Links: Sundry articles

Some things I have read recently and enjoyed deeply. Any bold emphasis in the quotes is my addition.

Ursula Le Guin Has Stopped Writing Fiction — But We Need Her More Than Ever – “Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable—so did the divine right of kings.”

New Words Were Needed - “Another translation of ostranenie I occasionally find is “alienation,” making the familiar alien, which brings us to science fiction. Whereas modernists tend to defamiliarize at the level of the image, line, or sentence, sf writers have been in the business of defamiliarizing at the level of story since the very beginning.”

1194384Why women are leading the death positive movement – “It was not only important to us to amplify the voices of those actively creating the future of death, but also address the issues many women are facing who are confronted with the reality of ‘bad deaths’ such as femicide, victims of police brutality, reproductive rights and so much more.”

(Note: Talk to me more about women and death. Talk to me of the women who lay hands on the dead and bring them to their rest. Talk to me about the feminization of an industry being intrinsically coupled with its denigration. Talk to me about women and  our physical reality, women and bodies, women being forced to reckon with their bodies in ways that men are not, women taking that to a career that makes death familiar. Talk to me about women.)

Every Body Goes Haywire – “A migraine attack blurs the distinction between “sickness” and “health.” Headache, dizziness, nausea, trouble concentrating, fatigue, poor verbal skills—these symptoms could just as easily result from a hangover or a bad night’s sleep. That the same symptoms can result from irresponsible decisions gives patients an air of culpability.”

The Identity Politics of Whiteness – “These voters suffer from economic disadvantages even as they enjoy racial advantages. But it is impossible for them to notice these racial advantages if they live in rural areas where everyone around them is white. What they perceive instead is the cruel sense of being forgotten by the political class and condescended to by the cultural one.”

The Case Against Reality – “In contrast, you’re saying, Look, quantum mechanics is telling us that we have to question the very notions of ‘physical things’ sitting in ‘space.’”

Today: How to Survive an Anti-Feminist Backlash -“By underestimating the damage that Trump’s extremist right-wing movement is prepared to do to women’s rights, we all but ensure that damage will occur. We can’t relax, and we can’t assume that everything (or anything) will work out.”

She Who Must Be Obeyed (TWIR)

Oh no my library loan ran out on Waking the Moon how tragic that I don’t get to finish.

Clipping from a Wonder Woman comic, with Wonder Woman saying "Back! All men are banned from this island by Aprodite's Law!"
Just base a graduate class on this image and I’m there.

In addition to the Book About Writing Craft that I’m reading, I started reading She: A History of Adventure by H. Rider Haggard, and while it’s enjoyable in a way, I have this sneaking suspicion that it’s not going to end how I’d like it to.

If anyone wants to start a turn-of-the-century feminist/utopia/adventure book club, I am in. Tentative syllabus: She, Herland, The Sultana’s Dream, Mizora, New Amazonia, Man’s Rights… Arqtiq sounds fun, being described as “exuberantly incoherent” so how can I resist? As a voice on the other side, The Republic of the Future and Unveiling a Parallel, maybe?

I spent some time on Wikipedia just now and had a lot of fun.

Short things

I’m really into fairy tales this week.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon - A fairy tale from Norway.

She rode a long, long way, until they came to a large steep cliff. The white bear knocked on it. A door opened, and they came into a castle, where there were many rooms all lit up; rooms gleaming with silver and gold. Further, there was a table set there, and it was all as grand as grand could be. Then the white bear gave her a silver bell; and when she wanted anything, she only had to ring it, and she would get it at once.

Our Fairy Tales Ourselves: Storytelling From East to West – Fairy tales and stories beyond the Hero’s Journey. I added quite a few things to my to-read list from this essay.

TWIR: Tomatoes are delicious

I feel like I haven’t read much lately. I’ve been working on a project that I’m terribly excited about, so I let it eat up some time that would have otherwise been spent reading.

Also, I spent some time this week watching movies, which is not typical of me. And listening to music, which is. I had to do a lot of both of those, though. Because David Bowie means a lot to me. I wish I could put it into words, but I haven’t found a way. Others have said a lot, and it’s very good, and true, about discovering a place to be an outsider, and about making art, making it forcefully and daringly, being willing to change, and being kind, especially after you’ve found success. I’m sad and also not. I don’t know. I’m left with a lot of wandering thoughts.

Anyway, reading.

I started to read Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand early this week, because I was looking for books about schools of magic that weren’t vaguely medieval, but every character is so unbearable, so insufferably posed and styled and stiff, that I don’t think I can do it. I had such strange hopes for this book, but there’s only so many times I can plod through a description of another mid-nineties college-goth outfit. I’ll give it one more try before the library loan expires.

For some reason I dropped Dune for a while after I got back to Boston. I’m back into it. It’s still good, you guys.

Short things

On Jerks at the Casual Optimist, an excerpt from the book Measure Yourself Against the Earth. My favorite bit: “Regret may be rare and hard to come by, but the general sense that jerkiness is associated with perceived and maybe temporary superiority, rather than with entrenched entitlement, offers at least the chance of asking oneself: Hey, was I being a jerk?”

Spanish Lessons: On Language Loss and Recovery at The Toast. I have a lot of feelings about this. About not knowing the language of your grandparents, and feeling not [heritage] enough. The effects of assimilation echo far down the line. Down here on my end, you try to make your own way, to muddle your way back to that heritage, if you can. But you can’t. There’s a feeling of things lost, things missing, things not had because of whatever circumstances. I’m actually jealous of the writer of that article, because of how much more she had than me. She had Puerto Rico. She’s more real than I am. As though my life is fake, somehow, because it was so dominated by whiteness. All my life, every time there’s a demographic question about race and ethnicity, I pause. Every time, I pause, and I ask myself “Is it lying to mark Hispanic?”

Then I mark it.

The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon (Apex) – This is set in the same world as The Jackalope Wives, and I’m so glad. I’m also so glad for this worshipful tone about tomatoes. Just this week I was talking with some friends about how much I love tomatoes, and how that’s the thing I miss about Texas. A good, juicy tomato, sliced onto bread and devoured on a too-warm night. Eating cherry tomatoes straight off the vine. Anyway, The Tomato Thief is a bit of a longer story at 14,000 words, but it’s delicious, with magic and earth and desert.

TWIR: A warehouse of delights

I have much less willpower than I think I do.

Cover image for One Thousand and One NightsLast weekend was Harvard Bookstore’s Winter Warehouse sale, which means I went, which means whoops I bought two books. Two is displaying incredible self-restraint. I bought a beautiful book of a new translation of selected tales from One Thousand and One Nights by Hanan Al-Shaykh. The little image over there doesn’t do it justice; it is a hard cover, printed directly on the cover material in gold and a vivid red. I’ve never read any translation of it before, and this seemed like a really appealing start. I also grabbed a hard copy of Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman because for some reason I’m fond of that story.

What I did not pick up, but did torment a friend with for a few minutes: 101 Jokes from Outer Space. COME ON. “Why couldn’t the astronaut go to the moon? Because the moon was full!”

This is another thing I won’t talk about much because I plan on talking about it a bit later, perhaps: I finished The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin. Please go read it.

Short things

They Are Living Their Own Myths – An interview with N. K. Jemisin at Electric Lit. I include this to note that in future Broken Earth books, we will get more Alabaster and I am a very happy reader to hear that. Although the statement “Stuff happens in book two.” has never been more thrilling or terrifying.

Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World by Caroline M. Yoachim in Lightspeed. A journey through a long, long future, in several incarnations.

“Why are you tugging at the fabric of the universe, Prime?”

“My name is Mei.” Her voice was calm, but her mind was racing. The entity she spoke with was not attached to any physical form, nor could she have said where the words came from.

“You may call me Achron. This must be the first time we meet, for you.”

SRIR: It’s been a while, okay?

That’s “Somewhat Recently In Reading,” in case it wasn’t obvious.

Cover of The Eerie SilenceOver the past mumble mumble weeks I’ve been working through The Eerie Silence, a book about SETI and aliens and all this thinking behind it, in a very readable sort of way. I may be taking casual notes. I’ve never been a good student. But it takes me time to get through non-fiction so I’ve been working on it for a while. (Not as long as the book on Hatshepsut, at least) I keep thinking about alien intelligence, and hope for someone to talk to out in space, and the vast impossibility of it all. And the way we tell stories about it, compulsively looking to the stars even as we throttle public works that would help us get there, and let space become privatized. Don’t let space become a privatized, capitalist space, friends! Space is for everyone! Socialism… IN SPACE.

I got off track. I’m pretty sure The Eerie Silence won’t reach the same conclusion as me. At least not explicitly.

Short things

These are some short stories I have recently dropped into my 4- or 5-Star folder on Instapaper.

Makeisha in Time by Rachael K. Jones in Crossed Genres, which I’m sad is on its last issue. This is an older story, though.

Makeisha has seen the sun rise over prehistoric shores, where the ocean writhed with soft, slimy things that bore the promise of dung beetles, Archeopteryx, and Edgar Allan Poe. She has seen the sun set upon long-forgotten empires. When Makeisha skims a map of the continents, she sees a fractured Pangaea. She never knows where she will jump next, or how long she will stay, but she is never afraid. Makeisha has been doing this all her life.

Paranoia by Shirley Jackson, in the New Yorker. (Did you know: Shirley Jackson is really good.)

A man in a light hat stopped next to Mr. Beresford on the sidewalk and for a minute, in the middle of the crowd, he stared at Mr. Beresford and Mr. Beresford stared at him as people sometimes do without caring particularly what they see. What Mr. Beresford saw was a thin face under the light hat, a small mustache, a coat collar turned up. Funny-looking guy, Mr. Beresford thought, lightly touching his clean-shaven lip. Perhaps the man thought Mr. Beresford’s almost unconscious gesture was offensive; at any rate he frowned and looked Mr. Beresford up and down before he turned away. Ugly customer, Mr. Beresford thought.

Illustration of a spaceship floating above a planet
Art by Galen Dara

Here is My Thinking on a Situation That Affects Us All by Rahul Kanakia in Lightspeed Magazine

For years, human beings have stood underneath me and wondered where I came from and why I was here and whether I’d come to destroy you. Once, a girl and her father went right up to the top of the Empire State Building and he put her on his shoulders and she raised her arms and flapped them up and down as if she was privy to ancient wisdom. Then she said, “Helloooooooooooooo.”

I am vulnerable, as are most people, to children of any species. It is the disproportion of their bodies. The outsized heads and the too-long limbs. They remind me of when I was a newborn spaceship, all wriggly and yellow, sizzling at the bottom of the sea.


The Sisters’ Line by Liz Argall and Kenneth Schneyer, in Uncanny Magazine. I am not entirely sure what happened in this story but I really enjoyed it.

My nextdoor neighbor, Stacy, single mum, keeper of bees, works in robotics, thinks I’m crazy.

This train, this train I’m building is my sister’s train. I have to believe that all the pieces will fit. One day this train will be built, the magnets will be activated, and they will find the right tracks, the tracks that lead to my sister and the hidden country that has taken her.