I am occasionally asked for book recommendations, which I LOVE doing although I am always baffled to be asked. I prefer to tailor recommendations toward the asker (if I know of two or three books or authors previously liked, I feel much better pulling recs from my “library”, so to speak), but I’m also happy to do a “best of the best according to Faith”, and so here is such a list for books I read in 2016*. Continue reading
Again, with thanks to Tami for the prompt.
I lowered my head and charged straight at the lizard-man, hardening my skin as I went. When I collided with him my head and shoulders were solid metal, and he went flying.
My name’s Jake. I’ve got super powers.
The lizard-man didn’t seem too fazed by his fall, or by the fact that I’d already knocked out his buddy. He whipped his tail, flipping himself back upright and slashed down with wicked looking claws. They sparked as they glanced off my metal skin, but the force of the blow still bowled me over. I hit the parking lot pavement hard, and the lizard-man landed squarely on top of me.
I tried to shove him off me, but I didn’t have super strength, and a full-size lizard man totally outweighs one scrawny twelve-year-old, even one with super powers. But I had to defeat him. I had to prove that I was good enough to be a Super Ranger.
The lizard-man realized he wasn’t going to be able to injure me, not with my skin all slivered. But he could still make a clean getaway – he dashed off, away from the nearby shopping mall and toward the tree line. I tried to go after him but I’d had the wind knocked out of me – and superspeed isn’t one of my powers.
But before the lizard vanished into the trees, he was struck by a bolt of blue lighting. I whipped around, just in time to see a woman in a bright blue jumpsuit with black stripes jump down from the hood of a car. Tiny bolts of blue electricity crackled along her arms.
I pinched myself. Electra, here?? She was the leader of the Super Rangers team, and she’d won ExtraOrdinary Magazine’s Superhero of the Year award for three years running. She was amazing.
Electra glanced around the parking lot, noting the unconscious lizard-man by the shopping cart return. “Not bad, kiddo.”
I flushed bright red, though Electra wouldn’t be able to see it under my mask. I hoped. “Do you really – uh, I mean, thanks!”
“Will I see you at the tryouts next month?”
“Definitely,” I said, with a confidence I didn’t feel. I’d have to come up with some excuse for my parents – an overnight field trip, maybe, or a fake sleepover if I could convince Cyrus to help me out.
The Super Rangers were the top superhero team in the country, and they only took the best of the best as members and apprentices. They had tryouts once a year. If Electra thought I was ready for tryouts…
I tried to remember to breathe.
“Um, do you think –“ I was interrupted by my watch beeping. Damn, damn, double-dog damn. “Sorry, gotta go, late for something,” I gasped out, turning and running for the mall entrance. I could change in one of the bathrooms and go out the back door, where my bike was leaned up against the wall.
“Wait!” Electra called after me, but I ignored her.
Mom was just coming up from the basement, a basket of laundry balanced on her hip, when I crashed through the front door.
“You’re cutting it close,” she said, one eyebrow raised.
“I know, I know, sorry.” I kicked off my sneakers into the pile of shoes by the door. I didn’t see Ellie’s flats yet – I’d gotten here before my tutor. You’d think saving the world would get me a break on algebra, but I was too scared to tell my parents about my, uh, new extracurricular activity. I could just imagine them freaking out about it being dangerous and grounding me forever, and then I’d never get to be a Super Ranger.
“There’s yogurt in the fridge, and a new jar of peanut butter in the cabinet. Make yourself a good snack – you have to keep your strength up if you’re going to be ready for the Super Ranger tryouts.”
“Uh huh,” I said, shuffling toward the fridge. “Wait, what?” I realized what she’d said and dashed back into the hallway.
“How did you know?” I asked, not sure I wanted the answer. I thought I had been careful. I thought she was in the dark. Please don’t ground me.
Mom grinned, and pulled up her sleeve to reveal a formfitting jumpsuit: electric blue with a black stripe down the side.
The Hugo Award Finalists are upon us! Since I nominated and will be voting again this year, I wanted to react to the ballot here. Ballot and commentary below the cut:
Thanks to Tami for the prompt.
The wind whispered through the dark, empty trees like a warning in a foreign language. Winter was coming, and with it the snows that turned the mountainside, difficult to traverse even in high summer, into a prison as inescapable as any king’s dungeon.
If I was leaving, it would have to be tonight.
That was the last push I needed to step out of the doorway and onto the path, drawing my cloak tighter against the wind as I did so. My pack was a solid weight on my back: such food as I had managed to squirrel away without Father noticing; a spare set of boy’s cloths that my brother had outgrown; Mother’s books. Continue reading
Let’s review the most significant conclusions from Part I:
- I read a lot of women
- I don’t read a lot of nonwhite authors
- I don’t read a lot of books with LGBTQ+ authors or characters
And let’s also recall the following chart, which demonstrates my clear and obvious preference for female characters written by female authors:
Of the 110 books I read last year, 85 were written by women and 25 were written by men. However, once I account for series books written by the same author, I am left with 76 individual authors, of whom 51 are female (67%) and 24 are male (33%).
Considering that I make a deliberate effort to seek out work by female authors, I’m not at all surprised to see that they make up a majority percentage of my reading material. In fact, I almost expected the percentage of female authors to be higher. I can think of one possible reason why that was not the case… Continue reading
Don’t worry, this isn’t another retrospective on how much this year sucked (though it did). I’m actually here to take a look at the books I read over the past year and look at some of the demographics of their authors and main characters.
Yes, I am voluntarily doing stats.
Nothing complicated, just some percentages. Maybe a pie chart. But I figure these sorts of conversations (I’ll elaborate in just a moment) are best had with actual numbers attached.
“I only read good books”
This idea has been in my head for a while; every so often someone brings up diversity in reading habits and the internet explodes with the same arguments. “I don’t care if the author is male or female or black or white or purple, if it’s a good book I’ll read it”. (Never mind that the majority of the time this approach results in a reading list full of white men). Right around the time that I started working, r/fantasy provided me with another such conversation, with all the predictable attendant criticisms.
I feel very strongly that if one wants to cultivate a diversity of perspectives in their reading list, one has to deliberately counteract the systematic bias that is present in the publishing industry. But while I talk the talk, do I walk the walk? I have long made a deliberate effort to seek out female authors, but how successful was I really? And what about other measures of diversity, like race or identity/orientation?
In brief: I made a spreadsheet of all the books I read in 2016 and looked at the demographics of the authors and the main characters. How many women? How many men? How many nonwhite authors or characters? And so on. If you’re interested in the details, there will be another post breaking down my methods (and my methodological problems), and another discussing interpretations, implications and next steps for 2017. For now, I’ll just present the basic results and a pretty chart or two… Continue reading