved it so much. Pepper and Owl's relationship gutted me. Even a passing reference to it at the end of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet brought tears to my eyes. And Sidra's arc was incredible. Such good character interactions, such lovely relationships, such a kind book but with such emotional depth. I nominated this for a Hugo, and am so glad it made the shortlist.

Signal to Noise
, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Magical realism, set in Mexico, with the main character an immigrant who is coming home for the first time in decades after her father's death. There were lots of reasons to love this book, and I did like it, but...the primary POV character is so cruel I found it hard to enjoy. Lots of people enjoy an "unlikeable" main character -- and given that this character is a woman of colour, I am in principle all for it. But, eh, it's just not for me.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers. Such a sweet, wonderful book, with lovely characters I just want to spend more time with. I read this after its (loose) sequel, A Closed and Common Orbit, so I had one major spoiler, but everything else was new. I loved that this book took violence really seriously -- events that would hardly be considered violent in a lot of science fiction were scary, and the trauma the characters endured was treated as real. I loved how thoughtful the story was. My only complaint is that it wasn't longer. The titular long voyage through unfamiliar space ended up occupying very little of the book, and I think it would have been interesting to spend more time on the boredom and cabin fever that ensued. But I'd have only wanted that if it added to the length of the book -- I wouldn't want anything taken away!

What I'm reading now

Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor. I'm not too far in, but so far I'm really liking that it's dealing with the emotional aftermath of what goes down in Binti. The horrors at the beginning of Binti sorta got swept aside later in the book, so I'm glad to see it getting the attention it deserves. I wish I had read this immediately after Binti (I bought them both at the same time, so I have no idea why I didn't), because I'm actually struggling to remember why she is friends with Okwu, instead of at least low-key hating it.

What I'll read next

Probably The Book of Phoenix, by Nnedi Okorafor.

Free book-shaped space

I don't think I ever posted about it, but my main reading goal for 2017 was to read 24 books, and I'm well on track to meet it! But I also keep going back and forth between wanting to read whatever sounds interesting, and reading what will be eligible for Hugos next year. I didn't join Worldcon this year, so I can't vote (to my relief!) but I kinda want to join next year. It's a bit silly -- I've just gotten back in the habit of reading fiction consistently, and I'm already getting Hugo FOMO.
frayadjacent: medium shot of Faith circa season 7 looking determined (BtVS: Faith)
I wrote this on an airplane nearly a month ago, then forgot to post it till just now. I loved After Atlas and nominated it for a Hugo, to no avail.

After Atlas turned out to be a book I could stay up late reading -- something I rarely do. I always get sleepy! But I found the book totally engrossing, because the story was interesting, the world-building engaging, and because Carlos is such a well-written character. Highly recommended, with content notes that the book has references to male-on-male sexual assault and abuse and also deals with suicide a lot. As always, feel free to comment or pm me if you want more details about content notes/warnings.

Major, book-ruining spoilers below the cut )
frayadjacent: Aeryn Sun in her PK spaceflight suit, sorta smiling (Farscape: Aeryn spacesuit)
What have you recently finished reading?

Ninefox Gambit,
by Yoon Ha Lee. I...don't know what to think about this. I liked it, but a lot less than the hype led me to think I would. The story was interesting -- there was never a point when I had to work up the motivation to read -- but I never got that emotional pull I need to really invest in its characters. OK, maybe not never -- I started to get that pull at the very end, but, in a too little too late sort of way. Partly, I think, the twist that I was waiting for -- I didn't know what it would be, but I knew there had to be one -- came about 85% of the way into the story. I did not need quite as much time on the battle tactics/war is hell stuff as we got for most of the story.

The most interesting aspect of the book for me was the presentation of the Kel, and what loyalty and obedience to authority meant for the various Kel characters. That obedience is achieved through physical changes to the brain that basically force it, but as far as I could tell all service to the Kel was voluntary, so the Kel do have agency (and very distinctive personalities) despite the brainwashing. Cheris, the main character, joined the Kel because she wanted to fit in. This seems to be directly connected to her position as an outsider -- someone whose people were recently colonised, whose native language is not the high language of the empire, etc. The formation instinct comes up in many ways: we see one Kel character resent of the forced obedience, we see a character for whom the process fails, and we see a character whose fear is only barely overcome by the formation instinct. And of course, in the end, it becomes central to the story.

But also the book was gory, with references to violence and torture so extreme it became tiresome. (On the other hand, it wasn't actually any worse than the horrors shown in the original Star Wars trilogy, it was just that there was actual substantial narrative attention to the magnitude of destruction.)  And I was not that into the magic tech -- it was frustrating to have something that fundamentally makes no sense, way beyond the way that FTL or transporters or other standards of SF make no sense, be so central to the mechanics of the plot. I heard one booktuber describe it as a sort of magical realism, but for me magical realism gives a sense of the uncanny, and I just...didn't feel that with Ninefox Gambit.

Given how popular this book has been, I sometimes wonder if I don't actually like scifi as much as I think I do.

What am I reading now?

After Atlas, by Emma Newman, in my quest to have something to nominate for the Hugos. I was a little reluctant to read this because I'm not generally interested in the detective genre, but I (mostly) loved Planetfall so I wanted to give it a shot. What I loved most about Planetfall was the main character Renata, and I knew it was unlikely After Altas would feature a character who I'd identify with that much. That is true, but Carlos, the protagonist of After Atlas, is a fantastic character and I'm really enjoying the book so far. I've concluded that Newman is a master at writing characters whose perspective you can deeply understand and empathise with, while also being able to recognise where their judgment is wrong. That is quite an impressive skill. I also really like the way that the book explores the impact of technological changes on people and society, especially in that technology that is genuinely useful and pleasurable is *also* used for social control.

Also, the book seems to be indirectly exploring the effect of automation in creating a vast surplus population whose labor is no longer needed. This is an interesting contrast to Planetfall, where the small society is basically living with full communism and a high level of automation and sustainable technology -- a high-tech ecotopia. The same tech (except light-speed space travel) exists on Earth in After Atlas, but under capitalism the technology creates misery even as it creates convenience and solves problems like food production.

So maybe I do like scifi, just not space opera? But I have a feeling there is some space opera I would like.

What's up next?

More potential Hugo nominations -- I'm thinking of reading A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers even though I haven't read A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. I get the impression the former can stand alone.

I've also downloaded the audiobook version of the Great Courses Plus lecture series about the French Revolution, but I haven't started it yet as I've been listening to podcasts.

frayadjacent: Rona from Buffy, text says, "haters gonna make some good points" (haters gonna make good points)
What did you recently finish reading?

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: the Untold Story of English audiobook, written and read by John McWhorter. This was mostly an interesting and engaging book. He focuses on changes in English's grammar, which he argues (and I agree) is a lot more interesting than just word etymologies, and specifically looks at how encounters with other languages changed English. First when the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes came to Britain and had their language changed by the Celts. Then the Vikings came and brought a language that was similar to proto-English, but not the same, and what emerged was simpler than either, in a least-common-denominator sort of way. He argues that the Normans had little influence on English grammar because French was the language of the ruling class and only spoken by a tiny minority (and not for very long). In the last chapter, he speculates on the possible influence of Semitic languages on proto-Germanic to account for the differences between Germanic languages and other Indo-European ones. That hypothesis really is just a hypothesis, without enough evidence to support it fully, but it's interesting nonetheless.

As interesting as the story of English itself was the insight I got into the methods that linguists use to trace how languages have changed. McWhorter also discussed how those methods can lead linguists astray -- for example, by assuming that changes in spoken language are mirrored by changes in written language, which isn't even true for all languages now, much less at a time and place where most people were illiterate.

He also had a chapter debunking the Sapir-Worf hypotesis (of Arrival fame), but I'd already heard and been convinced by that argument in his podcast, so it was the least interesting chapter to me. I get the impression that the Sapir-Worf hypothesis is to linguistics as the Gulf Stream* is to climate science -- its importance is vastly overstated in popular literature, media, and even some introductory textbooks, much to the chagrin of experts.

I like McWhorter's writing and narrating style, and he has a very pleasant voice to boot. The book gets a bit dry at times when he is describing conjugations etc, but those times are brief.


What are you reading now?

Ninefox Gambt, by Yoon Ha Lee. This is working much better for me now than last week. First, I followed [personal profile] isis's suggestion and stopped to read this short story prequel first, which helped me make sense of the world a bit. Second, I realised that the word "calendar" is actually used in more or less the usual sense, to mean tracking time and noting dates -- at first I was convinced it had to mean something totally different and unfamiliar, because it was being used *so weirdly*. Third, I realised that I needed to stop approaching this story like hard sci-fi and start approaching it like fantasy -- I needed to just accept the magical tech rather than hurt my head trying to make some sense it. In a way, it's almost the inverse of the Steerswoman books.

What will you read next?

I'm gonna catch up on some podcasts and then choose my next audiobook. I'm thinking one of the Great Courses history series, but I'm choosing from a few.

* 1) the Gulf Stream is not the main reason why Northern Europe is warm -- the Atlantic Ocean generally is the first reason, and, interestingly, the Rocky Mountains are the second. 2) even if the thermohaline circulation were shut down a la The Day After Tomorrow, the Gulf Stream would still be there, because it's driven by winds which exist because the Earth rotates and the sun shines more on the tropics than the poles -- global warming isn't going to change that fact.

frayadjacent: Buffy and Willow, who's the only part of the image in color and is wearing a silly outfit. Text says "adorkable". (!Adorkable)
What have you finished reading recently?

Ms Marvel, Vols 1 & 2: I thought I'd read these previously, but I think it was actually only Vol 1. I enjoyed them, but I liked them most when Kamala was interacting with her friends and family, and tended to get a little bored (and also confused) during the action scenes. This has been the case in most of my other (very, very limited) experiences reading superhero comics. But I own Vols 3 and 4, and I've heard Vol 5 is excellent, so I'll keep on at least through that.

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho: a romance novella (novelette? I'm not sure how long it was) set in 1920's London. Everything Zen Cho writes pulls me in immediately, and I become invested in her characters within a few pages. I loved this just as I loved The Terracotta Bride and Sorcerer to the Crown -- my only complaint being that I wanted more time, especially more time with Jade and Ravi.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor: Many probably know this book since it won a Hugo last year, but briefly: it's a novella about a young Himba woman who is the first of her people to attend an elite university on another planet (where only 5% of the students/faculty etc are human). Things go horribly wrong on the voyage to the university. Binti, the main character, provided a strong and compelling narrative voice, and I really liked that mathematics and technology was deeply rooted in her people's knowledge and traditions. The resolution was interesting in how it handled negotiations between peoples with different power and ideologies. I do wish it had been longer, that there had been more time to spend with the characters and to let relationships develop. And I was very distracted by all the description of ideas and technologies with no real explanation of them, but that is more of a personal quirk. (See also below, but x10.)

What are you currently reading?

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee: I'm only in the second chapter. The first chapter was horribly violent and contained A LOT of references to concepts, technologies, and institutions that were not explained. It was an extended battle scene, and wanting to see how things turned out kept my interest, even though the lack of explanation meant I couldn't actually imagine the scene. If this book hadn't been praised all over Booktube and on Fangirl Happy Hour I might not keep going with it. But it has been praised all over, so I'll keep reading.

I'm still listening to Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English by John McWhorter. Illness and other things have kept me from walking to work, so I'm going slower now than I was.

frayadjacent: Buffy with a goofy look on her face, text says "dork" (BtVS: Buffy dork)
What did you just finish reading?

The Golem and the Djinni, by Helene Wecker. I loved it. The ending was fantastic. And there will be a sequel! Coming out in 2018! Set during WWI! I'M SO PLEASED.

I want to say more about this book but I'm having trouble coming up with the words. Why is it so much harder to say why I liked something than why I disliked it? OK: all of the characters were really compelling, the story was interesting, the pacing was excellent, and the prose had this warmth and authenticity that I enjoyed. I'm so glad I get to spend more time with these characters. Next year.

Paper Girls, Vol 1 by Brian K Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, and Matt Wilson. Mr. Adjacent has been telling me to read this for about six months, and I finally did as a palette cleanser after finishing The Golem and the Djinni, before starting my next novel. I liked it! Once I read the rest of my TBR comics I'll buy the next volume.

Yes Please, audiobook, written and read by Amy Poehler. Meh, it was OK. It made me laugh sometimes, but didn't inspire me or motivate me or make me think very much. I was almost finished with this when I posted about it last week, so I won't add much. I listened to the last chapter walking home from work while Trump was inaugurated. She was complaining about the internet and smartphones.

What are you reading now?

An Accident of Stars, by Foz Meadows. This is my introduction to Meadows. I've still only read a little bit, but so far I am liking it well enough to keep on but not loving it. The story is holding my attention, but I haven't been really grabbed by it or the characters. And I find the prose a bit wordy.

I'm also having a reaction that I think is unfair and I'm trying to unpack: the two (thus far) POV characters have a much stronger sense of social justice than I'm used to in a character. In some ways they have worldviews a lot more like my own than what I typically read. And when a character says or thinks something social justicey, my brain immediately goes, "stilted language! Nobody talks like that!". Except, um, I talk like that. Sort of anyway. So, I haven't quite parsed what of it is that I find the prose awkward overall, and what of it is some unpacked baggage I didn't even know I had. I'll keep reading and see how I go. I thought about giving up once already, then remembered Kate Elliott's praise on the back cover, and kept reading.

Also, I am pleased that the author and one of the main characters are Australian and that there have been specific references to Australian flora. I miss me some gum trees.

Ms Marvel, Vol 1 by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona. I purchased the first four volumes a year ago, read the first two, and then got distracted. So now I'm starting over! Still like it.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: the Untold Story of English audiobook, written and read by John McWhorter. I'm liking this as much as his podcast, Lexicon Valley, which inspired me to buy this. I'm about midway through chapter 1, where he presents evidence for the considerable influence of Celtic languages on English grammar. This influence at least partly explains why English grammar is so different from that of other Germanic languages. And apparently the magnitude of this Celtic influence is dismissed by many linguistic historians of English, who say things like, "oh the Angles etc just killed them all and it's totally a coincidence that English, Welsh and Cornish share traits that are unheard of in most other languages". o_O (To be fair, McWhorter acknowledges that historians of English who said that didn't realise how rare those shared traits are. But that's because they didn't bother looking.)

What will you read next?

I'm not sure. I haven't decided how much I want to devote to reading Hugo-eligible books for this year, so I can nominate, or just focus on books I currently want to read + Hugo-eligible books for next year. I'm a slow reader so a head start doesn't hurt. For my walking-to-work audiobook, I'll probably get one of the Great Courses books -- either the one on culinary history or the ordinary people's history of the ancient world one (that one seems to use the same definition of "ancient world" as my 10th grade history class did, mostly focusing on Egypt, the Fertile Crescent, etc). The books are expensive but you can get them on audible for a regular monthly credit. Or I'll just keep listening to back episodes of "Stuff You Missed in History Class", which I'm enjoying tremendously.

One of my goals is to read all my currently-owned comics, which includes Saga Vol 6. Like with Ms Marvel, it's been so long I feel like I have to start from the beginning, or at least one or two TPB's back. The way I'm going I can probably wait till Vol 7 is out in late March. /o\

Free book-shaped space

I'm so bummed I can't go to Worldcon in this year. I was hoping it would be my first Worldcon, but alas. Fuckin August.

frayadjacent: Anya dancing enthusiastically (BtVS: Anya dancing)
It's still Wednesday in the Central Pacific!

What did you finish reading?

Nothing, since my last post! Apart from a terrible interview with Trump's biographers about how the worst things we think about him as a person area all actually true, and what that implies for his presidency, but no need to link to that here. Unless someone wants it.

What are you currently reading?

Print: The Golem and the Djinni, by Helene Wecker. I still love it! Wecker has woven so many characters' stories together, and given them real lives and histories and motivations. She uses seamless transitions in POV to make everyone feel important -- nobody is just there to move the plot.

Audiobook: I'm almost finished with Amy Poehler's Yes Please, which I have been a bit meh about. Then yesterday I got to the "treat your career like a bad boyfriend" section. Which is packaged in a way that I don't love (there's a low-level heterosexism in most of the advice-giving parts of the book, and also I just find the gender roles invoked in this stereotype a bit tiresome, while also recognising that it rings true to many people's experiences), the actual career advice is pretty much just what I wanted, in that it spells out what I've been vaguely thinking into a more concrete mental framework for approaching work:
Your career won’t take care of you. It won’t call you back or introduce you to its parents. It’s never going to leave its wife. Your career is fucking other people and everyone knows it but you…Career is the stringing together of opportunities and jobs. Mix in public opinion and past regrets. Add a dash of future panic and a whole lot of financial uncertainty. Career is something that fools you into thinking you are in control and then takes pleasure in reminding you that you aren’t. Career is the thing that will not fill you up and never make you truly whole...

I will say it again, ambivalence is key. You have to care about your work but not the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look…You will never climb Career Mountain and get to the top and shout, “I made it!” You will rarely feel done or complete or even successful. Most people I know struggle with that complicated soup of feeling slighted on one hand and a total fraud on the other.

Ambivalence can help tame the beast. Remember, your career is a bad boyfriend. It likes it when you don’t depend on it. It will reward you every time you don’t act needy. It will chase you if you act like other things (passion, friendship, family, longevity) are more important to you. If your career is a bad boyfriend, it is healthy to remember you can always leave and go sleep with somebody else.
Then in the next chapter Poehler brought Michael Shur on and they talked about Parks and Recreation, and it was mostly great.

Then in the next chapter she waxed on about Hollywood and how hard/awesome it is to be an actor/writer/director/producer and I was back to meh. I love when film/tv writers, directors, actors, set designers, etc talk about their craft: how they make certain choices to get a specific effect, what works for telling a good story, bringing out a certain feeling, or deepening the ideas and emotions through symbolism and metaphor. When they talk about what it feels like for them to do their work, I just don't fucking care. It might have been interesting at one point, but I have heard enough navel-gazing from Hollywood people for my lifetime.

What I'll read next

I haven't decided what print/ebook I'll read next, but the next up audiobook is still John McWhorter's Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English.

frayadjacent: Buffy and Willow, who's the only part of the image in color and is wearing a silly outfit. Text says "adorkable". (!Adorkable)
I forgot to include audiobooks in my Wednesday reading meme, so I'm posting about them now, and for good measure throwing in what I've been watching and listening to.

The last audiobook I finished was Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes. I finished it a couple months ago so my memory is a little vague. When I started it I was in the midst a roughly two month spike in anxiety, which made it a struggle to leave the house every day, and I was often late for work. (There are generally no short-term consequences for me for that -- I have Stuff I Must Do and where/when I do them doesn't matter much. But coming in at 11 when I'm not willing or able to stay correspondingly late isn't good for my career.) Year of Yes helped with that both by making my walk to work more enjoyable and by giving me motivation to leave the house, because I wouldn't let myself listen to it otherwise. Rhimes is a funny and engaging writer and speaker. I felt inspired as I listened to it to say yes to more things, but of course it didn't magically change my patterns of behaviour. I'm working on it though.

Now I'm listening to Amy Poehler's Yes Please -- I somehow missed the amusing similarity of titles till just now. Because I enjoyed Year of Yes I thought I'd like to listen to another fun/easy audiobook by a famous lady. I was trying to decide between Poehler's book and one of Mindy Kaling's, and I chose Poehler's because it has a bunch of cool sounding guest appearances. So far, though, most of the guest appearances have been very, very brief. It's an entertaining book, it occupies my mind on my long walk to/from work, but it's not doing anything more than that for me. TBH I kinda wish I'd gotten one of Kaling's books instead -- I listened to an interview with her recently and really enjoyed hearing her talk about early experiences with comedy.

I'm also very, very slowly and intermittently listening to Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. Her central thesis is that the changes required to (hopefully) prevent catastrophic global warming are fundamental (i.e., socialist) changes that can make life better in many ways, and that fighting global warming is a unique opportunity for building a powerful movement. I want to like it, I want to embrace the hope that it offers, but frankly right now I don't. It feels very 2014.

My next audiobook will be Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English by John McWhorter. Which takes me to my next topic: podcasts I've been listening to! Because sometime around October I finally caught up with everyone else and started doing that. I started with Lexicon Valley, a linguistics podcast for a lay audience hosted by McWhorter. Obviously I like it a lot since I decided to buy his book.

The other one was, of course, Buffering the Vampire Slayer. It's squeeful and queer and the two women who run it are my age which I think substantially adds to my enjoyment. For example, one of my pet peeves with people talking about Buffy is when they mock the outfits. I mean yes, there are some examples of appalling taste, but mostly it's just a fancier, leatheryer version of how people dressed then, and I find the joking tiresome. On Buffering the Vampire Slayer, they note the costumes with nostalgic glee, and even genuine appreciation during their Buffy Fashion Watch segment, which I love. Also they love Cordelia and made her a song, and they love Buffy too. It warms my heart.

Now I've started also listening to Fangirl Happy Hour, NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, and am in the process of sorting through some leftist stuff to see which ones I like. Oh, and Stuff You Missed in History Class, which is a lot of fun and has two women hosts.

Now, for what I've been watching. I started a Gilmore Girls rewatch and got to the point in Season 1 where Christopher returns. I was enjoying it but I haven't picked it back up again and probably won't. Getting sucked into a multi-season rewatch is not in the cards right now. I've watched the first two episodes of The Get Down, a Netflix show about hip hop and disco in the Bronx in the late '70's. I liked it but didn't get sucked in, so I'm taking my time. There are only two episodes and I love the music, so I'll likely finish it. Finally, Mr. Adjacent and I have been watching Parks and Recreation for the last month or so. I can't believe how much I've forgotten from the first three seasons! It's been very fun to rewatch. As for my current shows, Steven Universe and The Mindy Project are coming back next month.

Also, I'm watching Booktubers, especially Claire Rousseau and Elizabeth at Books and Pieces.
frayadjacent: Buffy looking to the side in black and white (BtVS: Buffy B&W)
Print/ebooks I read in 2016, in chronological order. I usually have one print/ebook and one audiobook going at a time, so I've separated the two categories. Since I stopped posting Wednesday reading updates sometime in February, I'm including some non-spoilery thoughts on each book.

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott: discussed here

Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott: discussed here and here

Shadow Gate by Kate Elliott: discussed here and here

Traitors Gate by Kate Elliott: discussed here

I won't say much about Black Wolves/Crossroads trilogy since I've posted on them previously, but I do want to note that I realised two things from these books: I really like stories from the POV of a deeply religious character (if it's well-written of course), because it is fascinating to get into a worldview that is so different from my own. I probably wouldn't enjoy it if it was a deeply religious man whose religion justified being a patriarch, and while those character types definitely exist in these books, they aren't POV characters. Also, the world-building in these books is incredible, and I've since read/listened to Elliott talk about world-building and think she is so thoughtful and a master of the craft. I loved a lot of the characters and quite a few storylines in these books, but my very favourite thing was the world of The Hundred itself.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin: I liked this book but not as much as everyone else seems to, which has me thinking I was reading it wrong. My head was still very much in the world of Black Wolves/Crossroads trilogy. I purchased Oblisk Gate when it came out but decided to wait until the third book was out and read the whole trilogy.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik: I was utterly charmed from the start, and really enjoyed Agnieszka as a protagonist and POV character. The plot was interesting and engaging, and I looooovvvved The Wood as a villain. It was also pretty funny at times! I was unpleasantly surprised by how violent and gruesome the story became. (I was also super stressed with work and utterly devastated by Brexit -- I became unhappy that Uprooted wasn't providing me the comforting escapism I wanted at the moment, but that's not a criticism of the book, just a note on my reaction.) I was ambivalent about the ending. On one hand, it was really lovely. On the other hand, it played into a woman-nature connection that I pretty much never enjoy in fiction. Except occasionally when Ursula K Le Guin does it. Though even then I often don't.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho: This was the book I most enjoyed reading in 2016. In part because it did provide the comforting escapism I wanted. It was funny -- so funny! -- and I loved being in both Zacharias and Prunella's POV. They were delightful characters. It also had some deeply moving moments, e.g., when Zacharias recalls the circumstances of his adoption and reflects on his complicated feelings toward Sir Stephen. Also did I mention this was funny? And such a good romance -- I struggle a lot with romance in fiction, but I loved this one and it even made me want to seek out romance novels for the first time. I hope there will be sequels -- this book provided me with the thing I want most from fiction: characters I want to spend time with again and again.

All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry: I picked this up a few years ago because 1) [personal profile] coffeeandink recommended it, 2) It's set in Seattle, and 3) I knew McCarry in college. Every time I considered reading it, I knew I couldn't handle reading a book about Seattle. It would make me too homesick. But the last time I visited Seattle, about a year ago, I realised the homesickness had faded. So I put this back on the to-read list.

I had mixed feelings about it. It took a while to get used to the writing style, or rather the POV character's voice, which I found overwrought at first. The setting is deeply familiar, not just the Seattle-ness but also the vaguely turn-of-the-21st century Pacific Northwest punk rock scene, complete with shitty meals that always taste the same made from dumpstered vegetables. I kind of liked that, but it was also distracting. I kept getting put off by the book and setting it down, only to pick it back up again 30 minutes later (I read a lot of it on a long-haul flight).

In the end I got used to the POV character's voice, and the plot got interesting, and there were some really lovely and true moments. And I LOVED the ending. It felt absolutely perfect, and unsettled in a way that I often don't like but that worked so well for this story and character. Then I learned it was the first of a trilogy. But I loved the ending so much, and had such ambivalent feelings about the rest of the book, that I didn't consider reading the subsequent books.

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. My first ever romance! I enjoyed this book and the romance was fun -- I especially liked Minerva as a POV character and would like more books with characters like her. I thought the characterisation of the friends was really thin in a way that put me off at first, but eventually I could roll with it.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I picked this up after listening to a Fangirl Happy Hour episode on literary fiction. I switched between reading the ebook and listening to the audiobook on this one. It was so good -- my other favourite of 2016. Ifemelu and Obinze (especially Ifemelu) were wonderful characters. I felt Ifemelu's struggles so deeply: her fear that something was wrong with her to make her sabotage her relationships, her struggle with depression, and her experiences with immigration (even though my difficulties have been so, so minor compared to most people's, I still love and feel immigration stories even more profoundly than I used to). Also, I liked that Ifemelu was a pretty judgmental person -- it was an interesting POV to be inside and also made for good exposition. I really enjoyed that this book dealt with not just immigration but also returning. And there was a lot of great humor in this book as well. Oh, and the narrator, Adjoa Andoh, was so good. I kind of want to listen to Alexander McCall-Smiths "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" books just because she reads them.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamana Ngozi Adichie. It took me a while to get into this book; I don't know if it was the book itself or my life circumstances, but it was a slow read at first. It's about the civil war in Nigeria in the late 1960's when (mainly) the Igbo people attempted to secede and form the Republic of Biafra. There are lots of heavy themes that come with that, especially the mass starvation that occurred when Nigeria completely blocked the Biafran borders. This book tells those stories through the compelling personal narratives of three characters, who were mainly non-combatants. One of the non-POV characters, Kainene, was one of my favourite characters in any novel I read this year.

I want to note that in the Fangirl Happy Hour episode mentioned above, it's implied that there is no rape in this book. That is not true -- feel free to message me if you want more information.

Planetfall by Emma Newman. Holy shit, I loooovvvvved most of this book. The POV character suffers from anxiety in a way that is, well, not that similar to mine in terms of specific behaviours, but still I identified with her and her anxiety deeply. I have never read a genre novel (or maybe any novel?) centred around a character who just wants to go home and be left alone because everything is too much. I don't just mean she gets overwhelmed sometimes, like many characters would. She always feels this way. It was incredible, a revelation, even, to encounter a character like that who still gets to be embroiled in space shenanigans.

But the ending of this book was really strange. I finished it and was very confused and went looking for reviews, sure I'd missed something. It seems like everyone agreed it was just kind of a bad ending. It's too bad, this book was so strong otherwise. I'd still highly recommend it, just be prepared to scratch your head a little when you put it down at the end.
frayadjacent: BtVS: Buffybot holding an ax (BtVS: buffybot)
My first one in ages!

What I just finished reading

The Terracotta Bride, by Zen Cho. A short story, purchased individually as an ebook so I didn't realise how short it was. That was the only disappointment. Set in the Chinese afterlife, the main character is a second wife in hell whose husband takes on a third wife. Who is made of clay, built like a warrior, and a perfect wife for a patriarch. A love story with a surprising twist ensues.

What I'm reading now

The Golem and the Djinni, by Helene Wecker. A novel, one of whose protagonists bears a remarkable (if superficial) resemblance to the terracotta bride. I have only read two stories featuring a woman made of clay, whose origins are warrior but is made specifically to be a wife. And yet I read them both in the same week.

I'm only two chapters in, but I like it a lot so far. The golem character in particular is working really well for me -- I'm fascinated by her point of view and want more of it. And it didn't hurt that the first chapter had one of my favourite plot twists spoiler ).

What I'll likely read next

Probably The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson. One of my resolutions for 2017 is to at least try every fiction/nonfiction book I own before buying any more in the respective category (books in a series I've already started don't count). I own this book and saw a booktuber  praise it in a way that got me excited to read it.

Anything else book related

Today I subscribed to a handful of Booktubers (previously I only subscribed to Claire Rousseau); hopefully it will help me find more cool books and authors who I will actually read instead of just providing another youtube time suck! I watched a bunch of "best books in 2016" videos and have already have substantially lengthened my to-read list.
frayadjacent: Mindy Kaling smiling confidently in a green shirt, in front of a blue background (Mindy Kaling)
Past memes: 2016 | Um apparently I only did this once before?

1. Your main fandom of the year?

Steven Universe, as last year. But also a certain creative decision made during Season 4 of The Mindy Project knocked my socks off and massively increased my commitment to that show.

I also listened to Hamilton A LOT, and spent way too much money buying tickets to see the show this year. But I never really got into the fandom side, so I'm not sure it counts.

2. Your favorite film watched this year?

Arrival. It was so beautiful and hopeful and wonderfully told, and I looooovvvved all the process stuff in it.

3. Your favorite book read this year?

Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho, for being delightful and filling my soul just when I needed it. Also Black Wolves by Kate Elliott, which was a slow burn but so good, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (narrated by Adjoa Andoh -- I alternated between reading and listening on this one), and the audiobook of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (narrated by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskill).

4. Your favorite TV show of the year?

Steven Universe. This season of Orphan Black was also excellent, and left me happy that the show hadn't ended with three seasons as originally planned (and as I'd wished when S3 finished).

5. Your favorite online fandom community of the year?

Dreamwidth, but I haven't been engaged much with online fandom at all this year.

6. Your best new fandom discovery of the year?

Underground -- but I think that might be the only new show I watched in full this year? I have not been watching much and when I do I generally rewatch old stuff for comfort, or watch my few ongoing shows: Steven Universe, The Mindy Project, and Orphan Black.

Underground got some flack for being more of an action-drama than its premise suggests, but I kinda loved it. I mean, why shouldn't runaway slaves get to be action heros? And the ending left me So Excited for Season 2.

7. Your biggest fandom disappointment of the year?

I finally read Uprooted, and while in some ways it was better than I expected, it was also a lot more violent than I expected and I just wasn't feeling it. Though calling that a disappointment is a major stretch. I mostly really liked the book.

8. Your TV boyfriend of the year?

Rahul Kohli from iZombie is outrageously attractive to me, so I'll choose him even though I only watched one episode of the show. Certainly not any of Mindy Lahiri's boyfriends.

9. Your TV girlfriend of the year?

Mindy Kaling. I have heart-eyes for her.

10. Your biggest squee moment of the year?

Every. Single. Moment. of the Steven Universe episode Last One Out of Beach City
frayadjacent: Hermoine (circa movie 3) looking pointedly thoughtful (HP: Hermione thinking)
Following [personal profile] coffeeandink's format

What I recently finished

I finally finished the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire audiobook, read by Stephen Fry. Looking through my previous posts, it looks like I started it 1.5-2 months ago. I kept getting stuck, what with Ron and the Triwizard Tournament and S.P.E.W. and the dread of Cedric Diggory's impending death. That one is still the hardest for me, even though he isn't my favorite character to die. I think it's because a lot of the deaths in book 7 are glossed over. And even though Dumbledore's death is awful, he still got to live a long life and die more or less on his terms. The death of a kind young man with his whole life ahead of him, and which is given a lot of build-up and narrative attention, is much harder.

A few weeks ago [personal profile] umadoshi posted a link to an essay called The Harry Potter series is actually one long story about PTSD. Now, I haven't read it, mostly because I'm finding there's a lot I don't remember about the series and I want to rediscover those things as I listen, rather than through analysis, fanworks, etc. (I am such a spoiler phobe. Sometimes I even do this if I'm rewatching Buffy, despite having watched and vidded and discussed the show over and over. Just in case! You never know when you'll be delighted to rediscover something you'd forgotten. Or something.) Anyway, despite having not yet read the argument I imagine that I'd largely agree with it. And that is related to why I adore -- or at least previously adored -- book 5, because of the way it deals with Cedric's death and all the other trauma Harry has undergone. More on that in the next section.

Shadow Gate, by Kate Elliott. This series continues to hold my interest, and Shadow Gate was a lot more compelling than Spirit Gate. It introduced a lot more POV characters, including several women. One of my least favorite characters underwent a transformation that was hard to read at times but incredibly well-written, and thus was propelled to a favorite (along with all of the POV women).

(CN: discussion of fictional sexual violence in this paragraph) There is a lot of sexual violence in these stories. I am not used to it. I think I can handle it better than I would have thought because it is a) generally not explicit, though there have been moments where small details were enough to be a little sickening. b) the surviovor's POV is prominent, and there has not been any sexual violence directly from the POV of the perpetrator, which is something I seriously can't handle. c) It presents sexual violence as a product of power relations, not sexual desire. d) It presents sexual violence as survivable. I keep recalling that, in Spirit Gate, one of the characters says to another that a woman can survive rape and go on to great power and accomplishments. And one of the characters who was indirectly referenced in that moment has done just that. Not in a "rape drove me to a vengeful rampage" -- which I actually thought it was going to do, briefly, but simply that this was one (significant) element of the character's life. It didn't define her, and it didn't ruin her.

What I'm reading now

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, audiobook read by Stephen Fry. As I mentioned, this used to be my favorite HP. I've learned in the last few years that it is many people's least favorite, and I think I read somewhere that even J.K. Rowling says she rushed it and it could have used another round of editing. I recall liking this book because it feels like the first book to take Harry's trauma seriously. I am not one to revel in the anger of a teenage boy, but at the same time I hate when people dismiss Harry's anger as just that. It is the anger of someone who's been through some serious trauma. Like Buffy Season 6, I like that, when Rowling decided to make the story more exciting by having worse things happen, she also followed though on the emotional consequences for the characters. (Or at least for Harry.)

That's not the only reason I loved this book though. It also finally gave some time and attention to Neville. I loved the way it subverted the idea of Harry as a Chosen One, through Neville's story. It introduces Luna! We get Dumbledore's Army! Etc.

Also, all sorts of things are happening that I thought were in later books: Harry discovering that Mrs. Figg is a member of the magical community, the introduction of Tonks (one of my faves!), and Harry's occlumency lessons with Snape (and what he learns about his father from that).

Traitors' Gate, by Kate Elliott. OMG, I've realised now that the Crossroads series and Black Wolves are much more closely linked than I'd previously thought. Knowing, in broad strokes, how things will end, has got me *dying* to see how they get there. I'm reading this as fast as I can, given that I don't have a ton of free time right now.

Free book-shaped space


I will probably read N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season next. I want to read as many likely Hugo nominees as possible because I finally signed up this year. That means I also plan to read Uprooted, even though a few of the things I heard about it turned me off it.

Speaking of Hugos, I got an email saying that I needed to enter my PIN in order to nominate, and that if I had signed up for electronic communication I'd have an email with my PIN. Well, apparently I didn't sign up for electronic communication, because I have no such email, and there is no other information about how to get the PIN. Assuming this PIN thing also applies to voting, I need to figure this out before...whenever it is that voting happens. Maybe they sent me a letter? I've been so disorganized lately, I could have missed it or forgotten it.

frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran on a beach reading excitedly (!reading)
What I just finished reading

Spirit Gate, by Kate Elliot. It was pretty good but I might have given up on it had I not liked Black Wolves (the first in a trilogy set in the same world) and had I not re-read [personal profile] coffeeandink's review (which is what first put the books on my radar, but I didn't get around to it until much later). It has a lot more violence, including sexual violence, than Black Wolves, although the sexual violence isn't graphically described and the survivors' points-of-view are generally prominent.

What I'm reading now

Shadow Gate, by Kate Elliot. It's going much better than Spirit Gate (which I didn't dislike, but I also didn't love) thanks to having a much-expanded set of points-of-view and relationships. It's also introducing some exciting storylines that are sucking me in nicely. There is still a lot of violence and possibly more sexual violence than the last book. I have a few specific qualms but on the whole I'm fascinated by the story and can't wait to see how things get to where they end up at the beginning of Black Wolves.

I'm also still listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In fact I've made very little progress since my last reading meme post. I'm about 3/4 of the way through. I just need to get through, but the torment Harry undergoes at the end of this book is one of the most upsetting sections in the series for me. Add that to my general meh feeling about The Goblet of Fire, plus the fact that I haven't been running which is one of the main times I listen, and, well. I'll finish eventually.

What I'll read next

Traitor's Gate, by Kate Elliot. But I also purchased these books recently and I think the NK Jemisin will be the first one I read.

photo of four books
[photo of four books: Spin State by Chris Moriarty; The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin; The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change by Robert Henson; and The Very Best of Kate Elliot]

frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran on a beach reading excitedly (!reading)
I haven't done one of these in a while! Also it's Tuesday evening here, close enough.

What I just finished reading

Black Wolves
, by Kate Elliott. It took me a while to get into it. Not that I disliked it, but I was content to read it on the bus and right before bed and leave it at that for a good long while. But then it sucked me in properly and I liked it a lot. The story is exciting and the characters are compelling. It's mostly women's POV! And their points-of-view contradict in some really cool and interesting ways. I kind of fell in love with the setting, too, at least as much as any of the characters. And now I have to *wait* for the next one. It usually takes me so long to find out about and read something that waiting for the second installment is kinda a new experience.

What I'm reading now

Spirit Gate
, by Kate Elliott, whose books I really wanted to get into and finally have! I read A Passage of Stars a few months ago, and I liked it enough that I finished it but never got invested in it. It moved too fast: I never had time to get really interested in a place or situation before something new was happening, and I didn't connect with the POV character. I also strongly disliked one of the secondary characters. After I finished it I read the excerpt from the second book in the trilogy, and it was from this detested character's POV. So I gave up on that series, cool as it sounded (revolutionary uprising! in space. Except I was mostly annoyed by her depiction of said uprising in book 1.). 

Spirit Gate was my second attempt at reading Elliott. I liked it well enough but Spoiler for an event early in Spirit Gate (like 30 pages in) ) I was not interested and, after having not much liked A Passage of Stars, I wasn't feeling super charitable. So I gave up.

So, after having read Black Wolves, I'm much more trusting in Elliott, and, as I mentioned before, I fell for the setting of Black Wolves as much as for the characters. Well, Spirit Gate is set in the same world. And I quickly realized that this could maybe be a very vague minor spoiler for Black Wolves and/or the Crossroads books, mainly if you've read one but not the other. ). So now I'm reading Spirit Gate and it's going much better this time.

Monsoons, edited by Jay Fein and Pamela Stephens. This is work related but I kinda like it! It was published in 1987 and it covers not just the physics of monsoons (mainly the South Asian monsoon) but also talks about its study by South Asian and European scientists, its cultural significance, and it describes the development of the Indian Meteorological Service. It also covers the material at a broad level for someone with my scientific background, which I really enjoy.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I'm listening to the Stephen Fry audiobook. I think this might be my least favorite HP. I would have thought Book 1 was my least favorite but I actually loved listening to that and cried like three times. This one has some great moments but also a lot of plot developments I find irritating or boring: Ron not talking to Harry, the whole Triwizard Tournament, S.P.E.W. I can't put my finger on why I don't like the Triwizard Tournament but it just annoys me.

What I plan to read next

Shadow Gate by Kate Elliott, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Anything else book related

I signed up for supporting membership at Worldcon! So I guess I can nominate and vote for the Hugos this year. I doubt I'll be nominating as I've read so few books, but I hope to read as many of the nominees as I can and am already planning to read some presumed nominees. Because apparently I've decided to become a reader again.

frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran in cosplay with a black cape. Text says, "fangirl". (!fangirl)
1. Your main fandom of the year?

In terms of passion as expressed through reblogs of fanart on Tumblr, Steven Universe. It was also the fandom I was most excited about, in addition to my ever-present love for Buffy and Xena. But I did make the Buffy vid of my heart (even if it didn't quite live up to my hopes).

2. Your favorite film watched this year?

Wild. It was such a lovely film; Witherspoon's performance was great, plus it had so much beautiful US West Coast scenery, how could I not love it?

3. Your favorite book read this year?

The Outskirter's Secret, by Rosemary Kirstein. I re-read the whole series early in the year and that one's still my favorite, though I've come to adore The Lost Steersman almost as much.

I also read and fell for the Imperial Radch books this year, but I don't know how to choose a favorite. Most people say Ancillary Justice is the best, but Ancillary Sword introduces most of my favorite characters (Tisarwat! Mercy of Kalr! Kalr 5!) so I'm not so sure.

4. Your favorite TV show of the year?

Steven Universe!!!!!! I also thought Jessica Jones was excellent, though none of its characters really pulled me in and stole my heart (Malcolm and Luke came close a few times). I started Supergirl but am still only four or five episodes in, more for external reasons than not wanting to watch the show, which I enjoy very much.

5. Your favorite online fandom community of the year?

Dreamwidth, still, but I'm pretty active on twitter. I feel like both of those things are at least as much about chatting with/reading blogs by friends as they are about participating in fandom per se. A lot of this is because the things my friends are talking about are not what I'm into. Or I get into it after my friends have already kinda gotten over it. Also, for many reasons I find myself less inclined to discuss my fannish obsessions online than I used to. I do adore the Xena watch happening at [community profile] ladybusiness.

6. Your best new fandom discovery of the year?

Steven Universe!!!!! I remember when people on twitter were talking about it and I was like, "whatever, a kid's show about a little boy is not my thing." Especially because white male child prodigies are a trope that I hate. (Steven's not a child prodigy, but I might have perceived him as one before I started the show.)

But I gave it a chance and I am so glad, because now I can say I have three favorite shows instead of two. The plotting, the storytelling, the mythology, the characterization, the relationship-building, the political and ethical positions show show carves out: every single one of these things is well done. Mostly incredibly well-done. Plus the music is fantastic, art is lovely, the voice acting is incredible, the show genuinely makes me laugh, it can be downright creepy (in a good way) at times, and UGH EVERYONES FACE. It's one of those shows where my favorite character changes from episode to episode, because they're all so good. It is earnestly hopeful and that hope is earned. This show knows my heart.

7. Your biggest fandom disappointment of the year?

Orphan Black. Everyone has talked about how plotty that show is, and throughout S2 many criticized the show for how convoluted the plots were getting. I didn't care as long as I had my character beats -- Sarah being ruthless and loving and never stopping trying, Helena loving children and her sistras, Felix making me laugh and warming my heart, Siobhan being a badass -- and interesting relationship dynamics. But S3 really struggled under the weight of the plottiness. Only one episode really worked for me. The second half of the season was better than the first half, but I finished the finale wishing the show was over, feeling they'd wrapped it up in a pretty good place and I wish they'd just left it there, instead of introducing *more* new plot elements for a fourth season.

8. Your TV boyfriend of the year?

John Jacobi on Killjoys. On one hand I find it embarrassingly predictable how much I like him (he's funny, he's lower-case-n nice, he wants to do right in the world, he's not particularly muscley for Hollywood), on the other hand it's surprising because it is super rare for me to find male tv characters who I really like and connect to.

Honorary mention to James Olsen from Supergirl who is great.

9. Your TV girlfriend of the year?

Deedee Magno-Hall, who voices Pearl on Steven Universe. Yes I chose a character for boyfriend and an actor for girlfriend.  I love her voice and her performance! Also Rebecca Sugar. Also Xena, forever. <3

PS If I die tell Mindy Kaling I love her.

10. Your biggest squee moment of the year?

Hmm. When Steven began singing "Giant Woman" in the episode of the same name, and the whole show just clicked. spoilers for late S1 to mid S2 Steven Universe )

11. The most missed of your old fandoms?

I miss my old devotion to BtVS, when I would discuss it online all day and rewatch whole episodes just to see if I agreed with one of the points in someone's meta, and when I vidded Buffy early on. I don't think I'll ever have that level of fannish passion again.

12. The fandom you haven’t tried yet, but want to?

I've just started Sense8, which I like well enough so far. I keep meaning to try The 100, and The Legend of the Seeker, both of which I think I'd like. I just never want to take the time to watch new shows now.

I'm more excited about getting back into books. Reading feels a lot more accessible to me than television, since I can do it on the train into work and while eating breakfast and so forth. I'm also wanting a broader range of stories and characters than I often find on television. I just finished Black Wolves and am planning to read more Kate Elliott. I'm also planning to read Chris Moriarty's Spin series (on [personal profile] luzula 's very convincing rec) and Fire Logic (the, erm, logical choice from this "which lesbian SFF should I read" list, though that list has lots of candidates!).

13. Your biggest fan anticipations for the New Year?

More Steven Universe. I'm also looking forward to catching up on Supergirl and to Luke Cage's show. I might see Batman v Superman, or I might just wait for the Wonder Woman supercut.
frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran on a beach reading excitedly (!reading)
What I've just finished

The Left Hand of Darkness! I no longer have this big gap in my Le Guin portfolio. Um, I liked it. It took a long time to get into, like I said before, partly because I wasn't in a reading state of mind but also because I wasn't really connecting with the POV character (Genly), the plot, or the world. That started to change once we started to see Estraven's POV, because OMG I loved Estraven, they are exactly the sort of character I fall for hard. Principled, kind, able to see the big picture and to act for the greater good even when it isn't what's best for them. (I feel like some people think these sorts of characters are boring. I...don't? Or at least not automatically.)

Anyway, once we got into the dual POV, and especially once they got out on the Ice (I am a total sucker for wilderness adventures, plus there was some fun earth science and even a bit of accurate meteorology which is always a happy surprise) I was On Board and finished it pretty quickly. The ending was sad, in that "I should have seen that coming" way. But good. I look forward to reading some fic and re-reading Le Guin's short stories set on Gethen where they do better with pronouns.

Speaking of, it's funny, because I respect TLHoD's place in feminist science fiction history, but reading it in 2015, it doesn't feel very feminist. Especially when Genly is so sexist all the time, and when his statements reinforce the notion that all the other world in the Hainish universe -- except Gethen -- seem to be patriarchal or at least to have gender identities very similar to the ones Le Guin lived in. It does feel a bit sad that, in 1969 Le Guin was able to envision an interplanetary association without a central government, which has apparently abolished war, and has all sorts of amazing technology, but in which women still do the bulk of childrearing and rarely become mathematicians or scientists. And where the POV character disparagingly calls something feminine or womanish every third page, at least for the start of the story. I mean, it's not particularly surprising having read her other work from that time, but still noteworthy.

What I'm currently reading

The Real and the Unreal vol II by Ursula K Le Guin

I'm pretty sure I've already read every short story in this collection, but it'd have been well over a decade for many of them. After reading TLHoD I was in the mood for more Le Guin, and I bought this in e-book form a few months ago. Le Guin's short stories were generally my favorite so I'm glad to be reading them, but I'm still in the very early works period (late 60s, maybe getting into early 70s), whereas I think it's her mid 70s-90s stuff I like best.

BTW, when I looked at Amazon to double check the title of this book, I saw a *ton* of Le Guin e-books. Which was not the case even a few months ago. Part of me is excited since I sold all my books of hers a couple years ago, but I also know she was really against e-books and Amazon in particular. So I want to investigate this more.

What I'll read next

I don't know! I might continue the Le Guin kick, but maybe I should check out something new. I have a huge recs list thanks to y'alls posts.

frayadjacent: Buffy looking bored (BtVS: Buffy bored)
I'm very, very, oh so painfully slowly reading The Left Hand of Darkness. For the first time. After being a Le Guin fiend for most of my 20s. It's the only novel she published between 1968 and 2002 that I haven't read. I bought the book while visiting [personal profile] laurashapiro and lamenting that I had gotten rid of every single Le Guin book I owned when I moved across the world, only to find her works generally are not available as e-books. (Though, to be fair, if the used bookstore I sold them to got them in the hands of someone new to Le Guin, I'm glad I did it.)

Anyway, it's not that I don't like the book, I'm just having a lot of trouble bringing myself to read anything right now, unless it's work related. Which sucks.

I also do not enjoy how sexist the POV character is, but to be honest that isn't the reason I'm getting through it so slowly. I hate when I get like this! I was such an avid reader of fiction as a teenager (besides Le Guin, I mostly read nonfiction in my 20s), and somehow it's just...harder now.

frayadjacent: Joyce comforting Buffy at the end of "Innocence" (BtVS: Buffy and Joyce)
Because I have some free time this morning while a bunch of processes run at work, and because when I feel like posting I should just do it.

I read Mark Field's Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Myth, Metaphor, and Morality until about halfway through season 4. I paid $1 for the e-reader version because it's hard for me to read long stuff online. I'm too distractable. Some parts of it were super interesting. I especially liked when he talked about the existentialist moral themes in BtVS. I haven't had the patience to actually read existentialist philosophy since high school, and on the whole I find it compelling in some senses and frustratingly individualistic in others.  Fields' characterization of existentialism and how it plays out in BtVS (and, implicitly, Angel) clarified a lot of that for me, in the sense that I realized that aspects of the shows' treatment of morality are apparently more coherent in their origins than I thought, even if I disagree with a lot of those origins.

I stopped reading it partly because everytime Field talks about Buffy having sex, it is judgmental and sexist and at times pretty gross. I can't say that he's drawing out themes that don't exist in the show -- they totally do -- but he not only fails to criticize those themes, he embraces them more wholeheartedly than the show itself does. Especially in Season 2, which he has a whole Freudian take on that, like I said, is not un-supported by the show but also kinda makes me blech. Also, I started to get tired of it and realized I really wanted to be reading some fiction. Which leads me to....

I finally started Ancillary Justice. Which I'm now about one quarter of the way through, and, I don't know. I love epic stories, but I'm tired of how often they are from the point of view of military officers and politicians and aristocrats and royalty. I don't need empire from the POV of the imperialists, even if the narrative doesn't condone the imperialism (which this doesn't). There are elements that I like, enough that I'm going to keep reading, and I keep hoping that a twist will come.
frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran on a beach reading excitedly (!reading)
An epic headache derailed my plans to stay caught up on posting, but I'll get there soon!

I kinda want to reread a beloved series right now. I'm thinking either Harry Potter (have read all the books twice except book 1, the last reread was ~5 years ago) , The Hunger Games (I read all 3 books once about three years ago), or the Steerswoman series, which I only read for the first time within the last year but I already miss them!

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