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Geek Luddite

Dec. 7th, 2013

03:11 pm - Seasonal cards!

I got a seasonal postcard from an author in yesterday's mail (ways to build your authorial mailing list - A++, would add self again), and it reminded me that there are many seasonal cards on my kitchen table to be written and a dwindling number of December days in which to write them.
If you can read this, and would like a seasonal card, and think I might not have your address, please consider messaging it to me.

Sep. 8th, 2013

02:32 pm - Nora Roberts is my Pop-Culture Feminist Hero

[I haven't had much to say here lately, and it occurred to me there are things I've said so often offline that I should find a way to make sure I don't keep saying them again, but maybe haven't said them online.  So here you go.]
Things I Say Too Often at Parties 1: Nora Roberts is my Pop-Culture Feminist Hero.
Nora Roberts includes feminist messages in her stories on a consistent basis, right down to the world-building level and all the way through to the smallest character relationships, and she does it in works that have wide commercial appeal. I am always trying to lay this out at parties for people who don't read romance, so I'm hoping that if I write it all up here I'll stop going off at people at cocktail parties.
Six feminist things about Nora Roberts's workCollapse )
It's not that I think Nora Roberts is some ideological paragon of feminism or anything like that.  I'm sure there are things she gets wrong, or doesn't get right enough for some readers.  Because that's how stories work.  What I consistently find it worth pointing out is that she's a successful, mainstream, contemporary author, with a large audience, who gets a lot right, and it's obviously a deliberate part of how her stories are told.  And this deserves to be noticed and talked about.  If nothing else, think about how many thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of people read her books and are comfortable enough with the stuff she puts in there to keep coming back to the next book, and the next one.  To me that says there's a huge, very mainstream audience that is comfortable with all of the above as a baseline.  Roberts's books aren't generally talked about as noticeably, explicitly feminist, they're talked about as successful commercial romance. 

Jun. 19th, 2013

11:48 pm - 4th Street!

I will be at 4th Street this week!  Looking forward to it very much - seeing the folks I've seen before, and meeting new people, and filling my notebook full of notes.

May. 27th, 2013

09:18 pm - Poem pub

A poem of mine, "Dirt Road Prince," was published this month.  I had no idea that the circumstances surrounding this publication would be so difficult, but I'm still really proud of the poem.  If you're interested, you can find it in the Spring 2013 issue of Illumen.

May. 4th, 2013

07:03 am - Books: Akata Witch

I'm so glad that there's sports in Akata Witch!  Seriously, yay to Nnedi Okorafor, because back when I was a bookseller this is definitely a book I would have cross-marketed to a good chunk of folks who liked Harry Potter, and it would have been because it has magic school stuff and sports stuff.  More books should have both, liking magic does not automatically mean you don't like anything else.

Part of me wondered how much this book might be in conscious dialogue with Nancy Farmer's The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, which we read in library school YA lit class and which I've never been entirely comfortable with.  There was something about the ways in which disability, the city, and the kidnappings were discussed that made me wonder this, but I can't quite pin it down.

I liked all the quests and the different types of magic and the slow accretion of many different community mentors and how the teen characters balance family stuff, magic society stuff, and the actual social dynamics of life in school and among their magic using peers.  The hardest part for me in recommending this book as a bookseller or librarian would have been that the cover, while beautiful, well-designed, and accurate to the text, makes the story look a lot softer-edged and more abstract than the text felt.  It's a good cover for this book, I think, but it almost makes me miss the days of ugly collage-scened covers for kids books so we could see them playing soccer and maybe some magic creatures.

Jan. 19th, 2013

Oct. 27th, 2012

09:22 am - Point of Order re "young adult"

Just as a point of order, since it has crossed my reading list in ways that prickle my back at least three times this week alone:
Yes, Young Adult sells well right now, but that doesn't mean everything is going to fit the label "Young Adult." 
I do understand the difficulty of deciding, since young adult is used as a label for at least two things: books teens would want to read, and books specifically written and/or marketed for teens.
But specifically, I'd like to note:
1) If the main characters are all under the age of 12, the odds are pretty good the book is not young adult.
2) If the main characters are all over the age of 25, the odds are likewise pretty good the book is not young adult.
3) Not everything teens enjoy reading is "young adult" and, vice versa, not every book published as "young adult" is one that teens will enjoy reading.

And I get that often young adult is currently being used to describe books whose main characters are teenaged, but I object. Sometimes a bildungsroman is just a bildungsroman.  So, I add:
4) The mere presence of teenaged or young adult main characters does not automatically mean a book's main audience is teenage or young adult people.

Ok, I'm less cranky now.  Please return to your regularly scheduled programming.  Thanks.

Oct. 24th, 2012

07:32 pm - In Praise of Sparkly Vampires, Friendly Werewolves, and the Zombie Couple Next Door

Here and there I've heard people be disappointed by the trend in fantasy to make popular monsters less monster-ish.  Zombies looking for a nice apartment to rent instead of brains to eat. Middle-aged vampires awkwardly raising human kids.  Vampire romance, shifter romance, zombie romance, etc.   "Oh," folks say, "how I pine for the olden days when monsters were monsters and monster-hunters killed them.  When horror was horrifying."

While I can understand that this sort of thing is not everyone's cup of tea, I think the new, less monstrous monsters are a wonderful sign culturally. My vague lit-crit impression is that there's a lot of conversation in analytical circles about how old horror / monster fiction played on a metaphorical level with cultural fears - something about Dracula and early vampire lit saying a lot about the time period's discomfort with women's sexuality, etc.  The monster as Other, with writers and readers projecting all sorts of uncomfortable feelings onto the monster. If there's anything to that theory, then I think we ought to be delighted that so many of the monsters in fiction have gotten so cozy. I think that it says something really promising about our shifting cultural attitudes towards not just "the Other," but lots and lots of groups that have been "othered." 

Aug. 21st, 2012

Jul. 20th, 2012

07:32 pm - Me, Reading, Shame.

So I have this dictionary of humorous quotations.  It was a prize when I was a kid, which means I've read the whole thing cover to cover a few times.
There's a quote in it attributed to G. K. Chesterton that runs "There is a great deal of difference between the eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read."

And y'know, in fiction, I'm very often the tired man. In nonfiction, by all means, bring on the hard stuff.  I find case law hilarious. I can laugh myself silly over the way clauses in a loan document line up.  I'm perfectly willing, on a good day, to read a plain text version of the whole WTO treaty, or The Golden Bough, or what have you. Look at me, marching out my intellectual credit because I do feel a bit of pressure about it.  Like I have to justify it. 

I would like to live in a world where no one, not booksellers, not book reviewers, and not librarians, ever made people feel that they should be, in their own pleasure reading, the eager guy who wants to read a book.  It's pointlessly shaming. 

(This is related to the strange belief some librarians have that a person who only reads nonfiction, or only reads adult fiction, or whatever it is, has to be coaxed to See the Merits of novels / great children's picture books / what have you.  No, they really don't.  Just find them some nice new car manuals and let it be. Unless they ask otherwise.)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being the eager guy who wants to read a book. Go you, eager dude.  Sometimes, go me.  But honest to goodness, there's nothing wrong with being the guy who wants a book to read. 

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