Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood

August 6, 2011

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – a decision

Filed under: meta,rereading — Tags: , , — Sam @ 11:06 am

Life has caught up with me, and I’m not going to be able to finish the project. I was initially leaving it for a few weeks, to make sure there was a decent gap between the “official” Fae Awareness Month posts and the continuation, but then of course that stretched, and since I’ve also been spending my time looking after a partner who’s been going through an ME flare-up I’ve had no energy left to write with. I decided that if I hadn’t managed to start again on the project by the beginning of August, then realistically I wouldn’t manage it at all.

I hope I’ll get back to it eventually, because it’s a book I utterly love, but it’s not like it’s going anywhere.

If you’ve been waiting for more, then please accept my apologies, and if you can keep reading without me then please let me know how you get on!

May 9, 2011


Filed under: meta,signal amp — Sam @ 1:25 pm

My essay “The Time-Binding of Nostalgia” has been reprinted over at Starship Reckless, with added images and an afterword by Athena Andreadis, and with some interesting discussion in the comments.

I’m very grateful to Athena for this, and I expect to be even more so when “Privilege & Fantasy” goes up soon—keep an eye on her blog for that! In fact, I wholeheartedly recommend it in any case.

March 8, 2011

How disability affects me as a reviewer

Filed under: meta — Tags: — Sam @ 6:21 pm

This isn’t universal, of course; other people will have completely different approaches. It’s also not comprehensive, because the nature of mental health issues (I have chronic depression and an anxiety disorder) is that they affect us differently in different situations. I owe a couple of you emails; this isn’t meant as a coded note to you, just some general observations.

1. I do this as a hobby. I do not take on obligations, beyond a few short-range projects now and again, and I don’t do schedules.

2. Because of this, I’m not bribable. (Well, not so far, anyway. You’re welcome to try; I recommend single malt Scotch, 85%+ dark chocolate, and really good books.) If you’re giving away free stuff, that’s great, but I won’t feel obliged. If you’re offering free stuff under an explicit contract (eg. a book embargo) then that’s fine, and I’ll decide on a case-by-case basis whether to take it or not. Free books don’t count as a bribe, because the time I spend reading and quite likely reviewing it is worth more to me than the book was to you.

3. I’m much more likely to read-and-review a physical book than an ebook; I’ll get through it more quickly, I’ll be able to flip back and forth to check things, and I don’t have to faff around with software & file transfers. I don’t do DRM-protected ebooks; it’s too much faff to deal with the special software, even if they don’t have the repellent “deletes itself after a few weeks” feature that I found on some e-ARCs I was given.

4. I don’t keep a shit list, but I do keep a spoons list. (If you’re not familiar with spoon terminology, read this before continuing.) I genuinely like hearing from people—readers, publishers, critics, reviewers, bloggers, authors, artists—but approaching people I don’t already know quite well is always difficult, so please don’t mistake it for standoffishness. If interacting with you uses up spoons, then I’m only going to do it if I have a lot of energy to spare, or there’s something quite big in it for me.

Everyone starts at around zero on the spoons list; you can move up it by wanting me to come to you, spamming me, making information hard to find, being unfriendly or ignoring my emails, or acting as though the interaction between us is much more beneficial to me than to you. Just because you’re high on the spoons list doesn’t mean I don’t like or admire you, only that interacting with you (debating, reading your books, reviewing your books, helping you with projects, or just chatting) takes a lot of energy.

You can move down it, on the other hand, by being proactive, being friendly (genuinely friendly, that is; if you don’t feel it, don’t fake it, because we can tell), making it easy for me to find the information I need, and being concerned with what we can do for each other rather than what I can do for you.

Do other disabled reviewers have similar issues? Any others that are different to mine?

February 28, 2011


Filed under: meta — Sam @ 10:18 pm

Absolutely no-one has pointed out to me that I spelt the name of one of the critics in my post on Literariness and Science-Fictionality. They are of course two of the theatre critics from Tom Stoppard’s play The Real Inspector Hound, and I should have written about Birdbolt and Moan.

Mea culpa!

January 22, 2011

Free online fiction

Filed under: meta — Sam @ 7:55 pm

I’ve begun a wiki page here (and linked in the sidebar) with a collection of the free fiction I’ve come across or been shown. Mostly they’re from authors, publishers, or regular zines, but some is out-of-copyright material.

This isn’t intended to be authoritative or complete, but since it’s a wiki you’re welcome to help in making it so. I reserve all the normal rights of wiki administrators, including the right to delete links to anything racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive and without some definite redeeming merit.

Mostly, though, it’s just a collection of fiction I liked and will want to find again, and that I think you’ll like too. If I’ve forgotten someone, please add her in; if you don’t want to deal with wiki markup, leave a comment here.

December 10, 2010

Best of 2010, and Christmas Giveaway – Erekos by AM Tuomala

Filed under: meta — Tags: , , , , — Sam @ 1:49 pm

Now closed! Congratulations, Penelope Friday!

This year’s Best Of post is early, because I’ve managed to arrange a special treat for you! But first, the results. I’ve read enough Really Good Books this year that I’m splitting the nomination in two, for Best From Large Publisher and Best From Small Publisher. (Er, that’s “large” as SF&F imprints go, which is not “large” in absolute terms.) NB: I’m including self-published pieces, and pieces only published on the web, under “small publisher”. Any suggestions for a better name for the category gratefully received!

Out of all the good books from large publishers, Catherynne M Valente’s The Habitation of the Blessed utterly blew me away, and sails away with the nomination to some fantastical shore. In second place, if I were awarding second prizes, we have The Meat Tree, a re-envisioning of the story of Blodeuwedd by Gwyneth Lewis.
Honourable mentions also go to Pennterra by Judith Moffett, and to Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey.

I’ve read fewer from small publishers this year, and that’s something I want to remedy in 2011. On the other hand, there have been a couple of books that were absolute standouts by any measure, and the winner is Erekos by AM Tuomala. Second prize would go to Akačehennyi on a Diet of Dreams, by Kayleigh Ayn Bohémier, a blog novel published by the author under a Creative Commons license.

Erekos cover

I liked Erekos so much, I want to share the love—and the publisher, Candlemark & Gleam, agree with me, so they’ve donated a copy for me to give away. It’s a digital-only book, and you’ll get your choice of either direct digital delivery (ePub, PDF, or mobi format) or a special gift package with all three formats on a CD, so you have something to put under the tree this Christmas. This is a worldwide offer, but if you choose the CD option we can’t guarantee getting it to you by Christmas unless you live in the US. We’ll try our best, though!

The competition will be open till midnight GMT on Wednesday 15th December, and all you have to do to enter is comment below and tell us who your favourite goddess is. Mythological or fictional, we don’t mind. You can also enter by Twitter, if you use the hashtag #erekos—please spread the word!

October 11, 2010

Meta, and the Wheel of Time

Filed under: meta,rereading — Tags: , , — Sam @ 5:55 pm

First – apologies to the lovely people who’ve left comments in the last week or two, because my mail client had started marking my notification emails as spam. I’ve had words with it, and I think I’ve caught all the comments now.

Second – I think I’m arguing myself into re-reading all the Wheel of Time books, and trying to give them a fairer shake of the whip. I don’t think any of the flaws I noticed the first and second times through are going to go away, though. Which is to say: unnecessarily prolix padding, no ability to control plot proliferation, far far too much Idiot Ball plotting, and a completely reductionist (not to say irredeemably binary, boringly naive, and inaccurate) approach to gender politics.

But Jordan’s been doing interestingly subversive things to the fantasy form, even if many of those have been done better by other people since he started, and he has been using some actual literary techniques, which puts him head and shoulders above most fantasy authors. Granted, they’re all still standing in a ditch compared to the best (Peake, Kay, Parker, Swanwick, VanderMeer, Vinge) but given Sturgeon’s Law that’s an unfair comparison. So it’s worth another look for me, at least.

May 21, 2010

Paradigmatic Fantasy

Filed under: meta — Tags: , , , , , — Sam @ 12:32 am

In the pub earlier, we were discussing Classic Fantasy: or, if we gave you £50 to spend on “the best” fantasy, what would you get?

I’m steadfastly against the notion of a canon, or at least of one core canon. Everyone brings different things to the genre, and everyone takes different things from it. So what I’m doing here is making a list of books that exemplify what I think fantasy is about. It will, of course, be a partial and a biased list, and I want to see other peoples’. I’ll do a parallel list for SF (qua SF) soon, too.

Lord of the Rings

This one’s an unquestioned pick for me. I’m not too fond of the hierarchies, the questionable racial stuff, and the inbuilt sexism, but the themes resonate far too strongly with me not to include.


Again, no possibility I could leave this off the list. It’s about identity, and place, and love, and pain, and the struggle to find yourself when the world denies you. (I did a set of re-read posts a while ago.)

The Curse of Chalion

Lois McMaster Bujold’s story of a curse, a series of betrayals, fidelity beyond death or all reason (the death is the easy part…), self-realization, the struggle to trust in the gods, and the reward of a home unlooked-for.

Tam Lin

Pamela Dean’s retelling of the Child Ballad, set in an American university in the 1970s. Scholarship, feminism, love, and friendship, in a novel which loves literature.

Bridge of Birds

Barry Hughart’s classic fantasy of a Middle Kingdom that never was. It’s quixotic, joyful, and life-affirming, with thrills, spills, and adventure galore.

I can think of a half-dozen others that might deserve a slot, and often for very good reasons—but I think those come more under personal touchstones, the books that shaped my perceptions of the genre, than classics.

February 13, 2010

Upcoming – Shadowrise

Filed under: meta — Tags: , — Sam @ 12:39 am

I’ve just received Chapter 18 of Shadowrise, by Tad Williams, in the mail, and it’s really rather good.

February 10, 2010

Quick links: whitewashing in YA fiction

Filed under: meta,sf — Tags: , , — Sam @ 9:27 pm

Two links for you – The narrative we’re told/sold over again by Chally at Feministe, and Kids of Color and the New American Whitewashing by Colleen Mondor at Bookslut.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress