rmc28: (reading)
Thanks to [personal profile] calissa I discovered Nisi Shawl's crash course in the history of black science fiction, which seems like an excellent basis for a reading project.  I'm not committing to getting through the course quickly, or in strict order (though I'm almost certainly going to start with the most recent and work backwards) but I am committing to getting through it, and to writing some kind of blog post in response to each book. I have read exactly one of the books already, but many years ago.

This post is going to be a progress marker for me, and so I've made a copy of the list below the cut purely for that purpose; the plan is to turn each title into a link to my blog post about it when written. I strongly recommend reading Nisi Shawl's original list with commentary though.

Anyone else want to join in?
the list )
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
A collection of 11 short stories, which the publisher very kindly makes available via Creative Commons in assorted formats. I got this because I had enjoyed the novella The Surfer reprinted in Lightspeed; sadly I did not get on so well with this collection. I think this is a personal-taste thing: they are all written beautifully, but most are a bit too weird, a bit too creepy, a bit too strange for me.

There were three stories that I did like:
  • Travels with the Snow Queen - a retelling of the fairy tale, which I happened to read very shortly after reading The Raven and the Reindeer. Not at all the same, but perhaps riffing off some of the same themes. (This was a James Tiptree Jr. Award Winner & World Fantasy Award Nominee.)
  • Flying Lessons - old gods in modern Scotland
  • Vanishing Act - a girl staying with her family in 1960s USA, missing her missionary parents and slowly fading away
Kelly Link has three more short story collections which I intend to work my way round to.

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
One of my treasured possessions as a child was my complete works of Hans Christian Anderson, and I know I read and reread the Snow Queen story in it several times.  This retelling by T Kingfisher is wonderful and absorbing; I half want to go reread the original to pin down the differences (because time has dulled my memory) and half want not to, because it won't be as good.  There are multiple(!) no-nonsense grandmothers, a raven with a decided viewpoint on the world and his place in it, and some delightful otters.  And the dreams of plants turn out to be surprisingly important.

It also made me cry, for personal reasons almost entirely unrelated to the plot.  In this passage, Gerda and Janna (the bandit girl) are talking with Livli, an old Sámi woman, about a magic shapechanging reindeer skin.


Janna interrupted her thoughts by asking, "What if I wear the skin instead?"

"Can’t,” said Livli. “Oh, I’m sure you’d try, don’t get me wrong. But you’re too set in your own skin. You’re a healthy young animal and you know it. And people who really live in their own flesh and know it and love it make lousy shapechangers.”

“I…well. But Gerta doesn’t?”

Livli shook her head. “Some people don’t. Their bodies carry them around, but they don’t live in them quite the same way.” 

She leaned over and patted Gerta’s hand. “Don’t look so stricken, dear. It’s not a personal failing. And I think there may be something else at work here, too. You’re outside your own skin even farther than you ought to be. Have you had a long illness recently?”

 

I had to stop reading for a bit, because I hadn't even realised that I was feeling a disconnection with my body, and that it was bothering me, until I read it put into words about someone else entirely.  I don't always love my body, but I do normally live right inside it and know it well (which is why I knew something was wrong even before I got really ill), and I've been a bit detached for some time, and I hadn't even realised and it explains ... oh all sorts of little things about how I'm recovering, and how even with habitual self-monitoring I'm frequently surprised by feeling Suddenly Energetic or Suddenly Tired.

So I stopped reading for a bit and had a bit of a cry at my revelation (and a bit more for having had cancer in the first place because apparently now is when I do that, not when it was happening) and then I went back to the book until I'd finished it.  It was worth it.

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I owe thanks to [personal profile] naath for alerting me that this was out, and "thanks" to the dratted cough I currently have for giving me several hours of insomnia to beguile last night.

I enjoyed it very much but it isn't quite what I was expecting: it is very much a story of the delights of peacetime, domesticity and science rather than the excitements of lethal politics, galactic intrigue etc.  About what you do when you've saved the Empire a few times and it doesn't need you to do that any more.

Cordelia is at the centre of it, three years a widow and beginning to think about what she wants to do next.  Being Cordelia, rather than Miles, the plot proceeds sensibly and in a measured way, rather than breakneck chaos. There's a lot of Cordelia and Jole dealing with administrative hassles on Sergyar, getting paperwork done and carving time out of busy schedules.  There's a lot of reminiscing too, seeing various major incidents of the past 40-ish years from a different point of view.  There's very little actual peril (which really threw me because based on previous Vorkosigan books I kept expecting things to escalate that didn't ...)

Everything's political, and there's definitely something about the way that stories of WAR and DEATH seem more important than stories of building, creation and family.  Of the previous Vorkosigan books, it's probably most like A Civil Campaign only without the farce (and, thankfully, nothing as excruciating as That Dinner Party).   I think the genre is "family-saga in a space opera setting".

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