Graham Joyce has died. He was one of the great fantasy writers of our age. The first book of his that I read was The Tooth Fairy, which is wonderfully weird and off-balance, different from any other fantasy work you’ll read. Most recently, I read The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit, a coming-of-age tale set in one of England’s resort towns, which I enjoyed enormously (I reviewed it here). I was stunned by the news that he was gone. It’s been a bad year for those of us who love great SF; we’ve lost too many really excellent writers.
The winners of the British Fantasy Awards have been announced. It’s great to see Clarkesworld, one of the best of the internet speculative fiction magazines, getting some love.
The longlists for the National Book Awards have been announced. I’m primarily interested in the fiction list — and horror of horrors, I have not only not read any of these, I own only three! Time to get reading.
Ursula K. LeGuin has been chosen as this year’s recipient of the National Book Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. It is well deserved. To celebrate, I recommend one of her lesser-known works: The Lathe of Heaven. This book blew me away when I was in college, and it still has the ability to induce awe and wonder in me all these decades later.
What to Read Next
Kirkus lists the ten most anticipated books of the fall reading season. I’ve got David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks in my To Be Read pile, and I’m eager to get to it; Sarah Waters’s The Paying Guest will arrive this week. An embarrassment of riches, to be sure!
Kirkus is looking forward to some good young adult fiction, too.
Kirkus also lists the top speculative fiction picks for September. One of the picks is Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes, which I’ve just finished, and it’s excellent; The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire is also terrific — maybe her best in the October Daye urban fantasy series. I’ll have reviews of both up at Fantasy Literature very soon, so keep your eyes peeled.
And again Kirkus: nonfiction this time.
Tor.com has done its usual fine job in gathering up the titles to be released in September in various subgenres. Here are the fantasy titles; here are the science fiction titles; here are the paranormal and urban fantasy titles; here are the paranormal romance titles; here are the genre-benders. As usual, I’m particularly taken by the genre-benders, including Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood and Gifts for the One Who Comes After by Helen Marshall. I wish Tor.com would include a horror write-up as well, but perhaps I’m just being greedy.
Geek Smash is much choosier: it suggests a mere five fantasy and science fiction books to read this September. One of them is John Scalzi’s Lock In, which I’ve read and highly recommend. (You can read the review a group of us at Fantasy Literature put together here.)
Looking ahead, My Bookish Ways tells us what’s coming in speculative fiction in October. I’m looking forward to Bathing the Lion by Jonathan Carroll, as well as Keith Donoghue’s The Boy Who Drew Monsters.
Tired of reading only those books written by Americans for Americans? Want to expand your horizons? This list will provide you with plenty of science fiction and fantasy to read from outside the States. BoingBoing adds a list of Cuban science fiction that sounds wonderfully different.
Black Gate suggests some prime historical fantasy for your reading pleasure. Make sure you read the comments for some suggestions of books in the same genre written earlier than the last two to three years.
If your taste runs more to short fiction, you might enjoy The Alternative Typewriter’s suggestions. The best part is that the blog links the short fiction that is available online, so there’s no waiting to get the right collection, anthology or magazine. Part One; Part Two; and keep your eyes on the blog for further suggestions.
And if you enjoy essays, here’s a real treat: Flavorwire cites 50 essays that will make you a better person, with links where available, and links to sources you can seek out to find them if they’re not available online.
Need a way to get into a particular writer you’ve always wanted to read? BookRiot offers Reading Pathways, suggesting a three-book reading sequence for getting acquainted with an author.
There’s nothing new in Garrett Powell’s advice on how to become a writer, but it helps to be reminded from time to time. The real key, from everything I’ve read, is: write. Write some more. Keep writing.
Stephen King has his own approach to teaching writing, but ultimately it still comes down to: write. This interview with the premiere horror writer — maybe even the premiere writer — of our time in The Atlantic is inspiring.
Haruki Murakami boils it all down to three characteristics: talent, focus and endurance.
Staffer’s Book Review suggests that the series is dying. The murderer? The internet. It’s almost impossible to build an internet buzz for the third or fourth book in a series, Justin Landon says, no matter what its quality. I see what he’s saying, but I also know that an awful lot of readers like to read what is comfortable and set in a world they’re already familiar with. This is why so many Amazon authors are writing fan fiction and why movie and television tie-in books sell. Larry Nolen at Of Blog has some thoughts about how long-tail reviewing also makes a difference, and may make momentary statistics a bit misleading. Any thoughts on this one?
Publishing Technology asks what effect Kindle Unlimited — the new Kindle lending library offered by Amazon — is having on authors earnings. The answer does not seem inspiring for authors.
The Atlantic asks who should be deciding what high school kids read. The piece revolves around a dispute at Cape Henlopen High School in Delaware about Emily M. Danforth’s YA novel, The Miseducation of Cameron Post. It’s the story of a Wyoming teenager who is gay, but whose grandmother forces her into a group called “God’s Promise,” which tries to turn her straight. Parents objected to the book, which was on a list of ten summer reading books from which students were to choose one. The history of the dispute is laid out in the article, and it suggests that we’re still arguing about things we were arguing about when I was a kid. I still remember when I exhausted the YA offerings in my local public library; my father instructed the librarian to let me read “the classics” from the adult stacks. The librarian and I frequently argued over exactly which books fell into my father’s “classics” category — but at least I had plenty to read (I don’t recall her ever doing more than question my choices; she never denied me a book).
BBC Culture asks whether Jorge Luis Borges is the most important writer of the 20th century. The article makes a good case that the answer to its question is “yes.”
io9 explores the Islamic roots of science fiction.
Everyone seems to have suddenly discovered that H.P. Lovecraft was a racist, though those who love his work (or at least hold it to be enormously influential) are dismayed by the focus on his racism, suggesting that it was nothing abnormal for the time. Salon says it’s okay to admit that Lovecraft was a racist, and it would even be okay to change the World Fantasy Award from its current design as a bust of Lovecraft.
Flavorwire lists 50 of the greatest characters in literature. While plenty of the expected characters are there (Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books, for instance, or Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird), a few surprises are also included, like Mickey Sabbath from Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theater and Mary Katherine Blackwood from Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It’s a great list.
Gail Forman, writing for The Huffington Post, says that YA fiction is for everyone because it’s some of the most inspiring, risk-taking work out there these days.
Facebook analyzed answers to a meme that was floating around awhile back about ten books that influenced its users, and found that the Harry Potter books got first prize. The entire list suggests that the most influential books are those we read as children, though there are a few outliers (I doubt that too many children read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, for instance).
The Guardian is skeptical of YA dystopias, which it believes encourage children to submit to the free market, not fight authority.
Do people read as deeply, and become as involved in a text, as they used to? Has the internet destroyed us from deep engagement with books? Slate looks at our reading insecurity in detail. It notes a string of studies that indicates we read the internet differently than we read physical media. Yet there’s also the fact that we’re all reading more, regardless of medium; certainly that has to be worth something? Do read the article all the way through, even though it notes itself that you probably won’t; there’s good information here.
Millenials are outreading their elders. That’s good news, I think!
Are libraries dying? This article says yes, but I’ve noticed that my local library is amazingly crowded every time I go. Sure, many of the people there are using the computers, but there are also plenty of little kids running around pulling books from shelves and adults sitting and reading. And I think the article also overlooks that many, if not most, libraries are also offering digital checkouts these days.
Amazon vs. Hachette
Yes, the battle rages on. Nothing has changed. Writer Ben Mezrich explains why this dispute is “terrifying” for authors, while writer Neal Pollack dissents, saying that Amazon is actually building authorial careers for many. Some writers are now targeting Amazon’s board of directors with letters claiming that Amazon’s reputation — and the reputations of the directors themselves — are at risk, essentially comparing them to book burners. In the meantime, independent booksellers are making hay while the sun shines, using this dispute to increase their appeal and market share.
This has nothing to do with books, but it’s a great video of an amazing athletic feat at the Nanjing Opening Ceremony for the Youth Olympic Games in 2014. If you’ve never seen it before, you’ll be amazed; if you have, but haven’t looked at it in a while, you’ll be amazed all over again.