Sunday Links, November 9, 2014


Richard Flanagan has won the Man Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a “timeless depiction of war,” according to the jury.  The novel is about Japan’s use of prisoners of war to build a railway in Burma under brutal conditions.

The Guardian awarded its Not the Booker Prize to The Visitors by Simon Sylvester.

The finalists for the National Book Award have been announced.

George R.R. Martin, author of A Game of Thrones, and publisher Tom Doherty were awarded Brown University Library’s first Harris Awards.  The awards celebrate the influence of literature in pop culture.

StorySouth lists the nominees for the Million Writers Award for the best short fiction published in online journals and magazines during 2013.  Readers will be delighted to know that the list of nominees links to each story.  If you enjoy short fiction, this list will thrill you.  I find myself inclined to download all of them and engage in an orgy of reading; anyone want to join me?  It appears that storySouth appreciates excellent stories regardless of genre, so there’s bound to be something for everyone here.

The first-ever winners of the newly-established Kirkus Prize have been announced.

Kirkus goes further and lists the award-winning novels of 2014, regardless of prize.

Here’s some sad news:  the awards for translations of science fiction and fantasy have been shut down.  I’ve always thought we needed to read more translated SF/F/H, not less, and I was happy these awards were around to encourage that.  Alas.

What to Read Next

Publishers Weekly is getting the jump on everyone else by being the first to publish its lists of the best books of the year.  Start with the top ten, and work your way on through the various genres.  I find the list of science fiction, fantasy and horror. . . surprising.  I don’t disagree with anything on the list — how can I?  I haven’t read any of them — but I’m very surprised at the failure to include a number of books I thought were excellent, like Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Assassin or Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor.

Amazon wasn’t far behind in the race to list the year’s best books.  Its selections in science fiction and fantasy seem a bit more in the mainstream of those genres, and include a number I’ve read and enjoyed myself, like Half a King by Joe Abercrombie and Lock In by John ScalziThe list of the top 100 books of the year is a fascinating mishmash, with something for every taste.

Kirkus suggests eleven great debut novels.  I’m a sucker for first novels myself, so I’m a bit startled that I only own two of the novels on this list.  Looks like I’ll have to pick up a few new books!

Bustle lists seventeen Young Adult novels that will tempt adults as well as teens and kids.

Brain Pickings offers seven must-read books about time.

My Bookish Ways suggests the must-read science fiction, fantasy and horror being published this month.  A new Stephen King novel is always a good thing, but I’m also interested in The Heart Does Not Grow Back by Fred Venturini — probably, in large part, because of that amazing cover art.  In fact, I’ve just talked myself into buying it — and click, it’s done.  (Computers make that much too easy, don’t they?) has done its usual magic in rounding up the month’s releases in the subgenres to science fiction and fantasy.  The list of November releases in fantasy is here; science fiction is here; genre-benders, probably my favorite category, are listed here; paranormal romance is here; and paranormal/urban fantasy is here. also has a list of the new releases in British fiction for the first part of November.

Flavorwire lists 50 of the greatest debut novels since 1950.  There is much to love here, and it’d make a dandy list for anyone looking to catch up on modern mainstream fiction.

My Bookish Ways has its own ideas about the best new releases in science fiction, fantasy and horror in November, as well as the best new releases in mysteries, suspense and mainstream fiction.  I’ll take one of each, please.  (I’ve said that before, haven’t I?  And yet the books never simply appear on my doorstep.  Something has gone awry in the universe.)

Esquire lists the 80 books every man should read.  I do not know why Esquire makes this list only for men; and I do not know why only one of the 80 books was written by a woman:  A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor.  Seems like a fairly strange project all the way around.

Salon tells us why science fiction comics are better than science fiction movies. I didn’t know that Grant Morrison had a new title, Annihilator; he’s one of my favorite writers, and I’m definitely going to have to check it out.  CNN, of all places, jumps in to name the masters of comic book horror.

I’ve loved metafiction from before I even knew there was a word for the type of fiction that features a book-within-a-book or otherwise calls attention to the fact that you’re reading a book.  So this list of seven metafictional books had me running to my favorite purveyor of the written word for copies of the books listed.

Another theme that always makes me look at a book twice is the “Groundhog Day” scenario — so named for the wonderful movie starring Bill Murray, who lives the title day over and over again, until he gets it right.  Hmm, might be time to rewatch that one.  In any event, I especially recommend Ken Grimwood’s Replay, which is excellent in every way.

SF Signal hosts a mind-meld of writers and bloggers about the single author collections that should be in every library.  Part One is here; Part Two is here.  So many terrific suggestions here!

Laird Barron lists new horror writers and recommends a few specific books.  He says that wasn’t too tough to do, given that we’re in a renaissance of sorts for the genre, especially through small presses.  I don’t suppose anyone will be surprised to know that I own all six of the books Barron mentions, as well as his new anthology, Year’s Best Weird Fiction.  Barron’s own work is astonishingly good; try Occultation some night when you don’t care if you get any sleep.

Read the best book ever written in your state!  Though I have to say I question some of the choices made here; those for California, for instance, ignore John Steinbeck and Ray Bradbury, to name just two.  I’ve never even heard of the two books chosen for the State.  Anyone else have trouble with the book chosen for their place of residence?

If you’re really out of ideas, you could always read a book recommended by your chosen cultural icon.

For some of us, the idea of being locked in a bookstore overnight is glorious.  But if you were locked into a bookstore with two hours to kill until someone came to let you out, what should you read?  This article will prepare you for such an eventuality, should you ever be lucky enough to experience it.

Young Adult Fiction

Can Young Adult fiction go too far?  Has it become too violent and too depressing?  Claire Hennessy’s long essay on the issue recaps a discussion panel at a literary festival, and provides some insight from writers, editors and readers.

Author Laura Ruby is sick and tired of hearing and reading that Young Adult novels are not serious, challenging fiction.  Her rant was brought on by a piece posted on The Mary Sue, calling those who read Young Adult fiction “cretins” and explaining that she only reads Young Adult work for its entertainment value.  Sarah Arboledah, the writer of the latter piece, seems to have been trying to defend Young Adult fiction, but it offers the ultimate back-handed compliment to the genre.

Ebooks vs. Paper Books

Reading is good for you in any form, but it’s especially good for you if you read paper books instead of reading from a screen.  Reading print helps with comprehension and retention of what you read.  It improves your sleep and makes you more empathetic.  I guess this is why I keep buying paper books, even though I have thousands of books in my Kindle Cloud.  Or maybe it’s just a matter of love!  At any rate, these results might perhaps help explain why print books outsold ebooks in the first half of 2014This graphic shows the difference in sales even more clearly.

Adobe has been quietly gathering “extensive” data on those who use its ereader.  I’d consider this a bit scary if it weren’t for the fact that I’m quite sure Amazon monitors everything I read on my Kindle, whether I bought it from Amazon or received it as a review copy.  I genuinely don’t know if I should worry about this or not.

Does your ereader weigh more when it’s loaded with books?  “In principle, yes,” says John D. Kubiatowicz, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley.  The increase in weight isn’t likely to weigh you down much, but it’s still a cool concept.


Salon says the Hugh Howey’s defense of Amazon in its dispute with Hachette and other traditional publishers is indefensible.  Worse, it’s selfish.  The article is more than an indictment of Howey, though; it’s a bitter tirade against Amazon.

Simon & Schuster has reached an agreement with Amazon — apparently over the same issues as to which Hachette is still holding out.  The details of the deal have not been made public.

Ben Branstetter thinks that publishers should cease selling books to and through Amazon at all.  The question is:  is the publishing industry more dependent on Amazon than Amazon is dependent on it?  It would be interesting to see what would happen if publishers decided to pursue other internet outlets and boycott Amazon.  Independent and chain bookstores are already refusing to stock books published through Amazon’s CreateSpace, a print-on-demand program.

Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman makes a strong case that Amazon’s monopsony is not okay.

The website Dear Author says that books are not special snowflakes, but merely another type of commercial good that can be sold in the same manner as a toaster or a widget.  The essay seems to be siding with Amazon and against Authors United, though its focus is mostly on the latter organization without pushing the former.


Sophia McDougall writes an excellent piece about the trope of the “strong female character” in New Statesman.  I hadn’t realized how one-note our “strong female characters” are until reading her piece.  I’d argue with her that we do have a few female characters these days we can look up to for reasons in addition to their toughness, like Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter novels or Lucy, played by Scarlet Johansson in the movie of the same name.  But McDougall is right that most of our female heroines get noticed only for being able to hold their own physically.  I hope that McDougall is working on a book on this subject, because I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

Zoe Marriott writes about Mary Sues and Sarah Janes, and the challenges of writing a female character — and how impossible it is to write a realistic character who won’t be criticized as one or the other by readers.

Michael R. Underwood thinks academically about genre fiction.

I didn’t know quite where to post this item, but it’s more or less about criticism, so here you go:  Chris Roberts writes very weird and vicious reviews on Amazon in great quantity.  Many of them are in verse.  He often signs his reviews as “Chris Roberts, God.”  Is this an extended practical joke, as the comments suggest, or a genuinely troubled man?  Perhaps time will tell.

Paul St. John Mackintosh suggests that the New Weird is the New Wave of the early 21st century.

There’s a canard that women do not write horror, or that if they do, they contaminate it with icky romance stuff.  Nightmare Magazine recently did a crowd-sourced issue called “Women Destroy Horror!”  It was guest-edited by Ellen Datlow, who is one of the foremost editors of horror working today, if not THE best.

Young Adult writer Marie Lu wonders why, in this day and age, people are still so reluctant to read science fiction and fantasy written by women.

One academic thinks that he and his colleagues should stop writing in impenetrable prose and start writing listicles.  Now there’s a unique approach!  The professor’s own listicle, explaining why his colleagues should follow his advice, is here.

If you’re interested in the history of science fiction, this archive of the feminist fanzines Janus and Aurora will lead you down many interesting paths.

Fan fiction may have some virtues that snobbier readers (in which I include myself, I fear) tend to ignore.  According to this article in the New Statesman, it gives women and marginalized groups a chance to subvert the mainstream perspective.  Definitely food for thought.

Damien Walter suggests that transrealism is the first major literary movement of the 21st century.

One of the judges responsible for awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature, Horace Engdahl, suggests that western literature is endangered by creative writing programs and grants for writers.  It is his opinion that this system turns writers into a bunch of hothouse flowers (my words, not his) who are separated from society.  Instead of driving a cab in order to earn the money to eat, while writing in every spare moment, writers are locked up in the ivory towers of various institutions that choose to support them.  His remarks are bracing.


Yes, it’s that month ago:  the month in which people attempt to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in a single month.  The idea isn’t to write a great novel, but to get the whole damn thing out and onto the page, just to prove that you can do it (which is more a matter of persuading oneself than of persuading anyone else, so far as I can see).  A lot of published novels have ultimately come out of NaNoWriMo novels.  Here are some resources to get you through your own attempt.  I’m thinking that next year might be the year I do this myself.

Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier offered their thoughts on how to approach NaNoWriMo a few years ago, and last year published a guide to all of their blog posts on the project, one for each day of November.

If NaNoWriMo doesn’t interest you, maybe NaNoGenMo does:  the month in which you teach your computer to write a novel.  It’s an interesting exercise, but I’m not so sure I’d want to read what a computer wrote, would you?

If you’re writing a novel this month, good luck!  Keep going!


Amazon continues to find ways to help eager writers publish their works without editing — and, possibly, without even publication.  The new Kindle Scout program doesn’t sound like much of a good deal for authors, according to Jim C. Hines, who has taken a close look at a sample contract.


How long until the majority of books are self-published?  The answer may shock you.  But what does it mean to say that most books are self-published?  Is it an increase in the absolute number of books published or a turning-away from the traditional system of publication — or both?

Some refuse to read and/or review self-published books, and I am among them.  I need the gatekeeping that the tradition publishing industry offers me — and even then, I run into quite a few clunkers.  Chuck Wendig defends the article here, as only he can.  (Another of his pieces, about whether writing is magic, deals with some ideas that are an offshoot of his piece on self-publishing, and it’s hilarious.)

zero sum gameS.L. Huang self-published so that people could pirate her book.  Um, what?  The idea is that it will earn her more in the long run, as some writers claim.  We’ll see.

Cool Stuff

Laughing Squid offers maps of real United States cities drawn by Stentor Danielson in the style of J.R.R. Tolkein in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  If you click through to the artist’s website, you’ll find you can buy prints on Etsy, here.  I’m holding out for Chicago; he’s bound to draw it sooner or later!  In the meantime, though, you might find a Christmas gift for someone special among the drawings Danielson already has available.

Brain Pickings features authors describing their daily writing routines.  I always hope something will rub off on me when I read an article like this; but alas, the routines are as diverse as the books written by the featured authors.

Ever had a book take over your life?  The Huffington Post helps you figure it out, with a list of 22 warning signs.

Why do old books smell so good to us bookworms?  Open Culture explains the chemistry with a terrific infographic.

Sometimes books are recommended to readers for entirely the wrong reasons.  Bookishly Witty lists eight book recommendations that totally miss the point.

Flavorwire shares with us 30 of the most beautiful science fiction covers ever devised.  Given how terrible so much cover art for this genre is, it’s a joy to see the good stuff.

Watch this video to learn how to make a lovely holiday wreath out of old books.  Except for the part where you have to destroy a book, it seems to me like a lovely way to show your bona fides to your neighbors.  I’m definitely tempted, even though I’m all thumbs.

Your brain has a biological response to getting wrapped up in a good book.  The neural changes suggest that you pretty much get transported into the body of the protagonist.  It’s a small study, but wow, isn’t that cool?

I know some folks who have made it a practice to get to visit as many ballparks as they can during their lifetime, sometimes even planning a vacation to add a ballpark to their life list, or adding a day to a business trip to get a game in.  But I’ve yet to hear of anyone visiting bookstores the same way.  I may become the first one to try such a thing, using this list of 44 great American independent bookstores as my guide.  I’ve been to 11 of them so far.  Let’s see how many I can add by the end of the decade; I’ll let you know.

Georges Perec has some suggestions on how to organize your bookshelves.  I never thought this was a particularly difficult problem until I met my husband, who organizes our library to a fare-thee-well (with frequent reorganizations to attempt to solve the problem of too many books in too little space).  Actually, I think he just enjoys playing with the books.

Some television series seem to have a literary sensibility, and I’ve always thought that “The Twilight Zone” fell into that category.  That means I don’t think any excuses are needed for offering you this article about Rod Serling and “The Twilight Zone,” entitled “101 Masterpieces.”  It’s an appropriate description for this venerated series.  I wish we had something equal to it showing today.

This has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with books, but it’s pretty cool anyway:  900 classic arcade games are now available to play on your own computer.  I can play Q-bert again!  You can find the Internet Arcade here.  Armchair Arcade has some advice on how to use the archive.


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