Five Faves: Fabulous Worlds of SF/F (Guest Post by Helen Lowe) #MonthofJoy

I believe worldbuilding is the characteristic that most distinguishes SF/F from other styles of literature. All other genres rely on the reader's understanding of the world as it is or has been. In SF/F, the writer must first build the world—a process that includes environment, geography, history, politics, culture, and religion, as well as technological and/or magic systems—for both the story to exist and the reader to engage with it. And as an avid reader of SF/F, as well as an author, there is nothing that rocks my reading and SF/F-loving world quite like a truly fantastic bit of worldbuilding. So in the spirit of #monthofjoy here are five of my favorites – although there are, of course, many, many more. Note: I should add that I am deliberately excluding both Middle Earth and Narnia, simply because they are so well-canvassed in the zeitgeist, but you may take it as read that they're definitely right up there for me. Read More

Five Faves: Diana Wynne Jones Novels (Guest Post by K.V. Johansen) — #MonthofJoy

What, only five? How? Which? Rapidly writing down the first that come to mind without thinking about it: Howl’s Moving Castle, Archer’s Goon, Deep Secret, Conrad’s Fate . . . Tale of Time City. Or maybe Lives of Christopher Chant. Or Hexwood . . . Or . . . It’s impossible to describe the genius of DWJ’s writing and do it justice. I tried in a non-fiction book once. Here, I’m just going to give an emotional reaction. Suffice it to say, Jones is a master of effortless characterization, her plots (ohhhh, her plots) are intricate and unpredictable, her worldbuilding infinite in its wonders, and the subtle psychological dramas that underlie it all are awe-inspiring. I don’t think there’s a single one of her fantasies that I haven’t read at least twice; most I’ve read so many times I’ve lost count. Sometimes I need this book or that like it’s an essential nutrient I’ve been starved of, and when that happens, I always find something new in it. Read More

Five Faves: Space Opera Books — #MonthofJoy

It's Five Faves time! Throughout the month of June, I'll be diverting attention away from the things I'm supposed to be doing in order to spend a little time babbling about the things that I love. This feature will do exactly what it says:  list five of my favorite things in a category. Most of the lists will be "on topic," which is to say "related to SF/F in some way," but some lists will be on my other ancillary interests, such as reptiles, books of theory, pies, and...wait...pie? Oh my god, I love pie! Anywho...today's post, as the title suggests, will list 5 of my favorite space operas. I will use the following criteria for this list:
  • Books will be taken to mean "narrative fiction at novel length" rather than the broader definition we use today. Comics and graphic novels deserve their own list anyway. That means no movies either.
  • I'm using my personal definition of space opera. I'm happy to talk about that definition at another time, but for now, I just want to share some things I love!
Here we go: Read More

Shaun’s Rambles 015: Spoilers vs. Content Warnings

Don't spoil me with your content warnings, they say! In this episode, I take a crack at the confusion between content warnings and spoilers. What is the difference? Why are content warnings important? What value do content warnings provide? Take a listen to hear my take! Let me know what you think about content warnings and spoilers in the comments below! Read More

2017 WISB Awards Long List

The long list returns! Last year, I introduced the first ever WISB Awards Long list, which represents all the things I loved in 2015 and, more or less, my Hugo Awards Ballot (some items are obviously not eligible). This year, I'm at it again. Shortly, I'll release the winners of the 2017 WISB Awards. Presumably, there will be thunderous applause or something. As always, I do not include my own work on the long list. If you're interested in nominating me for something, feel free to do so for the following:
  • Best Fancast
    • The Skiffy and Fanty Show (Shaun Duke, Julia Rios, Paul Weimer, Mike Underwood, Rachael Acks, David Annandale, Jen Zink, and Trish Matson)
    • Totally Pretentious (Shaun Duke and David Annandale)
Now here's the official 2017 WISB Awards Long List: (IMPORTANT:  I am in the process of filling out the categories. New updates will go up periodically throughout the day.) Read More

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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