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

Year in Review III

The concluding post to my review of books read in 2016. See Part I for pretty charts and Part II for boring methodology.

Major Takeaways

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:

image-2

Female Bias

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

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

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

Eclectic Reader Challenge Published in 2013: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

So…this sort of died a slow death when school started back up.

The challenge was to read all these books within 2013, and it’s now just over a year since I began it. Whoops. But I still intend on finishing, as it’s good for me to read outside my comfort zone. I just won’t put a time limit on it.

The Actual “Review” (Scare quotes because I was too overcome to actually come up with a cogent review)

“I liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories. They were better than that. They just were.” -page 53

The Ocean at the End of the Lane just is. Beautifully.

Lush, mythic, gorgeous. Haunting. Memorable.

So, so, incredibly lovely.

It was only a duck pond, out at the back of the farm. It wasn’t very big. Lettie Hempstock said it was an ocean, but I knew that was silly. She said they’d come here from across the ocean from the old country. Her mother said that Lettie didn’t remember properly, and it was a long time ago, and anyway, the old country had sunk. Old Mrs. Hempstock, Lettie’s grandmother, said they were both wrong, and that the place that had sunk wasn’t the really old country. She said she could remember the really old country. She said the really old country had blown up.

 

Where Did the Novel Go?

 I Didn’t Abandon Princess

It’s still there, I promise. And soon I will get around to editing the side bars. But I will admit to not doing a lot with it, mostly because by the time I’m done with classes and homework my “producing” abilities are severely compromise, and soon I am too burnt out to do anything but consume (books, some TV, food) and sleep.

But rather than simply not blog at all, I’ve been experimenting with some new things. Like the Black Swans series, which I will continue (but slowly, because that actually involves some research and writing of coherent sentences). Also like book reviews.

I’m not planning on turning this into a review blog, but there will be more reviews coming. Mostly because they’re helpful to me, as a writer.

Reviews are a Teaching Tool

Reviews lead me to read critically, and to think about books critically. And that is something that is vitally important to improving my writing. Reviewing books allows me to see what works and what doesn’t, what plot devices feel fresh or overused, what dialogue sounds natural and engaging….etc. etc. etc. until the cows come home -there is so much to be learned!

Also, reading is fun.

The Friendly Bit

So, anyone else review the books they read? Why/why not? If you’re a writer, do you find it helps your writing?

The Dominance of the Alpha-Male

Okay so Monday I totally derailed my own post. What did I mean to talk about? Alpha males in fiction. Right. Let’s do that. [EDIT: I sort of derailed this one too, with pictures.]

I feel like in a lot of the romance I’ve read lately, the love interest is a big, strong, muscular, ‘hot’, manly man. And he’s got the personality to match — conceited, overprotective, needs to be in charge, I could go on. If it’s a paranormal, often he’s a werewolf or other shifter. And if he is, he’s always the alpha.

God forbid any woman fall in love with the beta of the back. Or just a regular member.

Here’s the thing – I get that alpha males are the fantasy of many in the female population (and probably some in the male population too – I should be inclusive). But I don’t like them.

I don’t find them attractive. Well, sometimes I do, but my tastes usually run to the more…bookish types. Or the charming ones. I certainly don’t enjoy the kind of personality their fictional counterparts usually possess. (And yes, I know some of it is distortion because you’re viewing them through the eyes of another character BUT STILL.)

Here are some manly men:

Here are some men who are more my type (and yes I am aware some of them are gay, this is one of my problems):


(Bonus: these two sing). (Also Matthew Gray Gubler IS HOLDING A PUPPY)

Also like 90% of the guys on this woefully incomplete list

So what about me? What about the girls who don’t want an alpha male, a hyper-manly man? (Manly in the stereotypical sense. Yes, problematic gender norm things, but this post isn’t about that.)

Are there any books where the female protagonist falls in love with a werewolf who loves the opera? Or a man who isn’t super ripped, and instead likes to read? I’ve seen a few, but usually the guys are  still also super possessive and annoying. And yes, books need conflict, and having the super possessive guy annoy the female until she discovers that really she loves him and he’s just trying to keep her safe seems to be a popular one. But there are other kinds of conflict.

I JUST WANT A NERD BOY ROMANCE. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?

So, my dear readers, I ask for your help. (If you are willing and able). Are there paranormal romance books, or SFF books with a romantic subplot, that feature ‘nerdy’ love interests? Or — let’s go crazy — even romances with no speculative element whatsoever? They must exist, and I just haven’t found them yet.

Otherwise I’ll have to write one myself.