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[personal profile] justira
All the Birds in the Sky cover

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.

But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together--to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.

Friends! What do you do when you deeply want to like a book and you just can't? Well, I suppose you take out all your feels in a review. Fair warning, this review discusses abuse, and, after a while and a marked cut, spoilers.

All the Birds in the Sky is a book about tropes, which is not surprising coming from the former editor in chief of io9. As the Tor.com review puts it, "it’s also a book about 'these sorts of stories' and genre fiction, though less directly." It's a blend of sci fi and fantasy tropes, and of tropes about the two coming together. Sci fi + fantasy is my stop — it's what I write myself, and I was very excited to see a mainstream book that mixed the genres. However, I ended up not really liking the execution. Patricia, a cis woman, represents magic/nature and is a witch. Laurence, a cis man, represents technology and science and is an engineering genius. Wired says that Charlie Jane Anders "worried a lot about playing into expectations", and in many ways I feel she was right to worry. The setup is not just classic, it's classical, drawing on the oldest associations of the masculine and the feminine in our culture. But as I said, this is a book about tropes — and about playing with them. The whole thing has a punchline that subverts many of the tropes that had been in play up to that point, but I'll discuss that after the spoiler cut. First, I want to talk about some things about the book that I liked!

Positive stuff! )

With slightly less enthusiasm I can also recommend the writing, which was by and large smooth with a surprisingly effective image or two scattered here and them like gems. I want to pull out a piece that worked for me and shows many of the themes of the book:
But maybe Laurence had been right and these devices were what made us unique, as humans. We made machines, the way spiders made silk. Staring at the red wasp-shaped chassis, she thought of how disgusted she had been with Laurence, not long ago. And maybe she shouldn't judge him — judging was a kind of Aggrandizement — and maybe this device was a culmination of everything she'd always admired about him from the start. And, yes, a sign that they'd both won out, over the Mr. Roses of the world.

"It's beautiful," she said.
p.151-152

In some places, it really works.

It's just that things get a bit tonally weird at various points, and this is where we transition to some talk about abuse and personal reactions.

Abuse and Personal Reactions )

Now, on to the spoilers!

Spoilers below )

Notes

  1. This is not to say I think the book overall reads like YA, because (a) it doesn't and (b) "this should be in the YA section" is often lobbed at women and is a form of gatekeeping, preventing women's stories from joining mainstream SFF adult literature and harking back to how women are seen as more juvenile and called by juvenile names. No thank you. (back to text)

  2. Not that there is anything wrong with heterosexuality and living the stereotype. I had a long talk with [personal profile] renay about this, and it's not that people who live like this have anything wrong with them or that Charlie Jane Anders is obligated to challenged gender norms at every turn on top of all the other risky work she's doing. There is something wrong with heteronormativity and gender norms, but nothing wrong with living agency-filled lives that embody the tropes. This post by bikiniarmorbattledamage outlines the difference between agency and sexism. The thing is, these are all fictional characters created by Charlie Jane Anders, and all the choices they make are ones she wrote for them. (back to text)




Supplementary Material
Renay on All the Birds in the Sky in her Lets Get Literate Column
Renay on All the Birds in the Sky in our Favorite Media of January 2016 roundup


Other Reviews
The Book Smugglers; see especially Ana's discussion of how this book busts down male privilege
Tor.com
SF Reviews
Locus
Journal Sentinel
The Amazon Book Review, with Interview with Charlie Jane Anders
SF Bluestocking
Civilian Reader
Wired
SF Signal
Page to Stage
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[personal profile] bookgazing
Red, white and blue Short Business logo


When it comes to Kameron Hurley's work I've lost it; I'm a fully fledged fangirl and a fool for her words. I signed up for her newsletter and I actually read it—that's how deep I'm in.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
Ah, the familiar tones of the gender debate coming again from SF fandom. Recently, I wrote about the cultural pressure to read white men. In the midst of this, two white men were proving my point about how this cycle continues. They're rolling in dollars so they probably don't care much that they've done so. Money must be so freeing.

Then Liz Bourke burst onto the scene with Conversations Founded On False Assumptions. It's insightful and notes how the conversation keeps being turned to "where are the women writers?" when they've been here the whole time. This goes back to that cultural pressure to read men I mentioned which can come in the form of other fans, aggressive marketing, inequality in publicity, and as always, the problematic construction of a thing the Internet loves: a rec list. Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Cover at for PS Be Eleven by Rita-Williams Garcia, showing three black girls skipping rope on a city street, wearing 1960s style bell-bottom jeans


After spending the summer in Oakland with their mother and the Black Panthers, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern arrive home with a newfound streak of independence, and the sisters aren't the only ones who have changed. Now Pa has a girlfriend. Uncle Darnell returns from Vietnam a different man. But Big Ma still expects Delphine to keep her sisters in line. That's much harder now that Vonetta and Fern refuse to be bossed around. Besides her sisters, Delphine's got plenty of other things to worry about-like starting sixth grade, being the tallest girl in her class, and dreading the upcoming school dance (her first). The one person she confides in is her mother, Cecile. Through letters, Delphine pours her heart out and receives some constant advice: to be eleven while she can.

Jodie: Even though we didn't co-review One Crazy Summer I think we're united in our feelings about Rita Williams-Garcia's first Gaither Sisters book. Loved, loved, loved it! You recently said 'it's a story that makes room for several simultaneous truths', and the way the book validated both Delphine and Cecile's feelings absolutely swept me away.

Did you have any particular hopes, dreams and expectations going into the sequel, P.S. Be Eleven because of the way One Crazy Summer developed? Moar words )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Today we're beyond excited to welcome Kameron Hurley, author of The Bel Dame Apocraphya series, to Lady Business. This is not a drill!

Kameron's non-fiction work about writing, gender and SFF has won her hearts, minds, and two Hugo awards this year. She is a fire-breathing feminist, a writerly icon, and creator of one of the toughest ladies in fiction. It's a blogging highlight for us to be hosting her words.





Someone once asked me why "alpha males" were so popular in so much romantic speculative fiction, and I hesitated to answer it. Not because I didn't know, but because I knew I was going to have to have a discussion about teasing out the difference between finding pleasure in something you genuinely find pleasurable and taking pleasure in something you think you're supposed to find pleasurable. This is a tough question for anyone who's taken it up — do you truly delight in displaying certain types of behavior, or receiving certain behaviors from others, or are you just taught you're supposed to like it, so convince yourself it's great? Read more... )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
ariel view of red and white spaceships hovering above a landing pad which is above a planet with craters


On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren--a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose--to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.


Spoilers and Spaceships )

Other Reviews

RenayAlex Dally Macfarlane
Rose Fox
Cheryl Morgan
Liz Bourke
Kameron Hurley
Foz Meadows
The Literary Omnivore
Yours?
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[personal profile] helloladies
Lady Business+ cover art


Episode #7 — Courtney Schafer and Fandom


Grab your charms, your cloaks, and your protection against evil mages and join Renay and Courtney Schafer — author of the adventure fantasy The Whitefire Crossing and its sequel, The Tainted City — as they discuss science fiction and fantasy, genre divides, gender parity, conventions, favorite authors, terrifying mountain trips, and a little fandom history. Download the episode for terrifying anecdotes about eating bugs and deadly falling rocks.

Disclaimer and warning: this episode was recorded five thousand years ago in Internet time and both of us were suffering from the plague.

Follow us on twitter, tumblr, via RSS, or subscribe via iTunes.

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[personal profile] helloladies
Parks and Recreation full cast

"Parks and Recreation", the mockumentary-style adventures of Leslie Knope and the rest of the Pawnee Parks Department, was definitely my favourite TV discovery of 2013. Getting acquainted with these characters over the course of five seasons was a complete delight, and it made me incredibly happy to see Jodie fall for the series as hard as I did. So we're here today to share with you our many, many words of joyful squeeing about everything that makes "Parks and Recreation" so great: the characters, the diversity of the assemble cast (still so rare for a major hit series), and of course the wonderful humour. Along the way we also consider the moments in which "Parks and Rec" defaulted to tired narrative tropes we'd prefer to see gone.

I hope you'll join us for this shameless torrent of words, though those of you who have yet to watch the series should be warned that there will be lots of spoilers. )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Lady Business is excited to present a guest post about Pacific Rim - one of the best films to come out of that whole sticky, summer blockbuster season- from chaila of underline everything. We're fairly confident that this post will leave you groaning about the DVD release date. Whhhy isn't it here yet?


I did not expect to love Pacific Rim, and I certainly did not expect to be bribing Jodie to ask me to do a guest post about feminist themes in Pacific Rim (this is my recollection and I’m sticking to it). I don’t usually like summer blockbusters. I do always like Idris Elba (maybe this is the time to declare my biases; if Idris Elba is in a thing, I will be interested in that thing), but I wasn’t even convinced I would see it. Then I happened to hear the director, Guillermo del Toro, talking about the movie on the radio and he made me want to like it. It seemed like more thought had been put into this movie than is usually put into summer blockbusters and I really liked the idea of original genre film trying to do a little bit better.

Spoilers: robots punch sea monsters! But this post is not very much about that )

Other reviews I liked

Pacific Rim: And why this may be the most important film you see this summer (at Gray-Eyed Filmdom on Tumblr)

Mako Mori and the Hero’s Journey (at Hello, tailor.)

The Visual Intelligence of Pacific Rim (at Storming the Ivory Tower)
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[personal profile] helloladies
Like last year’s study, Coverage of Women in SF/F blogs (2012) has generated a range of reactions. Much has been reasoned, and we’re grateful to everyone who took the time to look closely at the data. However, some responses have been, well…interesting. Oh internet, you all know what 'interesting' means in the context of discussions about gender, right?

Luckily, because we’re bloggers, we have our own space where we can deconstruct that kind of response. And that’s what we propose to do below: each of us will be taking apart particular reactions and trying to explain just why we found them suspect by examining the language used or the critical ideas expressed about our data. Since the 101 derailing nature of these reactions made us angry, we’re just going to let that anger roar in places, while simultaneously producing a clear outline of just why we are angry and how several respondents to our study hope to misrepresent our findings.
Read more... )

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