Us Versus Them, or What Happens When SF Fandom Can’t See Past Its Own Blinders

Recap: a few days ago, Slate published an article by Laura Miller with a few good points and much more numerous flaws.

SF/F writer Jason Sanford posted a response to the article and took to Twitter to counter it, focusing on its implication that science fiction and literary fiction are mutually exclusive. While my post is somewhat a counter-response, I have no quarrel with (most of) his specific words. Sanford correctly points out that literary fiction and mainstream contemporary fiction are not the same thing. (While part of its definition is subjective, literary fiction, like young adult, is a category rather than a genre and exists in all genres.) Obviously I agree with Sanford and others that the Slate article is largely asinine. There are precepts, though, that seem to lie behind some arguments and are definitely part of the speculative fiction field’s and fandom’s zeitgeists that I profoundly disagree with.  Continue reading

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Fireside Report for 2016?

It’s approaching the point at which I need to start working on a 2016 follow-up to the Fireside report’s statistical analysis if such a thing is to have a chance of happening. That is, if the community needs and wants it — I don’t want to assume it does, and repeating such an endeavor could leave people feeling like specimens, which is the last thing I want and the most important consideration. 

So, I am seeking feedback before I pursue it any further. (You can reach me here, via email, or via Twitter/DM.)

There are two possible avenues of approach. These aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but if there’s desire for both, one needs to be prioritized in case energy runs out.

  • The same information as last year’s report — number of original stories published by black authors in SF/F magazines — but for 2016, as well as analysis of any changes between the years and additional data points. For example, one critical piece of information that we didn’t have for 2015 was the number of unique authors (both black and overall). 
  • Editorial demographic data. Editorial in this field is, by and large, pretty damn pasty and it’s possible the field would benefit from having a document to point to that proves it.

Once again, I’m soliciting feedback on this, publicly or privately (will be kept confidential). 

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Long Time, No Blog

I haven’t been around much, as the first half of the year I was working on a bigger, more important project, and so far I haven’t had much energy in the second. So: onto a frenetic burst of blogging to cover what I’ve read in the field! Taking a page from the ladies at Bookpunks and their one-sentence reviews (genius), I’m going to endeavor to be responsible and finally blog — with extreme brevity — about some of the books I’ve read over the last… unpardonable amount of time, really.

Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor. Prototypical quest-and-coming-of-age story that I’m not really the audience for, but delightful worldbuilding in which technology and flora are linked — plants carry electrical currents, computers must be grown and nurtured, and the Forbidden Greeny Jungle omg it’s adorable.

The Last Witness by KJ Parker. Solid Inception-esque dark fantasy with an intriguing premise — what happens when a second person in the world is gifted with the ability to selectively alter other people’s memories — but may not be worth the loathsome d-bag of a protagonist. Continue reading

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2015 Year in Review

Obligatory year in review/awards recommendation post. Virtually all I read was short fiction and nonfiction, so at least it’s brief!

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I Podcasted!

I was on the Cabbages and Kings podcast, where I wax poetic about short stories I love, talk about transformative literature and narrative voice, and bitch a lot about being alienated from the SF/F bookshelves by the overwhelming locker room smell of a sea of dudes with swords. Listen! If nothing else, you’ll wanna hear my faintly embarrassing southern drawl.

Also, this response talks about how “fan fiction” is coded in terms of identity of both author and perceived audience.

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Short Fiction Discussion: Apocalypses and Mythologies

Two stories I read recently are apocalypses told not from a human perspective but intelligent perspectives outside of it — an android and parrots, respectively — which I think achieve a distance that allows a certain critique of humanity that is both damning and empathetic. These are also stories about mythologies, and possess a certain closeness to the figures invested in them — the people who become the characters in the narratives, and the audiences that these narratives are important to.

These stories are Jennifer Brissett’s “A Song for You” and Ted Chiang’s “The Great Silence.” Discussion on Twitter will take place over next weekend, 10/16-10/18, under the #ShortSFF hashtag.  Continue reading

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Review: The Beauty by Aliya Whitely

The Beauty, a 2014 novella by Aliya Whitely, takes place in a near-future in which a fungal disease killed off all women a few years prior. The characters are an isolated, self-sufficient enclave of men, and the nearby cemetery in which their wives, mothers, and daughters rest is being overtaken by this same fungus; the plot begins when a few, against their better judgment, decide to investigate, and the resultant change that comes to their world shatters the group’s cohesion.  Continue reading

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SFnal Linkspam

A selection of SFnal essays, reviews, and book recommendation lists that I’ve read recently and found poignant and interesting. (As well as one by me elseweb that is less “poignant” than typical “my-ass-is-so-chapped-that-I-must-rant” that I forgot to ever link here.) Subjects include Caribbean literature, Afrofuturism, investigations into this category as well as that of “fantasy,” and feminist resistance.  Continue reading

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Review: Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher

…Maybe less a review than a calling attention to as I read this short novel weeks ago, and given the scarcity of my patience to focus on novels for the last several months, a book that I read in a single afternoon deserves remarking upon. Bryony and Roses, a 2015 retelling of “Sleeping Beauty” by T. Kingfisher (also known as Ursula Vernon), is a rather ephemeral sort of book, one that isn’t likely to inspire Deep Thoughts but rather perfect for a comfort read to get you out of a funk — this fun, whimsical story stands out amidst all the, shall we say, sad bastard SF/F.  Continue reading

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Two Novelettes

I read two novelettes last week. “Fabulous Beasts” by Priya Sharma is a grim fairy tale about a snake-girl held captive in generational violent entrapment; Andrea Hairston’s “Saltwater Railroad” is a Caribbean historical fantasy about the matriarch of a community of people who have fled slavery and other forms of violence. Both develop a fairly large handful of characters with depth as well as a really fucked-up family system (the former), with all its attendant relationships, and a community (the latter), with all its attendant relationships. And these are not just direct relationships between characters, but, for example, the internal mythology of a family and the local folklore about a community of escapees.

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