2017 Hugo Awards Recommendations: What should I read/watch?

2017 is here, and that means it's time to ask for recommendations for the Hugo Awards. Sadly, I have not been able to read nearly as much from 2016 as I would have liked, so I expect this to be one hell of a reading session for me! So, suggest some things! I'm looking for fiction and non-fiction in every category, pro and amateur artists, films, television shows, and anything else that fits! Use the form below to send your suggestions! Read More

Gym Reads Poll #3 (Non-U.S. Edition): What should I read next?

It's that time again!  Another Gym Reads Poll!  Thus far, you all have made me read the following:
  • The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin, Jr. (1978)(podcast forthcoming)
  • Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler (1991)
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (1997)(almost done)
Now, I need something new to read while I'm at the gym.  This time, I'm mixing things up by providing a list of books by authors who are not originally from the United States.  The following list includes authors from England, Australia, India, Nigeria, Jamaica, South Africa, Portugal, Ireland, and Germany! Read More

Gym Reads Poll: What should I read next?

Fun fact:  I read when I'm at the gym.  In fact, I really like reading while cycling, since it distracts from the monotony of doing a repetitive motion and it lets me do some much needed "fun reading."  Recently, I decided to tweet a picture of a pile of random books to ask folks online what I should read.  I ended up reading The Book of the Dun Cow (1978) by Walter Wangerin, Jr.  And I've quite enjoyed it.  But now I need another book, and I like the idea of making that process random and fun. Read More

Negative Bookstore Experiences: Why Bookstores Should Be Like Libraries

A few weeks ago, I flew out to California to visit family and friends, pursue some possible job opportunities, and get some much needed decompression from the stress of PhD life.  During that time, I stopped at a Barnes & Noble to pick up a book recommended to me by a friend.[note]a longer story that involves me actually writing fiction for once...[/note]  Unlike previous stops at one of the big chain stores -- whereat the cashier tries to sell me on their membership card, to which I always respond "no, thanks" -- I had a far less pleasant experience.  It went something like this:
Cashier:  Are you a Barnes & Noble member? Me:  No, but... Cashier:  *judgmentally* ...you know what the membership card gives you, right? Me:  I do, but... Cashier:  *dismissively* ...Alright then.  $15.
What I had meant to say was this:
I understand what the card provides, but Barnes & Noble closed down the only store within a 30-40 minute drive of my house, so I don't get the opportunity to browse there anymore.  And I don't like browsing for books online, which means I don't buy books all that often from any online bookstore.  Sorry.
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2016 WISB Awards: The Winners

Now that awards season is in full swing, it's time to release the winners of the 2016 WISB Awards.  As with every year of the award, the winners are selected from my reading and viewing experiences throughout 2015 and during my annual Hugo Awards reading binge.  As such, the long list included works published decades ago. Unlike previous years, the 2016 WISB Awards included a long list, which you should check out to see all the great stuff I enjoyed.  You might also check out the 2016 Hugo Awards Reading/Watching List, which includes works from my original list and works suggested by readers. As with every year of the awards, these selections are based entirely on my own tastes, which are imperfect, narrow, and weird. The winners are below the fold.  Some of the categories include runners up; the categories that do not contained far fewer entries on the long list, and so including a short list would basically have included the long list anyway. Read More

Shaun’s Rambles 013: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (w/ Special Guest Mareen Kincaid Speller)

Geek references + the Dominican Republic = instance classic.  In this episode, Maureen Kincaid Speller joins me to discuss the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.  We tackle the novel's treatment of geekery, its exploration of masculinity, romance, and the coming-of-age narrative, and much more! I hope you enjoy it! Read More

2016 WISB Awards Long List

It's that time of year:  time for me to release some kind of list of things I loved in 2015.  This year is different, though.  This year, I'm releasing a long list for the WISB Awards, and it is from this list that I'll select the winners of my annual WISB awards, the jury-less, vote-less monstrosity of an award that is only of value to myself. Since I cannot include my own work on the following long list, I'll include those works here:
  • Best Fancast:  The Skiffy and Fanty Show (Shaun Duke, Julia Rios, Paul Weimer, Mike Underwood, Rachael Acks, David Annandale, and Jen Zink); Totally Pretentious (Shaun Duke and David Annandale)
  • Best Non-Fiction Work:  Speculative Fiction 2014:  The Year's Best Online Reviews, Essays, and Commentary edited by Renee Williams and Shaun Duke (Book Smugglers Publishing)
If you feel there's a glaring ommission, let me know in the comments.  I haven't read everything there is to read (obviously), and it's likely I've missed a lot of really great work. Now here's the official 2016 WISB Awards Long List: Read More

The 2016 Hugo Awards Reading/Watching List (or, My Next Few Months)

Last month, I asked for recommendations for my annual Hugo Awards reading bonanza.  A bunch of you responded with books, movies, TV shows, cookbooks, and so on.  The form will remain open for the next month or so, so if you haven't submitted anything or want to submit some more stuff, go for it! So, without further delay, here is the big massive monster list of stuff I'll be reading or watching for the next few months: Read More

On Academic Brain and Compartmentalizing

As an academic, it is often very difficult to shut off the faculties I've spent the last fourteen years building.  Since I spend almost every day of the week analyzing literature, reading or thinking about theoretical/philosophical texts, I generally use my brain in a very particular way.  Turning that off is a chore, but a necessary one.  In fact, it is often so difficult to turn off that even some of my colleagues have expressed dismay at the inability or unwillingness of other academics to turn those faculties off just long enough to have a "regular conversation."  It's a problem I've seen, too, and it sometimes results in a distancing effect between those who can't turn it off and those that can.  Since I'm so often engaged in everyday sf/f fandom, the exercise of flipping that little academic switch is, in my opinion, crucial.

One such exercise occurred last Sunday when I went with a friend to see Ant-Man, the last entry in Marvel Studio's Phase 2.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and if I can muster the words to say something intelligent about the film, I'll write a review for Totally Pretentious.  Discussing the film on Twitter eventually prompted a brief discussion with David Annandale and John Stevens about the impact of "academic brain" on one's ability to enjoy a creative product. Read More