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You have found my dusty little corner of the Web. Feel free to poke around. I mostly write about books, reading, writing, sometimes movies, sometimes other things. Who am I anyway? I frequently share on Google+ and Twitter, so follow me, if you’re there. Thanks for visiting.

Wow, Ursula K. Le Guin gave a great speech at the National Book Awards…

Here’s just an excerpt, but you should really go read the whole thing–it’s short and completely inspiring:

“I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.”

If you haven’t read any of Ursula K. Le Guin’s books, why not?

Crowd-sourced publishing is The Cat’s Pajamas…

This week, I  got the opportunity to attend an author reading at my local bookstore, Flyleaf Books. The book is a children’s picture book, The Cat’s Pajamaswritten and illustrated by Daniel Wallace, who wrote Big Fish and is a local-to-me author.

What I did not know is that Wallace’s picture book is the first book to be published by a new crowd-funded publishing company, Inkshares. What they are doing is a new model for publishing that gives different kinds of writing the chance to be funded and published, and also allocates a greater share of royalties to writers. Because publications are funded by audience interest, Inkshares can take risks and bring books to market that might not otherwise see the light of day.

If The Cat’s Pajamas is any indication of their products, Inkshares is going to be a great source of high-quality books. Both my 6-year-old and I enjoyed the reading and loved the book (it was my son’s first author signing!).

And, oh yes: “itty-bitty kitty underpants!”

Cli-Fi: Fiction about climate change

I have just discovered a new genre: cli-fi, or climate change fiction. Set in the present or near future, these novels imagine a changed world once the effects of climate change are really beginning to be felt.

It’s not such a new genre to me, after all. I read David Brin’s Earth and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain quite some time ago, and science fiction writers have been speculating about climate change for a long time now. Cli-fi now seems to be gaining some literary legitimacy, though, with writers like Ian McEwan (Solar), Margaret Atwood (the Oryx and Crake trilogy) and David Mitchell (The Bone Clockstackling the subject.

If you are interested in this sub-genre, I highly recommend you start with Rivers by Michael Farris Smith. Set in the near future on the Mississippi coast, which is ravaged by perpetual storms and has been abandoned by the US government, this is a beautifully written and powerful novel.

For further reading, here’s my cli-fi list on LibraryThing.

Recommended reading: Ancillary Justice

Today, I’m recommending Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie.

I previously reviewed this book in my virtual library, but I wanted to mention it again in case you missed it. If you like space opera, political intrigue, or complex plots that turn assumptions upside down, I think you’ll like this book. And I believe the sequel, Ancillary Sword, is newly out–no waiting!

Halloween picks: The Scariest books

I usually like to get in the Halloween spirit by reading a scary book or two. This year, my top pick is NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. If you like Stephen King, you’ll love this book by his son. Not only does it read like King, but it reads like King at his absolute best–one of those great big books that takes you by the throat and forces you to race through the pages just to find out what happens. NOS4A2 has a Christmas theme, so this one will keep you chilled all through the holidays.

Alternatively, you may go for a classic read this Halloween. I just finished The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson, a short surreal piece that inspired Lovecraft. It’s got pig-people in it. Dracula, Frankenstein, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Edgar Allan Poe are also favorites this time of year. (Here’s my essay on Frankenstein as the first science fiction novel.)

For more Halloween reading ideas, here are my picks for the top 10 scariest books of all time:

  1. The Shining by Stephen King
  2. It by Stephen King
  3. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  4. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  5. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  6. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
  7. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
  8. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
  9. World War Z by Max Brooks
  10. The Ruins by Scott Smith

What is the scariest book you’ve read?

It’s election season…

I felt moved to comment on this story posted on the New York Times today: In Democratic Election Ads in South, a Focus on Racial Scars.

Here is my comment, which is a NYT Pick and one of the top recommended comments:

We have all seen ads that invoke race to get white voters out to the polls. Why is it shocking to turn it around, especially when there is no denying facts like the overwhelmingly high numbers of African Americans who are suspended from school, jailed and otherwise targeted? African Americans fought hard for the right to vote and some even gave their lives. Even half a century later, Republicans in states like mine are trying to curtail that right any way they can. African Americans need to get out to the polls and vote just to protect their basic rights. These ads aren’t hyperbole.

The defining characteristic of our era…

I recently came upon this bit of wisdom, from In the Woods by Tana French:

To my mind the defining characteristic of our era is spin, everything tailored to vanishing point by market research, brands and bands manufactured to precise specifications; we are so used to things transmuting into whatever we would like them to be that it comes as a profound outrage to encounter death, stubbornly unspinnable, only and immutably itself.

The marketing, packaging and branding of just about everything is one of the most insidious evils of modern life, I think. I get so tired of absolutely everything I encounter being something I have to purchase and consume. There seems no motivation to do anything anymore, not even make art, without coming up with a way to commodify it. We can’t even just be people anymore. Everyone has to have a personal brand these days, and a presence on Twitter to support it.

No wonder death outrages us. It’s the one thing we haven’t yet figured out how to sell.

PS If you click the link above, you can buy a copy of French’s book and send a few shekels my way. Yes, I appreciate the irony…