I don't usually do link posts. Others do. They're an art (I read Natalie Luhrs at pretty-terrible and Aishwarya at Practically Marzipan. I'd recommend both). But I've come across a bunch of posts and podcast episodes recently that I'd like to refer back to and point you at. So links. Some old, some new.
At the moment, one of my favorite writers (I think in part because I am susceptible to grouchy opinions, strongly articulated) is Ethan Robinson sometimes of Strange Horizons and other times at Marooned Off Vesta.
- This is a manifesto of what (some part?) of Science Fiction can be, masquerading as a book review.
- This is a story by Ethan. I found it disorienting. I've come to think that there's a whole lot of the world we live in - this place where we drive hulking metal-and-plastic beasts over vast cement constructions and regiment our lives by our employers (who are intruding themselves more and more into places they were once not welcome), and otherwise all live together in our little boxes made of ticky-tacky (or live in some other way) - is kind of based around social consensus except that in a lot of ways we'd all define that consensus differently. And here's a story that made me feel that over and over again.
- Cecily Kane had an entirely different reaction based on filling in the pieces around what the story tells.
Another of my favorite writers now is Vajra Chandresekara. He's got a new column at Strange Horizons, but I'll probably always love him best for this piece on Military Science fiction. He also wrote about Binti, a novella I thought was okay, and I really, really liked his review. Which again filled in pieces around the the story.
I always mean to read short stories. And then I don't read nearly as many as I want to. And so many of the ones that I read are "okay-but-not-great". But there's a new podcast Storyological that I adore. (My discovery of last year was Flash Forward which looked at longevity drugs in an especially interesting way and is still appointment listening for me). Every week on Storyological (*shakes fist at people who can reliably release weekly episodes*) they take apart two stories & put them back together. Most recently they talked about two stories from the Apex Book of World SF (which I started reading & need to get back to), and made me feel like a superficial reader in the best possible way.
I've seen a few people herald this 9,000 words long survey of the historical roles of women from Kate Elliott as the definitive answer to men complaining about "unrealistic" women in fantasy. I suspect it'll be as effective in that role as Jon Oliver's evisceration of Donald Trump. It is, however, a good reference. I love that it spends more time talking about women than the silly arguments which prompted it, that it's global in scope, cites sources, and acknowledges the group of people who helped bring it about. As a simple blog post or response to "could women do that?" it's exhausting. As a trove of inspiration, it's a resource to return to over and over again.
I'll note that Kate has had a pretty big impact on how I read women these days. I tend to ask questions like "are they with other women?" "can they be active characters without just being like men?" and "If their roles are different from historical roles I'm used to, how has that shaped society?" (this latter because The Status Quo Does Not Need Worldbuilding)
Here's N K Jemisin on Hamilton, which is one of many essays about this masterpiece, but I like how she connects mythmaking and history and how those two things are really intertwined. And I cannot help but point out that the world we live in, the one that we all figure out how to occupy space in & agree on the common bounds of in various ways is a world shaped and formed by those myths and histories in various ways hard to separate from the physical constraints of the world we live in. That understanding of the world in part because of Kate Schapira, who writes about climate anxieties & imagined futures and also specifically here about environmentalism and pregnancy. Which in turn leads me to the Sevenscribes podcast, currently doing a series on environmental justice and ending each episode by asking "did we learn something?"
I have no idea what similar question would define Cabbages & Kings, but I'll leave you with a set of questions & recommendations:
27 Observations from William Henry Morris
13. The genre readers know what they want. They want the familiar, they want the new. They want the comforting, they want the exciting. They want to be transported, they don’t want to leave the confines of their own worldview. They want you to explain more. They want you to stop explaining so they can fill the cracks with their own explanations. They want, they want, they want, they don’t want. Stupid readers.