Yup, it’s yet another blog tour! (Seriously, how did I sign up for so many tours? Did I accidentally clone myself one night?) And my YA curse continues because The Light at the Bottom of the World didn’t exactly light up my world. So my …
Tag: Science Fiction
Hmm? What’s that noise, you ask? Well, that’s the sound of a dead meme rising from the ashes. Diversity Spotlight Thursday is back, baby. So this is a weekly meme that was created by Aimal from Bookshelves & Paperbacks (though she’s not hosting it anymore), …
Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now being hosted by The Artsy Reader. This week’s topic is Books I Enjoyed That Are Outside of My Comfort Zone, but I’ve modified it slightly to “books that took me out of my comfort zone but I didn’t necessarily enjoy.”
Comfort zones are funny. Sometimes I feel like I know exactly what I’m comfortable with and not. Other times I don’t even know where the boundary is until I’m suddenly standing outside of it, saying, “Uh, hello? I’d like to go back inside.”
Anywho, the titles = subjects/themes/character types that were (or still are) beyond my comfort zone.
Second Person POV
The Fifth Season was the first book with an extended second-person POV (beyond choose-your-own-adventure books) that I liked, and it actually made me see it in a new light. I love that it goes beyond a gimmick, that it actually serves a purpose in the story, narrative-wise. And I love even more that we don’t find out what that purpose is until book 3.
I was never a big space opera fan as a kid, and I only got into Star Wars and Firefly and all those other big scifi franchises as an undergrad. But then I played Mass Effect and it was like, oh hey, this spacefaring business is actually kind of cool and exciting and I think I want more.
So technically, Mass Effect is what took me out of my comfort zone. But in terms of books, it’s Karin Lowachee’s Warchild that did it. I talk about it quite a bit on the blog, and I cannot overstate just how brilliant the series is. Beyond the space opera aspect, it talks about war and identity, and it features the most disquieting exploration of abuse and its lasting effects that I’ve ever read.
Coincidentally, it also makes use of second-person POV (albeit a lot more sparingly than Broken Earth and also in a different way), and the effect is very, very powerful.
BDSM, Sex, and Queerness
I read this series when I was 18, and it was my first experience seeing BDSM, queerness, and sex mixed together, and so forwardly, in one place. And boy, did that mean a lot to me.
I’m not saying that the Beauty books are quality BDSM literature, because they’re not (I’m 90% sure I’ll end up hating them if I ever do a reread), and it’s absolutely not the series I’d recommend to anyone who wants to dip their toes in BDSM (I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve heard Kushiel’s Dart is a better alternative). But I grew up in a conservative Asian family where sex wasn’t a thing I should even be contemplating, let alone having. Add to that a strong penchant for a kink, and you have the prime recipe for guilt, self-hatred, and repression–a full-course meal. And these books did a lot to make me feel more comfortable in my own skin. “Thankful” is maybe not the right word–it feels weird and a little wrong to be thankful for something that’s kind of problematic–but my feelings are a close cousin to it.
Ironically, by pushing me out of my comfort zone, Beauty helped me find it.
Small Pawns in a Wide World
I have a hard time dealing with stories that reek of helplessness. Where the characters are given the smallest margin of agency, and everything beyond that is too vast, too complex, too deeply seeded for them to change. That’s the main reason why I dislike Never Let Me Go (I struggle with enough feelings of smallness on my own, thank you), yet it’s also the reason why I can’t get it out of my head.
A Heartpuncher of an Ending
Adam, what crime did I commit in a previous life for you to make me go through the ending of More Happy than Not? I’m 100% comfortable reading books that talk about depression and suicide as long as they give me a few rays of hope at the end. This…wasn’t that.
But now, with the initial shock of emotions faded, I can say that it’s a fantastic and crucial piece of fiction–one that talks about queerness and mental health with stark honesty–and I’m glad to have experienced it.
A Heartpuncher of an Ending 2 (Feat. Irish Stream of Consciousness)
Here’s the thing: heartwrenching endings aren’t within my comfort zone and I don’t think they will ever be. I don’t think I can ever be comfortable with something that shreds me from the inside out and leaves me tattered on the ground. That is the definition of uncomfortable.
But here’s another thing: I can be uncomfortable with something and still love it and crave it.
The final thing: I love being broken by someone’s art.
At Swim, Two Boys left me insensate with tears by the end. I was hobbling around for days with my eyes puffy and glazed over. And I would gladly experience it hundred times more. Because this book is one of the most profoundly human things I’ve ever read, and that ending, and my reaction to it, is proof of just how deeply I connected with the characters.
Queer Pain (aka Why Do I Do This to Myself)
I sorely underestimated how uncompromising and triggering Orpheus Girl would be and I paid the price for it. Which sounds kind of dramatic, but god, reading this was like trying to swallow nails: painful, and not in the way I described above.
I didn’t dislike the book and I’m glad that it exists, as it talks about atrocities that are still very present for queer teens today (in the form of gay conversion camps), but it’s also something I almost wish I could unread, and I stand by what I said in my GR review: you don’t have to read these heavy topical books if you don’t want to. You’re not obligated to hold pain–any pain, queer or otherwise–by the blade and bleed yourself to prove that you’re aware of its existence.
You’re Not the Character I Thought You Were
You know what I love? Awful and seemingly irredeemable characters who, against all odds, win me over by the end of the story.
You know what I don’t love? The opposite of that. When there’s a character that I like and want to wrap in a blanket because “oh, he seems so troubled and sweet and he just needs someone to hold him.” And then it turns out he’s actually none of that. He’s actually an asshole with psychopathic tendencies and deserves a fireball to the face more than a hug. That’s a “I WAS ROOTING FOR YOU” moment and not something I’m terribly fond of.
So I should have hated The Court of Broken Knives (and its sequel, which I’m currently reading). The fact that I don’t–the fact that I love it, and it’s become one of my favourite fantasy series–is a testament to how good Anna Smith Spark is.
I’m so, so excited to unveil What in the Worldbuilding, a new blog post series where I’m going to be discussing all things worldbuilding in stories. Because I love stories and I love worldbuilding and I love rambling about them even more. For the first …
I feel like a lot of my personal posts lately have just been me going, “I’m a sad little bundle of sadness!” And, well….the same applies today (I promise a LOT more flowers and rainbows for the next one). But I’ll try to keep it …
I’ve been telling myself that I’ll try out a TTT topic for over a year now, but I never actually took the plunge. But I saw posts for this week’s topic pop up in my inbox (at like 9 PM) and I just couldn’t resist. Because this is a topic I think about a lot.
So here’s a last minute list of settings that I’d like to see more of in fiction!
Underwater – Sea and Ocean
The incredible thing about these large bodies water is that they’re horror, fantasy, sci-fi all rolled into one. They inspire awe and fear and deep, deep curiosity, and really, they kind of do a lot the worldbuilding for you. Which is why it’s crazy that we don’t see more of them in stories. Especially underwater societies.
I do feel like we see them more in video games than we do in books: Bioshock, Sunless Sea: Zubmariner, Subnautica, and Soma, to name a few.
But these are several book examples (some not yet released), with two of them do featuring underwater societies.
🐠 Low by Rick Remender (writer) & Greg Tocchini (artist): a jaw-droppingly gorgeous graphic novel with incredible worldbuilding and a protagonist who oozes optimism.
🐠 The Deep by Rivers Solomon (with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes): Releasing this fall, and I’m unreasonably excited for it. It tackles slavery from an angle that I’ve never seen before.
🐠 The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah: A story about a submerged London starring a protagonist who’s a submersible racer.
Inside of a Whale
SUPER specific, I know. It’s also kind of related to “Underwater” but not really because there’s no written law that says whales can only exist in the ocean. There could be sky whales! Space whales! And dream whales are definitely a thing. They’d be like these massive islands you encounter during your romps through the dream world, with each one housing….well, something. Maybe the inside of each one would be a different level of the dream court. Maybe they’re all home to different dreamscapes (like a cetacean Inception). And maybe there’s this one super illusive whale that all dreamers have heard of but never seen, and the legend goes that it’ll lead you to the place you most desire. So kind of like Moby Dick, but trippier.
But why whales, you ask? No special reason other than that I just really, really, really love them and they’ve always been the subject of fascination for me, both scientifically and narratively. They’re immensely complex creatures and I find their existence constantly astounding and humbling. And it’s so very easy to imagine a myriad of worlds just sitting inside their stomachs.
Because I want to see more airships in stories and because ground islands are so yesterday. And it’d be cool to see all the different creative methods of transportation that take you from island to island (other than airships). Plus, there’s the added thrill of knowing that one small misstep out on the garden or balcony can lead to a deadly fall.
Some of my favourite examples include Bioshock Infinite and An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (and a fairly recent YA series that I can’t remember the name of).
Ice and Snow
I adore stories set in ice and snow and I can’t quite figure out why. Maybe because I dislike summer and latching onto cold things is something my brain does in retaliation. Or maybe because all the icy bits make the warm and cozy bits stand out more.
Whatever the reason, I want more of them. Books I can easily point to and say, “Hey, that’s one for my Winter TBR!” (pretending for a moment that curated seasonal TBRs is a thing I actually do). And movies/shows and games that I can consume during the summer to stave off the heat.
I’ve dreamed of living in a forest city since reading/watching The Lord of the Rings, and that dream sort of became a (virtual) reality when I played Lord of the Rings Online and got to actually frolic through Lothlórien. And I talk a lot about packing everything up and going to live with the bears in some remote cabin in the woods, but like…I don’t think the postal service does book deliveries (or any deliveries) to the interior forests of British Columbia. Also, wildfires are a thing. So I guess I’ll just continue to live out my wood elf dream via fiction.
I feel like most stories nowadays that feature gods take place in the mortal world, and it’s either a mortal protagonist getting caught up in godly affairs or a god/demi-god protagonist getting caught up in mortal affairs. We don’t often see modern stories about gods set exclusively in the world of gods. And when we do get it, more often than not it’s set in the Underworld.
So I’d like to see more variety. More breadth. I want to see mind-bending, cloying opulence rubbing elbows with decaying violence. I want to see how each territory interacts with another. What are the diplomatic relations like? What are the rules of each kingdom? (goddom?)
The biggest examples I can think of is the God of War franchise and maybe the Sandman series (I know the Endless aren’t technically gods but their powers are god-adjacent).
And for stories that are set in underworlds, Lost Gods by Brom is phenomenally rich and beautiful and The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall offers a quiet but vivid world of gods and demons.
Very Specific and/or Non-Murdery Schools
I’m talking beyond assassin and wizard schools. Schools for automaton mechanics. Aspiring griffin trainers. Time traveling spies. Schools specifically made for demi-gods, because for some reason their powers manifest in unstable ways and they need to learn how to control that shit. Or schools for killer nuns, as we see in the Book of the Ancestor series.
But I’d really love it if the school featured mostly non-murdery activities. Like a traveling culinary school that roams the entire realm or galaxy, and its students learn about sustainable foods and methods on how to catch and cook some of the more challenging critters that exist in the world/universe.
Steampunked Asian Countries
So back in 2015, the universe gifted the world a masterpiece of an indie game called 80 Days. It’s basically a retelling of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days (mashed up with his other famous works)…except more steampunk and fantastical. And I’ve always loved steampunk as a subgenre, but I never realized how much I need Asian steampunk in my life until then. Steam-powered caravans pulling merchandise through the Silk Road. Asian aesthetics translated through the eyes of gears and cogs. And I want more of it. Badly.
Big Space Stations or Ships
Because they’re large enough to be their own little ecosystem of human and alien society, which is always interesting and fun, and because these stories usually feature found families and characters who would cross the depths of deep space and back for each other. The Mass Effect series and Becky Chambers’ books being notable examples.
Literally anywhere in the world that’s not the U.S.
Close your eyes and stick a pin anywhere in the world map, and if it’s not the U.S. then I want a story about it (unless we’re talking about Native American stories). Even if it’s out in the middle of the Pacific. Nothing against the U.S! It’s just that the market is so saturated with them and I just want to explore more countries that I’m not familiar with. Or countries that I am familiar with but have not been given enough spotlight in media. And let’s face it, there’s a LOT of them out there.
If you have recommendations for any of these categories–books, games, movies, anime–please, please, please do send them my way!
Happy Monday, all! We’re back to summer weather here, which has been great for hiking and kayaking but doesn’t bode well for the actual summer months. And to the joy of all you tennis enthusiasts (*crickets chirping*), Roland Garros has started! Now, half the fun …
Hey guys! I’m a tad late on this one so it’s gonna be a bit short. The weather’s gone from “I’m sorry, WHY is it 23 degrees in the middle of March???” to a nice, comfortable, predictable “10-15 and raining” which I’m pretty happy about …
I’ve seen Sionna (Books in Her Eyes) and Lisa (Way Too Fantasy) doing Monday updates forever now, talking the books they have lined up for the current week, and I was always on the sidelines going, “Huh, I should join them someday.”
Well, someday is now, apparently, and as my creatively-lacking title suggests, I’m expanding the concept to include video games!
I’ve also smooshed it with the Sunday Post (instead of doing a separate Sunday Post, because I have something else planned for Sundays), so I’ll also be talking about stuff I read and played in the previous week.
⚔️= Fantasy; 🚀= Scifi; 👻= Paranormal; 🔍= Mystery; 🌺= Contemporary; 🗝️= Historical; 🌈= LGBTQIAP+
Last Week – Books
Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver: 🔍🗝️
I loved Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series when I was a teen but never tried her adult books, so I thought “why not?” Well, I went into this expecting gothic chills and witchcraft and got a really boring coming-of-age story instead, so I guess that’s why not.
Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley: 🌺🌈
This one trampled all over my heart and hung me up like wet laundry. It’s a queer YA in the vein of Adam Silvera with grey characters and exploration of religion and sexuality, all of which are handled beautifully.
The Mortal Sleep (Hollow Folk 4) by Gregory Ashe: 👻🔍🌈
(Full review to come)
Ancestral Night (White Space 1) by Elizabeth Bear: 🚀
(DNF @ ~30%) I like Bear’s fantasy stuff but her first foray into space opera just…didn’t work out for me.
Upon a Burning Throne by Ashok K. Banker: ⚔️
(DNF @ ~20%) It’s criminal how gorgeous that cover is, and it’s even more criminal just how awful the content is in comparison. So, so disappointed by this, but I’m glad I DNFed early because from the reviews I’ve read, it apparently gets worse.
Last Week – Games
Between hating on Epic Games exclusives and being busy with a dozen other things, I didn’t have time to play much last week. I did get a chance to finish Eastshade, though!
Developed by Eastshade Studios, Eastshade is a RPG/walking sim/artist sim where you play as a painter exploring a fantastical island full of anthropomorphic animals. You meet people, help them with their troubles, and paint whatever you want of the world.
It’s got its share of issues and some parts definitely feel unpolished, but overall it’s…wholesome. And strangely charming and beautiful. Most importantly, I can’t stop thinking about it. And that’s a win in my book. Full review possibly to come!
This Week – Books
We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett: ⚔️
This has been blurbed as a fantasy Code Name Verity, with a focus on female friendships, so of course I’ll be checking it out. Look out for the blog tour post on Thursday!
Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett: ⚔️🌈
A queer pseudo-sequel to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Enough said.
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine: 🚀
I’m having a hard time with this one. I love, LOVE the setting but I just…can’t get into the writing style. Hopefully it’ll grow on me by the end.
This Week – Games
Developed by FromSoftware, the brains behind Dark Souls and Bloodborne, Sekiro is a brutal action game set in 1500s Japan. I’ve heard mostly good things about this one which is awesome. And it’s apparently different from the Souls series which is even better because I want something new and fresh from the studio, not another Souls game dressed up in a different outfit.
What do you have planned for this week?
“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes in which you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s a freebie so I made up my own prompt: Favourite hopepunk books of 2018. And …