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[personal profile] renay
On one hand, I can't believe I let Ira suck me into the shitshow about three dudes who really hate themselves. On the other hand, I'm wondering why it took so long, because I'm weak, and also Misha Collins. Seriously, I love that guy. What an asshole.

I've spent May and June in a constant haze of Supernatural feelings: screeching, whimpering, and sobbing at my television. Suffice it to say my plans for getting all my Hugo reading done in these two month have been blammo'ed to Jupiter. But it never hurts to stop and reflect back on all your terrible life choices. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
In the days leading up to this event, I spent my time either a) packing, b) working or c) reading all the books in the Old Man's War series, so assume mostly C. The series was just as good as I remember. I've changed as a reader a lot so I could see some of the man behind the curtain, but I also think that can be chalked up to Scalzi learning more about how to build stories since the first book was written. I so rarely followed professional authors before the late aughts that it's weird doing it now and seeing the progression of the artist. The reread was fun, I'm totally stoked to read my copy of The Human Division once my Hugo reading is done, I'm excited about the next installment, and left the event (shaking like a squirrel-addled poplar tree alksjdlkjasd) remembering just what John Scalzi means to me as a creator. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back! Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
If you would like a fiery discussion about the Hugos, please see my tag on pinboard, containing all the passionate Hugo discourse you've ever wanted! Here, instead, I want to talk about my perspective as a new fan to this process. I'm almost tempted to not count my participation last year, because I missed all the verbal fireworks due to other professional obligations. This year has been a different matter. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
Today I am over at Fantasy Cafe, taking part in Kristen's Women in SF&F Month. Seriously, look at this line up:

My post is here and includes LIST MAKING, featuring: LADIES. I know I love a good list and I'm not alone, so you can just skip the tl;dr and feels if you want, scroll to the bottom and click the link for recommending ten of your favorite SF/F books by ladies. :D (I also wouldn't scoff at a signal boost, let's say. If by "wouldn't scoff" we mean "jump for joy", that is.)

(Seriously, list making. Why so addicting?)

eta: if you are the tumbling sort, the post is also here
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
[personal profile] renay
When I sat down to reflect over my reading in 2012, I suspected that I would be disappointed. I had so many reading goals and wishes that didn't come to fruition. I had a lot of complicated events happen to me in 2012; returning to work, family issues, a complicated relationship with the OTW that I didn't expect, and the myriad of things that happen when you reach "adulthood" that tangle around you and leave you with no space to fit other stories besides the ones you're trying to live through.

However, even with all the things that happened, I am proud of what I managed to achieve with my reading. Coming off my degree program (and very little reading at all for pleasure), I was lucky enough to have the time to read some excellent books and to get back into the swing of reading as pastime. So often in my degree program I had to read and move on to the next book/essay and topic with only mild reflection, usually for discussion or essay points. The fact I could reflect over something was novel, and I got carried away a bit, and perhaps reflected too long instead of giving in and picking up another book. That's something to think about for 2013.

The following is a list of my favorite books of 2012. This is not a favorites list compiled of recent releases. I've faced it; I'm never going to be that reader who consumes brand new novels as they roll onto shelves. I'll be pleased to get to the majority "best of" 2012 books by 2014. This is what I read this year and loved, regardless of publishing date.

Most of these will be reviewed in the new year, after I am done recovering from the plague and can focus again. :P (Stupid plague.)

collage of Renay's best of 2012 titles

Kraken by China Miéville: Including this novel is cheating, as I read the majority of it during 2011 during my holiday break and on the cusp of the new year. I'm still conflicted over it (so many feelings) but when I sat down to think of what books challenged me, my literary perspective, and my patience (in both bad and good ways), and books that stuck and I was unable to get out from under all the way, Kraken tops the list. A story about faith, secret cults, the desire to live, and a city brought to life in the most fantastical ways, I'm not sure how it could have been more fun (well, except for the spoiler I spend time lamenting in my review). My internal feud with China Miéville and our disagreement over the phrase "acceptable loss" begins with Kraken. I'm watching you, Miéville.

Chime by Franny Billingsley: I admit I was skeptical about this title going in, even though multiple people I trust said it was definitely worth it. Turns out they weren't wrong, as this story of Briony's struggle with self-blame, depression, family and love was a startling surprise. It would be easy to believe that some of the things Billingsley does in this novel were simple to construct and show, but everything is so carefully placed — and one might argue, also obvious, even though that's not the point of the narrative — that it belies the care and depth with with Briony's struggles are portrayed to us. Chime is a beautiful novel, teeming with magic, and well worth reading.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvatar: I had never read Stiefvatar before The Scorpio Races. I missed out on the fairy novels, and skipped the wolves because of associated hype and comparisons (not sure I'm ready to challenge those comparisons yet). I also would have skipped this due to the fact that I watched Stiefvatar say problematic things about professional objective credibility and review style around the time I read it. This was definitely the case of me deciding not to judge the art by the opinions of the artist because of a post Ana made about this topic. I am very happy I let Ana's post calm me down, because later when I stumbled across this title on the shelf at the library I gave it a chance and found within a gorgeous, layered tale of privilege, survival, and a narrative of growing up into a world that's not made for you and that you're in constant conflict with. Even with certain benefits, those don't make it any easier, just different. It's a romance, yes, but also a story about the love we share even when we can't communicate it in "normal" ways.

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes: Out of all the characters I met this year, Zinzi December still fascinates me the most. Looking back, Zoo City feels like a criticism on the propensity of our culture to sort people into harmful categories and in doing so, write them off as people, period. Being less politically-minded about the South African culture contained within this novel, I know there's many undertones I missed, but I look forward to that day when I can reread it and learn more — both about Zinzi as a character and about the world she inhabits for lack of other chances. Also, as a bonus, it reminds me of Ghost, starring Patrick Swayze, and the narrative does a similar thing that is both brilliant and blood-curdling, because I can remember as a child being terrified. It's been such a long time since I book took me back to that place. This book is an urban fantasy crime thriller with philosophy at its core and I wish everyone (EVERYONE!) would read it.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvatar: It may be weird that Stiefvatar appears on my best-of list twice. I couldn't help it; it was unavoidable. I loved every moment of The Raven Boys, from Blue and her unruly and nontraditional family to the family that Gansey chooses to surround himself with (my favorite trope!) and protect while he searches for a lost king. The main conceit that all the blurbs use undersell this novel. I don't think Blue's true love, or her potential first kiss, or even the fact that Blue suddenly sees spirits after years of the lack of the ability is as central to the narrative of this book as it likes to think it is (maybe later books in the series?). In fact, I find it's mostly used in the opposite way it comes across in the beginning. The Raven Boys is a story about boys that Blue loves, yes, but not in the way it teases you to believe. Blue's journey with Gansy is illuminating, thoughtful, and heartbreaking and the end will make you want to go back and start all over from the beginning. ♥

The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin: For many, their introduction to N.K. Jeminsin was with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms which I have not yet read (even though I have owned it for over a year). This, however, was mine, and placed Jemisin on my "WTAF ARE YOU WAITING FOR" list. A gorgeous story of two sister cities at odds, priests who stalk the night and judge the corrupt in the name of a goddess of dreams, and the way dreams themselves can undo us if we choose to treat them as an acceptable reality, I was hooked from the beginning. Little kidding: I was so intrigued that instead of putting the book down (which I often do with fantasy when I get lost amid names and places I have no previous context for) I put down roots and grabbed a notebook to takes notes with and shoved my way through the first 150 pages and kept right on sailing when I stopped stumbling over the intricate and thorough worldbuilding. This doesn't reflect badly on the book, but instead on me as a fantasy reader — I'm woefully out of practice, but this book was worth the extra effort for me and I'm so pleased I didn't give up. I would have missed out.

Total: 40
Novels: 22 (55%)
Short Story Collections and Anthologies: 1 (2.5% — oops)
Manga: 16 (40%)
Nonfiction: 1 (2.5% — I really want to do better here next year)
Classics: 1 (2.5% — I've faced it. This will always be low unless someone co-reads something with me.)
Fantasy: 15 (37.5%)
Science fiction: 6 (15%)
Young adult: 8 (20%)
Middle grade: 1 (2.5%)
Short fiction / Novellas: 0 (sjdakshdasd this was a goal for 2012! Ultimate fail.)
By women: 17 (42.5% — and, much like Ana, and I not at all ashamed of the lack of gender parity in my reading for the same reasons she cited and also my own.)
By men: 6 (15%)
Re-reads: 11 (27.5%)
By new to me authors: 17 (42.5%)
Favorite authors discovered this year: Lauren Beukes, N.K. Jemisin
Least favorite book of the year: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman, or as I like to call it, ~ENERGY DRAGONS~: A Study in Cultural Appropriation by a White Lady
Best reading month: January. I read seven books this month. New year is good for something!
Worst reading month: March and December, with one book apiece. I can't explain March, but December makes 100% sense. I work retail, December is hell. It's impossible to concentrate on reading when you spend your days seeing humans treat each other like animals and service people even worse. You don't want to be around anyone, not even fictional people.

My full reading list is available here in super geeky glory.

My goals for next year are to read more widely and in places I might not necessarily have gone before. I want to read more older science fiction and fantasy (I've had my eye on the Hugo lists pre-1980s, for example). I want to pick up more nonfiction, even if I don't end up reviewing it. I want to catch up on One Piece (OMG One Piece, you are probably a zillion volumes by now). I am considering spending some time on Homestuck, now that I understand (sort of) how it's meant to work. I want to try more literary science fiction and fantasy — the pieces that get fancy covers with no hint of magic or rockets and featured on morning shows. Also, I have a hankering to read more about film and the way things are shot, too, so I can spend more time discussing movies and television with Jodie and understand more things Clare posts. And, as always, I want to read more women in every single genre. However, this year I am going to focus heavily on science fiction, because I love science fiction the most. I think making a point to pick up one science fiction novel by a woman each month is doable, since I can slide it into other goals.

In closing, Ana and Jodie both have posts up at 2012: The Year in Review and Top 20 for 2012 and they both read a lot of great, fascinating things, too. I dare you to read their posts and not add something to your to-read list.

Until next December! \o/
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
[personal profile] renay
Today I am over at The Book Smugglers, who have graciously provided me a soapbox to shake my virtual pom-poms over participation in the Hugo Awards on. Although, let's be honest, it's a little self-serving. Last year I did it by myself and it wasn't as fun/was pretty overwhelming and confusing. *g* Goal: ADD MY FRIENDS and be in it together. :D

Check it out and then check out all the other awesome posts Ana and Thea have organized via their Smugglivus tag. And if you get a hankering to buy a Supporting membership, let me know so we can be Hugo pals. :D
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[personal profile] renay
Cover of Where Things Come Back

I live in a very small city an hour and a half away from Memphis in northeast Arkansas. When I first moved here to go to college, I was really surprised at the lack of author events that weren't a) crime writers, b) cookbook writers or c) people writing specifically about the delta, especially given the state university. Maybe I shouldn't have been, though: author events are expensive and it's a widely known fact people in Arkansas don't read for fun (okay, maybe I am slightly bitter). All in all, I've come to terms with the lack of literary culture. That's why I was surprised to learn from my local YA librarian (who is, by the way, completely awesome) that John Corey Whaley, whose book was the most recent recepient of the Printz Award, was coming to our library. I was excessively thrilled because it's no secret I have Feelings About the Printz Award and Feelings About Southern Literature and Feelings About How Arkansas is Presented in Culture By People Who Mean Well But Often Screw It Up Oh God My Eyes. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
So, fanfiction.

Back in 2007 when I started blogging about books and interacting with the wider community and book fandom, I became really, painfully aware of how divided my new fandom (talking about books) and my old fandom (writing fic and making art about books and other media) were from each other. I never really figured out how to deal with the space between them. I tried to separate my identities — I had several book blogs — but it would never stick because the fanfiction side of me couldn't be divided out from the part of me that loved books. I love stories and fanfiction is just another type of story. It's not less than, it's not even a competition — it's a shared experience of a source. If reviews are a type of feedback then fanfiction is simply another, but instead of answering the question "Should I read this?" it answers the question "What happens next?" I don't really use reviews that way anymore. I know what I like by now: I want to go deeper than that.

I am often much more interested in the latter question.

It's March, so it's time for The Organization for Transformative Works to have the first of their two drives, encouraging members to support the OTW for the work it does; I already wrote about this and how it's important to me personally. Every drive always makes me reflect back on my past as a fan and as a consumer of stories and to search out what other people who have walked the same roads of similar stories are doing, where our shared experience of a book took them, and did they write about it so I can go with them? More and more as the years go by, that answer is yes, and I dream of a world where fanfiction is not a confusing practice, an illegitimate hobby, a shameful act. Because really, lots of things are essentially fanfiction, and what fandom and fanfic is right now is simply another evolution of it, fueled by the internet and a culture that wants to see certain stories, can't find them elsewhere, and so they make them themselves. Every piece of fanfiction I have written was because I asked "What happens next?" and knew that if I didn't answer it, I would never know.

I do like to know things.

Most of all, throughout my childhood I was told by male guidance counselors and teachers and guardians: don't write those things. Don't waste your time. That's never going to net you a career. You can't be successful writing stories. When I found fandom, I found a culture of women that said: write! Everything you write is worth something, even if it's bad. It doesn't matter if you make a career out of it if you love to do it, and if you love to do it you probably can be successful at it. The message was so different that I stepped into fandom and never left. I didn't do much creative writing outside of classes, because I had fandom. And maybe one day I'll go on to try and write a short story or a novel and maybe I won't. Either way is okay, because I love the writing I do and I love that I have the chance to share stories with people, even if I'm not the creator of those stories.

This influences my book blogging. I am more likely to financially support an author if they allow fanfic and more likely to not financially support an author if they write screeds and threaten their fans and call us names and accuse of theft and suggest all fanfiction amounts to is training wheels. At an author event [personal profile] owlmoose once attended, the author she was there to see, Naomi Novik (and one of the founders of the OTW) said the following (paraphrased, of course):

Thompson (who has clearly never been involved in fandom) brought up the old "training wheels" analogy (paraphrased, the idea that writing fanfic is a way of getting started in writing, because you have the world and the characters as training wheels, but eventually you get tired of it and want to ride the bike on your own), but Novik disagreed with him. First she pointed out that there are plenty of people who are happy to only ever write fanfic and have no need to turn pro, or write origfic. Then she made another analogy: she said it's like playing music. You start out playing music written by other people, then you start making jazz riffs, and then maybe you move on to your own original compositions, but that doesn't mean it's not fun to play covers sometimes.

I can only hope we're moving toward a world where we're as legitimate as book reviewers are. I dream of that world where fanfiction writers are treated with the same respect by the authors and publishers, who so love all the free advertising that reviewers provide them and extend that respect to the world of mouth advertising and the financial support we offer by buying copies of books, sometimes multiple copies, for friends so they'll come be excited with us and write lots of stories (porn optional). I don't think that world is as far away as it was in 2007 and I will never stop hoping for it.

To close, a short introduction to some fanfiction, featuring some of my favorite books:


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