Karen Joy Fowler has won the PEN/Faulkner Award for her latest book, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. A wonderful, spoiler-free review of the book by my brilliant friend Marion Deeds can be found here. I’ve started the book, and I’m enjoying it.
There are well over 200 new books coming out in April 2014 in the genres of fantasy, science fiction and horror. I’ve occasionally read that it was once possible — say, in the middle of the last century — to read everything, or nearly everything, that was published in these genres each year. Obviously, that doesn’t happen anymore, no matter how fast you read. But at least we have some voices that are able to direct us to the most noteworthy books. BuzzFeed points to 33 books coming out this month that are worth reading. I’ve read The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, and I agree that that’s a fine book worthy of your attention, one of the best things I’ve read so far this year. And The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith is absolutely charming, and another of the best books I’ve read in 2014. That gives me pretty high confidence in moving the rest of those books further up in the TBR pile.
Rachel at BookRiot confesses to owning 850 books that she hasn’t read yet. Seems to me she must be very young, because I had at least that many unread books by the time I was 30; I suspect my unread but owned books get into the five figure range these days. She wonders, briefly, if this is a bad thing. But, like every book lover, she concludes that it’s not just okay, it’s actually a positive good. Nice thinking, Rachel, and I’m right there with you!
ListVerse lists ten of the most bizarre books ever written. Many of them are codexes, and I’d heard of none of them — and it’s not clear to me that any of them have ever been widely published. They’d be sort of cool to get a close look at, though.
Matthew Kahn, a creative writing student at California State University at Northridge, undertook to read the bestselling book of the year for each year from 1913 to 2013 to see what made those books so great as to command the attention of the most readers in each year. Some books were good and some were awful, he tells Salon in an interview. I’ll bet he gets a book out of the project himself.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that,” says Stephen King. In an afterword to his book about writing, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King shares a list of 96 books that he thinks are worth reading. Now Aerogramme Writers’ Studio has made the list available on the internet. King doesn’t say that these are THE books to read for an aspiring writer; only that they are good books that he happened to read in the three or four years before his memoir was published. There’s an enormous range of writers, which I think is part of King’s lesson: one must read insatiably, and broadly, in order to be able to write well.
It’s 40 years now since King published his first novel, Carrie. Patton Oswald writes about a lifetime of reading King’s work. I didn’t read Carrie then — in fact, I’ve never read the novel, though I have strong memories of Sissy Spacek’s depiction of the title character — but I remember reading The Stand when I was in college, and how completely Randall Flagg terrified me. It wasn’t fashionable to like King; in fact, many said that he was a schlock writer. I first started to feel like it was okay to like King’s work when Algis Budrys wrote a piece in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction about how excellent King was, no matter what the tastemakers had to say. I think that’s the moment when I stopped thinking that mainstream fiction was necessarily better than genre fiction. Of such moments are one’s reading life made.
And speaking of genres, we seem to be in a new golden age of science fiction. If you ask me, fantasy and horror are experiencing similar gilded years.
Nisi Shawl suggests that trying to review a book written by someone who is “other” to oneself is like “dancing about architecture” in this essay that forms part of a discussion of inclusive reviewing. It’s worth reading by anyone who treasures the notion of diversity, and wishes to see it become more than a notion.
And speaking of diversity, here’s a list of science fiction and fantasy written by women, should you wish to expand your horizons.
Another issue in reviewing is whether reviewers should be allowed to wield their criticisms under pseudonyms. Anne Rice is circulating a petition to bar the practice at Amazon. Janet (apparently also known as “Robin Reader,” seemingly doubling her pseudonyms) at Dear Author discusses the issue.
It seems to be an article of faith that anyone engaged in any way with the publishing industry — any editor, publicist, reviewer, anyone who has anything to do with books that doesn’t involve actually writing them — must have a secret desire to write. Lacy LeBlanc says that’s not true; there are plenty of folks who just want to read. And audiences are as important as artists, in a sense, aren’t they? I sometimes struggle with this issue myself, when I realize I’d much rather be reading than arguing with a blank page over a story idea.
Scott Reintgen discusses how to write antagonists in a piece that aspiring authors might find worthwhile.
Jonathan Wood writes about how to deal with the destruction of your dreams of writing. Wood was one of Night Shade Books’ authors, just as that publisher was going under. His book, No Hero, made it into the hands of very few readers. Now his book is seeing new life, and I can’t wait to read it.
It is possible — maybe even probable — that the declaration of the death of the independent bookstore has been premature. New technology can work as much in favor of the small, local bookstore as the large, impersonal multinational corporation, after all.
What’s your time worth? How much money would someone have to pay you to get you to give up an hour of your leisure time? This calculator will help you figure out the answers to those questions.
What would an alien think of the human body — and especially about sex? Imagine how an alien would write human erotica!
While these photos of women and girls with animals are not fantasy — they’re real animals and real people and not photoshopped — they are fantastic and do, somehow, have something of the fairy tale about them. Lovely.