10 SFF Works by Black Authors

Much of what has been shared so far in the wake of George Floyd’s death has been petitions, donation links, education materials for people to understand the impact of systemic racism in this country and fight it. That is, of course, so important.

I think it is also important to celebrate the achievements of black people, and the art they have put out into the world. I get asked quite often to share book recommendations, and I really enjoy doing it. To that end, I thought I would share a list of 10 science fiction and fantasy short stories, novellas, and novels by black authors that I found particularly enjoyable and/or impactful.

Please look through and consider reading one of these books (purchase if you are able, or request from your local library if you are not) and writing a review (reviews are the lifeblood of publishing, especially on Amazon).

Please also share any other books (don’t have to be SFF) by black authors that you have enjoyed in the comments! And if you do end up reading any of these, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Continue reading

A Hugo Award Recommended Reading List (2017 Edition)

For Tami, because she asked.

Best Novel

  • A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)
  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)
  • The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)
  • Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)*

Yes, I am recommending that many. It was a really strong field!  A Closed and Common Orbit is a worthy sequel to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, with quite a bit more in the way of actual plot, while still retaining the charm and character focus of the first book. Ninefox Gambit is brilliant military science fiction that kind of messes with your head. The Obelisk Gate is a sequel that meets or even surpasses The Fifth Season, and that set a high bar. The final book in the trilogy is coming out within the next month and I am so excited. Continue reading

A Recommended Reading List (2016)

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

Year in Review I

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?

The Project

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

The Mirror of Fiction

If you’ll indulge me, dear readers, I’d like to ramble a little bit about representation in fiction.

I’m not going to dive too deeply into an analysis of why representation is a good thing; that’s been done before and better by other people — and regardless, it should be intuitively understood that seeing yourself reflected in the culture you consume is validating, normalizing, comforting. That privilege has too long belonged mostly to young-to-middle-aged cis white men, and so any deviation from that “norm” (which is, in the context of the diversity of the real world, not normal at all) is to be celebrated.

I also don’t want to dwell on representation done badly, and all the harm that can do. I’ve argued about it too much recently, what with J.K. Rowling’s latest foray into Native American mythology.

What I want to do instead is to highlight a couple of books I’ve read recently that have done a good job of representing the sort of people who are traditionally ignored or elided in fiction — because the sense of relief when you can finally see yourself on the page, know that you aren’t alone in feeling the way you do or being the way you are, is immeasurable, and if I can help others to feel that, I should.

So with that said, three books read recently where I noted a particular attention to diversity in representation: Continue reading

The Podcast Post (Redux)

It’s been a while since the last podcast post, so let’s revisit the subject. First we’ll see which podcasts have stood the test of time, and which new additions have filled out my repertoire.

Looking Back

What podcasts did I mention last time? Am I still listening to them?

  • The SF Signal PodcastStill listening to this one — not every episode, but I keep an eye out for interviews or topics that look interesting. However, now that SF Signal is shutting down, I anticipate that the podcast will stop as well.
  • Writing ExcusesStill short, still sweet, still listening.
  • SF SqueecastUnfortunately is on (possibly permanent) hiatus.
  • Welcome to Night ValeI can’t, I’m sorry. This one is just not grabbing me. I gave their other project “Alice Isn’t Dead” a try as well, and similarly it’s just not for me.
  • Tea and JeopardyJust as lovely and as British as ever 🙂
  • Galactic SuburbiaStill as excellent as when I first started listening. Alisa, Alex and Tansy have really interesting and insightful things to say, and we have very similar tastes in books!
  • The Thrilling Adventure HourStill in love! Although as part of my recent change in life philosophies, I’ve allowed myself to stop listening to the segments that I don’t enjoy as much. Which means, essentially, that I’m listening to “Beyond Belief”, “Sparks Nevada”, and “Down in Moonshine Holler”, though that last may not be a permanent keeper. We’ll see.

Looking Forward

What new podcasts have I picked up?

  • Breaking the Glass Slipper: A podcast about women in SF, Fantasy, and Horror. There have only been two episodes so far, but it seems very promising. And certainly a subject matter I’m invested in!
  • Fangirl Happy Hour: A podcast very much in a similar vein to “Galactic Suburbia”, though it has more cursing in it. Also enjoyable to listen to, and a good source of recommendations.
  • The West Wing Weekly: GUYS. You don’t understand. I love this show so much. This is an episode-by-episode discussion of the West Wing, with your hosts Hrishikesh Hirway and JOSHUA MALINA he was on the show for real, guys, I can’t. With insightful discussion of episodes and lots of guest appearances from interesting people (actors, writers, costume designers etc.) involved with the show.

And You?

Any interesting podcasts on your radar? I’m always open to recommendations!

Indie Roundup: Science Fiction #1

This is the first post in a new series, where I highlight some of the indie books I’ve read and liked lately. Finding those hidden gems is hard, and it’s tempting to just not bother, but as an aspiring author myself I’d like to support the people who are writing great stuff, even if it’s not repped by a big publishing house. Hopefully this will make it a little easier.

Feel free to share your own recommendations in the comments! Continue reading

Hugo Thoughts

I would have had to be living under a rock to avoid the fracas surrounding last year’s Hugo Awards. I read a lot of author blogs, and follow a lot of writers on Twitter, and let me tell you the anthill was SEETHING when the nominations were announced.

I’m not going to publicly stick my oar in on one side or the other (although I’ll talk about it privately, I suppose, if anyone cares)…but one good thing that came out of the mess is that it got a lot of people talking about the Hugos. Continue reading

Review: The Oncoming Storm

Please note that this review contains spoilers and lots of ranting.

The Book25271795

In the year 2420, war looms between the galaxy’s two most powerful empires: the tyrannical Theocracy and the protectionist Commonwealth. Caught in the middle sits the occupied outpost system Cadiz, where young officer and aristocrat Katherine “Kat” Falcone finds herself prematurely promoted at the behest of her powerful father. Against her own wishes, Kat is sent to command the Commonwealth navy’s newest warship, Lightning.

Determined to prove she has value beyond her family name, Kat struggles to earn her crew’s respect and find her footing as the youngest captain in naval history. She soon discovers the situation on Cadiz is even worse than anyone in power anticipated. War isn’t just a possibility—it is imminent. Yet the admiral in position to bolster defenses refuses to prepare for a fight. Can Kat find a way to investigate the enemy, alert the Commonwealth, and whip an entire fleet into fighting shape before the Theocracy’s war machine destroys everything she holds dear?

The Review

I requested this book on Netgalley because I thought it was going to be a fun romp – something to relax with after a day working in the library. “Military SF with a female lead” is basically a recipe for  my perfect popcorn book.

Unfortunately, The Oncoming Storm didn’t live up to even those rather low expectations. I wasn’t looking for brilliance, but I was at least looking for originality. The Oncoming Storm cribs its entire setup from other books in the genre: Continue reading