Monday, August 31, 2015

Link Smorgasbord, August 2015

Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ Lands Series Greenlight at Starz
*Incoherent gibbering*

American Gods as a TV show has been a long running tease, one that I've both eagerly awaited and dreaded (the fear anyone faces when a favorite book is translated into a different medium).  But it looks like this is actually going forward, has a good level of communication with the original author, and is being done by a subscription network which generally results in more money on hand to throw at the show.

The Art of Weeding
We don't just buy books and put them on the shelves for you to borrow - we have to sometimes take them off the shelves.  There's often a lot of vilification after a library does a huge weeding project, regardless of the reasons (and there are sometimes very valid and pressing reasons that force a library to discard a large volume of its collection), but regular weeding is part of collection maintenance.  It helps us replace damaged books that we can't repair (or can't afford to repair), and allows us to free up space taken up by non-circulating (and sometimes hysterically out of date) materials and make room for incoming titles.  Actually, weeding has value even when we're talking about ebooks, but that's a different discussion.

The LibraryBox Project
I love this.  It's a little, low-cost, digital delivery system for off-the grid access.  Kind of like a digital Little Free Library.  Even better, they have instructions and downloads if you want to build your own.

What happened when we got subpoenaed over our Tor exit node
BoingBoing got subpoenaed over their Tor exit node.  Makes for an interesting read.

How long will it take to finish your TBR pile?
The problem isn't the number of items on my TBR pile, the problem is all the other books I read instead of attacking my TBR pile.

Top 10 literary hoaxes
Hoaxes, fraud, satire, and shenanigans.

27 Seriously Underrated Books Every Book Lover Should Read
I think calling the majority of the books on this list "underrated" is a bit of an overstatement.  Several of them show up across English curriculums and Summer Reading lists, and by and large they are not written by lesser known authors.  However, definitely a great reading list.

Book Display: Most Stolen Books
Frustrating source of inspiration - but I also like the idea.  The authorial trends are interesting.

Bodleian Library launches children’s imprint
Well now, consider me intrigued.

Bookish Business Card Designs

I know I've linked to a few of these before.  Still would love to have one of the library inspired designs for my own business cards.  Maybe someday when I'm a little more financially solvent.

Chain, Chest, Curse: Combating book theft in Medieval Times
Where libraries start to resemble torture chambers.

Old Man’s War, 10 Years On
Old Man's War is one of those books that I took way to long to get to reading.

A love letter to libraries
A beautiful love letter to libararies and librarians by Jenny Lawson (also known as The Bloggess)

Reading for pleasure builds empathy and improves wellbeing, research from The Reading Agency finds
Well, I guess its nice to have justification.

Cuts-hit Birmingham libraries ask public to donate books
Library budget problems in England.

Where Have All the Women Gone?
Guest post by Judith Tarr on the invisibility of women in SciFi.

Women in Science Fiction
Exactly what it sounds like - a site focusing on women who write Science Fiction, of whom there are quite a few.

The 23 Best Science Fiction Books by Female Authors
A few of my personal favorites don't make the list (though they do make the comments), and I guess there's always room for more titles on my TBR list.

ePub isn’t perfect—but look at the format mess at Amazon: Time for anti-trust action to get Amazon to do ePub?
The format issue is one of my various complaints against Amazon, regardless of how easy I find it to strip the DRM and change the format.  And since this article Authors United has actually started pushing towards anti-trust action.

ALA Calls for an End to Mandatory Filters
Since again and again we find that filters either block content they really shouldn't, or fail to block the intended content entirely.

Bookburners : Some Books Have Teeth (podcast)
This is just getting started, but has some incredible talent behind it.
There are age-old books, texts literally steeped in evil, the merest opening of which could spell humanity’s doom. All but forgotten throughout the world, these tomes have lain dormant… waiting… When an incident takes her brother, New York City cop Sal Brooks is thrust into the battle between nefarious forces trying to unleash this power onto the world and those trying to stop them. She joins Team Three of the Societas Librorum Occultorum, a clandestine order within the Vatican responsible for the safeguarding of these magical texts. Together they stand between humanity and magical apocalypse. Some call them the Bookburners. They don’t like the label.
SJ Games vs. the Secret Service
Not a new event at all, but something I had managed to not hear about before.  Hysterical and a bit disturbing.

Crowdfunding Is Driving A $196 Million Board Game Renaissance
Games is pretty much the only section of Kickstarter I flip through on an regular basis, I only wish there was a way to limit to physical vs digital games (and all the "help me build a computer" funding requests).  I don't back often, but I have definitely added to our already respectable board game collection by backing a handful of games.

Where to Start with the Works of James Tiptree, Jr.
I've come across this author several times this week alone, and now I'm wondering how the hell I've never heard of her before.

Why It’s Difficult For Your Library to Lend Ebooks
Happy to see this article, I was involved in the MA pilot program discussed.

Pilot schemes to give all children automatic library membership
"Schemes" always seems a bit insidious to me, but talk about putting weight behind the importance of the library in life and development.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Hobbit : An Expected Journey - Chapter 1

So starts the group read through of The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.  I'm blessed with owning the Alan Lee illustrated sets of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, so I'll be pulling from his gorgeous work in these posts.

There is something just welcoming and magical about the opening of The Hobbit.  The language manages to be both simple and rich, the words familiar and warm.  Tolkien gives us several pages of setting and exposition before the first words spoken, teasing us along until he delivers us at Bilbo's doorstep with Gandalf.

And this whole opening is what Peter Jackson got so right in his film adaptation.  The familiar words honestly made me tear up.  We already knew that Ian McKellen was an amazing personification of Gandalf, but Martin Freeman became Bilbo Baggins.  Jackson even took a band of barely discernable dwarves and turned them into distinct individuals.  I wonder how much some of the changes Jackson decided to make would have caused outraged had he not hit exactly the right notes at the beginning.

I often have difficulty with music/poetry in stories, and when I was little, I definitely just skipped over the songs.  What Tolkien did so well however was to give us songs that are polished and solidly connected to the story itself.  The songs themselves work as spoken-word, which lends itself well to reading out loud.

Chapter one clearly informs us that there is evil and darkness in the world, creeping dangers beyond that of a conquering dragon who has laid claim to an ancestral kingdom.  We learn of wars, of dungeons, of madness, and Necromancers.

For me, The Hobbit, is not a book that belongs categorized specifically as a children's or an adult's book, it bridges across the age groups.  It's a delightful fantasy read, and chapter one sets the stage for the entire story.  Young readers may have been the intended audience, but the story assumes that the readers are curious and inquisitive, providing details beyond the immediate concerns.

The readers, child or adult, are sharing Bilbo's experience.  We're drawn out of our normal, everyday life, into a perilous adventure from which we may not return.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Hobbit : An Expected Journey

Today starts a long-term reading project focusing on Tolkien's work.  I'm joining various folks in a one chapter a week read through, starting with The Hobbit, going through the Lord of the Rings, likely dabbling in some of the other assorted works, and ultimately getting through The Silmarillion.

We'll be reading and discussing the chapters, as well as sharing various Middle Earth resources, treating it as a study of Middle Earth itself.  It's a very long-term project, but one that doesn't impose a heavy burden while participating.  Should be fun.

If you want to join us, we can be found over on BookLikes


The Hobbit
Chapter 1 - An Unexpected Party
Chapter 2 - Roast Mutton
Chapter 3 - A Short Rest
Chapter 4 - Over Hill and Under Hill
Chapter 5 - Riddles in the Dark
Chapter 6 - Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire
Chapter 7 - Queer Lodgings
Chapter 8 - Flies and Spiders
Chapter 9 - Barrels Out of Bond
Chapter 10 - A Warm Welcome
Chapter 11 - On the Doorstep
Chapter 12 - Inside Information
Chapter 13 - Not at Home
Chapter 14 - Fire and Water
Chapter 15 - The Gathering of the Clouds
Chapter 16 - A Thief in the Night
Chapter 17 - The Clouds Burst
Chapter 18 - The Return Journey
Chapter 19 - The Last Stage

Saturday, August 22, 2015

[Book Review] The Annihilation Score

Annihilation Score (Laundry Files #6) / Charles Stross (Powell's Books)

Dominique "Mo" O'Brien is having a rough time.  She wields a soul-eating bone violin (that's trying to take over her will) in the service of her country, things with her husband are on the rocks, there's a sudden plague of humans manifesting superpowers, and she's expected to do something about at least the latter with the help of her husband's ex's.  On top of all that, CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN (the end of the world as we know it) draws inexorably near, and Mo's suffering from a seeming cultural invisibility as a woman of a certain age.

Annihilation Score stands out from the other Laundry Files in a few ways.  Beyond the obvious change in narrator, The Annihilation Score doesn't follow the trend of parodying various well-known British spy novelists' work.  Instead we have a novel lambasting the cultural treatment and expectations of women while Mo heads up a superhero team along with the now vampiric Mhari, the transitioning to Deep One Ramona, and Jim/Officer Friendly as a tag-a-long representing the London Police.  On top of this all, Mo deals with keeping her soul out of her violin's grip, coping with her husband's inheritance of the full Eater of Souls package, and generally attempts to convince herself she is perfectly stable and not in the midst of a very well earned nervous breakdown.

Is the book perfect in its goal?  No, but it's a damn good showing, and fits right in as a Laundry Files novel.  Personally, I found Mo's ranting asides directly to Bob a bit on the "unprofessional" side since this is "supposed" to be a memoir that doubles as training/reference material on this specific case, which really makes the included sexy bits seem a bit exhibitionistic.  On the other hand, Bob's memoirs aren't exactly professional, though, unless he's destiny entangled with a BLUE HADES succubus agent, there's really very little in the way of sexy details shared.

I loved the referencing of the Bechdel test, and once they get past their rather legitimate concerns and fears regarding each other, Mhari, Ramona, and Mo (heavier weight on the "you can kill me" part than the "you have an intimate history with Bob" issue) are a power-team.

Going in it's important to be aware that Stross deliberately has given us unreliable narrators.  The previous books have been from Bob's point of view, giving us what Bob experiences and is filled in on.  Now we get a different point of view on some overlapping events, and they don't quite match up.  For example, The Rhesus Chart gives us the impression that his marriage with Mo largely fell apart due to the events of that novel, The Annihilation Score shows that maybe things weren't running as smoothly as he thought.

I'm left wondering how Mo will develop going forward.  Latent superpowers aside, we never really see her act without near total reliance on her violin.  It's implied that she has some sorcerous ability, but when AGENT CANDID is called in, it was generally something of a nuclear option.  Definitely interested to see her role in the Laundry post The Annihilation Score, and eagerly awaiting the next chapter in the build towards CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN

Friday, August 21, 2015

Life Update : Heeeey Employment!

So life's been all sorts of crazy lately, but not necessarily in a bad way, and with any luck my employment situation is relatively stable for the rest of this fiscal year at least.  After a year and a half of job searching, including a few false starts, it is a nice place to be regardless of how chaotic.

The upside, as I said, is Employment.  And employment at some fantastic places with amazing people.

The downside is the complications and limitations.  I'm juggling five jobs, a mix of regular and on-call/as needed hours.

On July 1st I started as the Circulation Supervisor at a delightful small-town library, working 28 hours per week.  Today I had training for a 10 hour a week sabbatical replacement position at a beautiful private school that we'll just call Hogwarts, where I'll be the supervising evening Librarian and working the Reference Desk.  I'm totally bummed that Hogwarts will only be for this school year, everyone I met today on campus is amazing (and campus security has a cat "on staff").

I've also got some filler work.  I do about 15 hours a month at a local indie bookshop processing the shipping for a signed first editions collectors subscription club (also, super employee discount and access to the unsaleable damaged books).  It's guaranteed work, and it gets me additional exposure to the book industry with a focus on literary fiction.  Additionally I'm the area substitute/heir apparent Quizmaster for Geeks Who Drink, and I do occasional work for a web development company.

All in all, generally busy, and, thanks to the assortment of jobs, able to cover cost of living.  My permanent employment at this time isn't a 'professional' librarian job, but it is within a library and is a supervisory position.  My job at Hogwarts is professional, but sadly temporary, so I'll have to find something to replace it come next fiscal year.  However I'm extremely happy to have library work again, and am fortunate to have fantastic co-workers across the board.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

[Book Review] The Killing Moon

The Killing Moon / N. K. Jemisin (Powell's Books)

In the city-state of Guanjaareh peace rules through the blessing of their goddess Hananja.  Priests siphon off the dreams of the citizens to provide healing and to rid the city of corruption.  Ehiru, perhaps the most renown of the city's Gatherers, begins to doubt himself when a Gathering goes awry, only to be pulled into a conspiracy that threatens not just Guanjaareh but the world.

I cannot say enough about Jemisin's writing (or about Jemisin herself, she's a wonderful person).  She creates rich, gorgeous fantasy worlds and compelling stories.  Additionally, she provides a fantasy that doesn't take place in a re-imagined medieval Europe themed setting.  The Killing Moon delves into belief, love, power, corruption, and politics.

The Killing Moon was the July pick for my Virtual Speculation bookclub, sorry for the late posting.

Discussion Fodder:
  • To the Guanjaareens, the death offered by Gatherers is a honor and a comfort.  What do you think about their cultural reverence towards death?  Do the Gatherers bring peace and purge corruption?  Do only the ignorant fear Gatherers, or is Guanjaareh too powerful and too strange?
  • "Did you know that writing stories kills them?  Of course it does.  Words aren't meant to be stiff, unchanging things."  How does the recording of stories change them?
  • What do you think about the treatment of women in Guanjaareh?  Are they are "goddesses" while being homekeepers?  What about the importance of food, of offering, in seduction?
  • Do Gatherers "kill"?  As the Sister says "I do not actually share my body with tithebearers, Apprentice.  I merely give them dreams."  Does the distinction matter?
  • What the The Killing Moon say about the themes of love, power, and corruption?  What is the place of love in Guanjaareh?  What about power?  Corruption?  Does Ehiru offer love and kindness by easing pain, or does real love cause pain and endure?  Are all three tangled together or can they be separate?
  • Is the Prince insane or inspired?  What do you think about his goal for peace?
  • What do you think of the Sunadi's statement, " are the victims here.  The most pitiful victims of all, because you believe."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

[Book Display] Dog Days of Summer

It's August.  It's hot and sticky.  Summer reading at my library has ended.  Back to school is right around the corner.  Time to get some last enjoyment of the summer before the blessed cold of winter the season change.  A time of year otherwise known as the "dog days of summer."

We needed a new book display, and I like word play.  I think you can guess where this goes.

And yes, searching the internet for dog photos is an applicable skill
My original idea was to do summer books and dog books, ideally books that were a mix of the two.  But ultimately I made it into a display of books that featured dogs in some manner, be it a main character, some part of a character's life, or even an animagus who turns into a dog.

As it turns out there are quite a few prolific authors who write mysteries featuring dogs, enough that I settled for sharing a hyperlink to someone else's detailed list rather than copying it all here for additional titles.  There are also quite a few nonfiction titles, often with adorable covers, about dogs.  In the end I pulled together I hope a reasonable balance of titles, with a mix of genre, and audience.
Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend.  Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
-Groucho Marx

On Display
  • The Dogs of Babel / Carolyn Parkhurst
  • Marley & Me : Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog / John Grogan
  • You Had Me at Woof : How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness / Julie Klam
  • Giant George : Life with the World's Biggest Dog / David Nasser
  • The Dog Who Could Fly : The Incredible True Story of a WWII Airman and the Four-Legged Hero Who Flew At His Side / Damien Lewis
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle / David Wroblewski
  • The Dog Stars / Peter Heller
  • A Fistfull of Collars : A Chet and Bernie Mystery / Spencer Quinn*
  • The Dog Killer of Utica : An Eliot Conte Mystery / Frank Lentricchia
  • The Dogs of Babel / Carolyn Parkhurst
  • Call of the Wild / Jack London
  • Travels with Charlie in Search of America / John Steinbeck
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being / Milan Kundera
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain / Garth Stein
  • Dancing Dogs : Stories / Jon Katz
  • A Three Dog Life / Abigail Thomas
  • Dark Summer / Iris Johansen
  • The Dogs of Bedlam Farm : An Adventure with Sixteen Sheep, Three Dogs, Two Donkeys, and Me / Jon Katz
  • Bride and Groom (Dog Lover's Mystery) / Susan Conant*
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban / J. K. Rowling
  • The Phantom Tollboth / Norton Juster
  • Oogy : The Dog Only a Family Could Love / Larry Levin
  • Fay / William Wegman*
  • Lost and Found (Taken Trilogy) / Alan Dean Foster
  • Three Among the Wolves : a Couple and Their Dog Live a Year with Wolves in the Wild / Helen Thayer
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz / Frank L. Baum
  • The Fall Guy : A Rachel Alexander Mystery / Carol Lea Benjamin 
  • Started Early, Took My Dog / Kate Atkinson
  • No One Like You / Kate Angell 
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time / Mark Haddon 
  • The Boy Who Talked to Dogs / Martin McKenna
*Quinn and Conant have multiple series featuring canines, Wegman has several books featuring his photography of dogs.

Other Reads (titles not in our collection/unavailable for this display)
  • 101 Dalmations / Dodie Smith
  • Cujo / Stephen King
  • Lives of the Monster Dogs / Kirsten Bakis
  • Sophie : The Incredible True Story of the Castaway Dog / Emma Pearse
  • Huck : The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family--and a Whole Town--About Hope and Happy Endings / Janet Elder
  • Born to Bark : My Adventures with an Irrepressible and Unforgettable Dog / Stanley Coren
  • Katie Up and Down the Hall : The True Story of How One Dog Turned Five Neighbors into a Family / Glenn Plaskin
  • What a Difference a Dog Makes : Big Lessons on Life, Love and Healing from a Small Pooch / Dana Jennings
  • Dogs and the Women Who Love Them : Extraordinary True Stories of Loyalty, Healing, and Inspiration / Allen & Linda Anderson
  • Through a Dog's Eyes : Understanding Our Dogs by Understanding How They See the World / Jennifer Arnold
  • The Dog Who Couldn't Stop Loving : How Dogs Have Captured Our Hearts for Thousands of Years / Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
  • Mutts / Sharon Montrose
  • Nose Down, Eyes Up / Merrill Markoe
  • Our Story Begins : New and Selected Stories / Tobias Wolff
  • Dog Years / Mark Doty
  • Woof! : Writers on Dogs / Lee Montgomery
  • Dumb Witness / Agatha Christie
There's also a fantastic list of dog themed mysteries to be found at Cozy Mystery List

Saturday, August 15, 2015

[Book Review] The Heart Goes Last

The Heart Goes Last / Margaret Atwood (Powell's Books)

A dystopian story of desperation, greed, for-profit prisons, and the sex lives of those caught up in it all.

For Stan and Charmaine, the Positron Project seems like a gift from Heaven.  A home of their own and guaranteed jobs, even if it's tempered with alternating months spent as prison inmates, is a vast improvement over living in their car and surviving on Charmaine's meager tips.  The isolation from the world at large seems a small price to pay for safety and security.  But little things don't seem to add up, and when Charmaine begins a torrid affair with Stan's "alternate" a chain of events is set into motion that threatens the secrets of those in charge, and puts Stan and Charmaine in danger.

I didn't fall in love with the story immediately.  The start felt off, disjointed, as it tried to drop me inside both of Stan and Charmaine's lives.  It's when they reached their supposed utopia with all it's cracks that things began to get interesting.  The characters have their flaws, Charmaine may cheat on Stan, but Stan himself stalks the woman he believes to be Charmaine's alternate with intend to force himself upon her.  Stan is pulled into a dangerous game where he's used and sexually abused by a woman pursuing revolution.  The supporting cast has less depth, seen only through Charmaine and Stan's eyes, their true thoughts and motivations hidden from Stan, Charmaine, and the reader.  We see the faces that they present, lacking their thoughts and introspection.

Ultimately as things unraveled I found myself drawn more and more to the story, less willing to put it down.  The Heart Goes Last may push the bounds of believable future, but it also never goes fully into the unbelievable.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Doubleday Books via Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

[Book Review] In Libres

In Libres / Elizabeth Bear (Uncanny Magazine)

A delightful bit of short fiction, a fantastical take on academia and the pursuit of higher degrees.  One where a "bull-headed classmate" is literal not figurative, and visiting the library is a truly feared event.  Don't ask me why, but I get way too much enjoyment out of dangerous arcane libraries and librarians.
The Library was not a single building, but rather a complex of buildings on the edge of campus, with only one way in. It was said to have one copy of every book ever written. This was probably an exaggeration, despite the fact that it seemed to have a functionally infinite interior. The Library was bigger on the inside, and it iterated. 
It certainly had a great mad pile of things shelved within it. Finding them was another matter: there was no card catalogue, and several attempts to establish one had met with madness, failure, and disappearances. 
There were, however, Librarians. Librarians, with their overdeveloped hippocampi, their furled cloaks, their swords and wands sheathed swaggeringly across their backs. The university bureaucracy was nightmarish, Byzantine, and largely ornamental. But those caveats did not apply to the Librarians, an elite informational force second to none. They were lean, organized, and they knew when to turn left and when to turn right.
The writing is witty, with tributes to and twists on familiar mythologies and the traps of academia.  The exploring the labyrinthine library takes days, with a ball of twine recommended for finding one's way back out.  Feed the books at your own peril, after all, everyone wants something.

I absolutely love the description of Conrad and Hemingway as "poets of anguished masculinity," and again and again I found myself delighted by some small (or large) detail.  Definitely worth the read.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Stormbringer Blog Tour - Q&A with Alis Franklin + Giveaway

Ragnarok has come and gone, and both the world and the gods are still around.  After the defeat of Baldur, Lain, who is perhaps both Loki and Baldur, must return with Odin's spear to Asgard.  Odin, Thor, and many of the others are dead and gone, the god's children seek to claim the former power of Asgard's glory, Hel was slain in combat and seeks to claim her place among the honored dead, and the Wyrd twists lives, pulling gods and mortals alike.

Sigmund is both a young man, a low-level IT tech, and the avatar of a Norse goddess who was the wife of Loki.  Em and Wayne are the reincarnations of the Valkyries slain in battle.  Still coming to terms with what they are, and what that means, they all must reclaim roles to prevent a second Ragnarok.

Read Full Review
Also reviewed: Liesmith : Book 1 of the Wyrd

Alis Franklin has graciously shared her time with me to answer some questions as part of a TLC Book Tour for her latest novel, Stormbringer.

First off, thank you for your time, it's great to have you here.

Thank you, it’s great to be here!

You've definitely paid homage to the original myths, what's your favorite myth that you've incorporated into Stormbringer?

Definitely the “NWGFFO” callback chorus to “Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again?” by The Angels. Which is maybe not what most people imagine when they think of “myths”, but the song has an important place in the Australian music scene which I thought would be fun to share.

To be a bit pretentious about it, the NWGFFO callback is about the relationship between the consumers of media and the producers of it. “Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again?” was never a huge hit until fans made it a huge hit by adding the meme onto it. In the context of cultural myth making, I think that’s the key component. Not that the creator creates a work, but that audiences latch onto it and transform it into something bigger and more broadly applicable than just the original artist’s “baby”. It’s alluded to a couple of times that this is how gods are made in the Wyrdverse, so the inclusion of the song is my little nod to that process.

Also, it’s just really catchy:

On your blog you quote Laurie Penny, the "right" vs "wrong" type of fans, representation, and cultural myth-making. How does Stormbringer fit into your idea of cultural myth-making and representation?

I cut my young writer’s teeth writing fan fiction, so this is something I have a lot of Feels about. The fanfic communities I grew up participating in were always overwhelmingly queer and female, as well as interested (albeit often imperfectly) in intersectionality and social justice. Fanfic then became a way of critiquing mainstream media through that lens, so I’m used to the idea of transformative works being exactly that: transformative. In that they take a source text and interrogate it for tropes and biases, with the produced output often being ways for their authors to work out those issues in their own minds (as well as being a piece of fiction).

So it’s interesting, coming from that background, to surface into modern pop culture, which is saturated with what is essentially “corporate fanfic” in the form of franchises and remakes. I think there are a lot of questions in there about who is (and isn’t) chosen to produce these works, what audiences they’re marketed for and to, and why some “fanfic” is given the stamp of legitimacy while other fanfic is not. Just why can’t Spider-Man be gay or black? And not to put too fine a point on it, there are a few things people like Joss Whedon (Marvel film fanfic), John Scalzi (Star Trek novel fanfic), Steven Moffat (Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who TV fanfic), and Chuck Wendig (Star Wars novel fanfic) all have in common. I’ll let the reader figure out what they are. So while none of that is the fault of the people mentioned, I think it’s worth having a discussion around why them in particular and not someone else.

With regards to Stormbringer, the main tension the book does come from that idea about the unchanging continuation of the old narratives versus modern outsider deconstructions. So if characters like Farbauti and Móði are there to represent the “corporate fanfic” of Ásgarðr—the officially sanctioned continuation of the franchise—characters like Sigmund, Em, and Wayne are there representing the kind of fanfic I grew up writing. The stuff produced from communities who consume the media, but—by virtue of being queer, female, and/or PoC—always consume it knowing they aren’t intended as the primary audience. In Stormbringer, it’s this ability to deconstruct and old narrative and, importantly, to reconstruct something new that becomes the key to saving the world.

In other words, I guess Stormbringer continues Liesmith’s tradition of being Norse mythology fanfic about Norse mythology fanfic!

Do you think the current surge of Norse mythology in popular culture effects the reception to Liesmith and Stormbringer?

I’m sure it does. Marvel’s version of Norse mythology in particular has its own cultural weight that’s often heavier than that of the original mythology. Even down to simple things like the idea of Mjölnir only being able to be lifted by the “worthy”. Then there are things like people telling me they imagine Travis Hale as looking like Tom Hiddleston, which I find interesting given the fact that Hale is non-Anglo is explicitly a plot point in Liesmith.

Music definitely takes the stage (pun intended) in Stormbringer, do you have a preferred soundtrack to write to?

Absolutely! And I’ve written a little more about Stormbringer’s soundtrack at my blog.  For the Wyrdverse more generally, I love a good mashup to write to, because I think the blending of songs—particularly songs of disparate genres—fits in really well with the “fantasy kitchen sink suburbia” nature of the series.

What authors/books are on your "must read" lists for others?

At the moment I’m reccing Sprawl to all and sundry. It’s a collection of Australian suburban speculative fiction stories, and I love it because it challenges a lot of the stereotypes non-Australians have about Australia. I’m also waiting for Dr. Helen Young’s non-fiction Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness, which is a critical look at race and white privilege in modern fantasy canons. Plus I’m also all over Jordan L. Hawk, Emmie Mears, and Heather Herrman, all of whom I think are all doing interesting work in paranormal romance, fantasy, and horror.

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About Alis

Alis Franklin is a thirtysomething Australian author of queer urban fantasy. She likes cooking, video games, Norse mythology, and feathered dinosaurs. She’s never seen a live drop bear, but stays away from tall trees, just in case.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Link Smorgasbord, July 2015

Minecraft in Education
Looks like Microsoft is taking Minecraft in the same direction as Steam for Schools with Portal.  I'm pretty excited.

Cory Doctorow Talks About Fighting the DMCA (2 Videos)
I generally find Doctorow very good at explaining copyright.

8 Ways Parents Discourage Their Kids from Reading
This one hits pretty close to home as I experienced many of these from my dad & step-mom (plus a few that weren't on the list - such as getting in trouble for reading too much and having reading taken away from me as punishment).  Not that I really wanted them to read out loud to me after a certain age, but I was mind-numbingly bored by my collection of books at their place.  In 1st or 2nd grade he had me tested for a learning disability, an action that shocked my teacher and my mother... and it came out that the source issue was that I was bored, I had read all the stories in  Sunday School time and time again, and none of my books at his place were high enough reading level.

Dune, 50 years on: how a science fiction novel changed the world
Interesting read.

New Arabic Fiction | 15 Must-Read Books From the Middle-East
I find it often takes an effort to find non-US fiction, so I like findings like this.

Book Subscription Service Pulling Some Romance Titles Because People Read Too Many Of Them
I feel like this is the result of being embarrassingly unaware of quite how quickly romance novels are read and quite how voraciously romance fans read.  Which is honestly kind of ironic considering the role romance novels had in the success of ebooks as a format.

Caught In The Middle: Librarians On The Debate Over LGBT Children’s Books
On diverse collections and challenges.

Rereading Melanie Rawn’s Dragon Prince Trilogy: It’s a Wrap!
On not just the trilogy, but the women who've been writing fantasy and epic fantasy all along.

Library of Congress' Twitter archive is a huge #FAIL
On challenges and issues relating to archiving and the ephemeral nature of much internet interactions.

Laurie Penny on Sherlock: The Adventure of the Overzealous Fanbase
Not a new article, but I just found it.  While it focuses largely on Sherlock, I think it raises some good points about fanfiction and myths.
What is significant about unofficial, extra-canonical fan fiction is that it often spins the kind of stories that showrunners wouldn’t think to tell, because fanficcers often come from a different demographic. The discomfort seems to be not that the shows are being reinterpreted by fans, but that they are being reinterpreted by the wrong sorts of fans - women, people of colour, queer kids, horny teenagers, people who are not professional writers, people who actually care about continuity (sorry). The proper way for cultural mythmaking to progress, it is implied, is for privileged men to recreate the works of privileged men from previous generations whilst everyone else listens quietly.
The Many Sides of Bundling
On the numbers game of bundling ebooks with print.

Judge Blocks Arizona’s Nude Photos Law
The goal of the law is to prevent the publication and sharing of nude photos that lack the model's explicit consent, however it leads to issues with risking felony charges for a large body of works that are classified as newsworthy, artistic, educational or historical.  Bit of a bind if say TIME magazine runs a story with images that under this law would result in felony charges.  Sort of like the whole classification of obscene or not obscene, it ends up not being a clear-cut issue at all.  More here: Antigone Books v Brnovich.

Library Privacy and the Freedom Not To Read
Big data, patron privacy, and libraries.

Amazon convinced the New York City Department of Education to give it $30 million to sell ebooks 
Yeah, I get it, text books are bloody expensive (and heavy).  But I'm also seeing some pretty regular studies that indicate better learning from a physical book based on the ways we interact with page versus screen.  There's also actually a huge accessibility issue with ebooks, that just being able to enlarge text doesn't fix - due to copyright and licensing issues a lot of the things we are allowed to do by law with physical textbooks to accommodate students with disabilities we cannot do with ebooks.

Yeah, you read that right.  It's easier for us to provide accessible content when we're stuck scanning in portions of a text book than it is with ebooks.

Other issues:
  • Financial barriers to the students and families relating to accessing the ebook.  I could be wrong but that article doesn't indicate any sort of inclusion of hardware to read on, so this again assumes that students have regular access to some sort of computer or tablet along with internet access.  The likelihood of a child having a smartphone is rising, but I'm calling bullshit on expecting someone to read a textbook on that thing.  During the school year public libraries get flooded with kids after school lets out who need to use the public computers and/or the library wi-fi in order to do their homework.
  • Limitation of texts available in Kindle format as ebook selection is still broader in EPUB than in what Amazon sells for Kindle.
  • Institutional/lending collection ebooks are significantly more expensive per copy than consumer ebooks, and Amazon isn't one for the simultaneous access ebook lending model.  "Undercutting OverDrive" just means 50 Shades of Grey won't cost $80 a copy.
  • Amazon loves tracking user data so it's not just teachers who can monitor the students.  Hey Big Data, how's it going?
This is pretty awesome.  I'd love to get my library more involved, but I'm not really in a position to make that happen at this time.