This is a super fast-paced book, with good-looking men, an adventurous heroine, dubious types doing dubious things and some fast driving in a Monaro.This is a super fast-paced book, with good-looking men, an adventurous heroine, dubious types doing dubious things and some fast driving in a Monaro. Would make an excellent holiday read....more
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Wesleyan University Press, at no cost. It's available now.
It's no secret that I like science fiction and hiThis book was sent to me by the publisher, Wesleyan University Press, at no cost. It's available now.
It's no secret that I like science fiction and history and am feminist, so books like this are like a perfect conjunction for me. I've previously read Helen Merrick's Secret Feminist Cabal, and Justine Larbalestier's Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction AND Daughter of Earth, which is a compilation of early female SF writers. So I've got a bit of background knowledge - not that you need it at all for this anthology, because Lisa Yaszek and Patrick B Sharp set the scene magnificently in their intro to the book and to the chapters.
Here's the thing that makes this book really special: while the biggest section is on the authors, because they include some stories - including a fairly long novelette - the editors don't stop there. They also have sections on the female poets, and artists, and journalists, and editors of the 30s and 40s. This blew my mind. I'd vaguely heard of Margaret Brundage, I think? But I certainly didn't realise that there were women active and influential in all of those spheres. Yaszek and Sharp also cross into the amateur magazines, where women were also hugely important in the development of "understandings of science, society, and SF in different arenas of SF production" (xxiii). If you're interested in early science fiction at all, if you're interested in women in literature, if you're interested in the history of SF - this is an excellent anthology.
The book opens with fiction authors, and I had never read any of these stories; the only name I immediately recognised was CL Moore. Each story is introduced with a short bio of the woman, focusing on her SF productions, and then a short discussion of the story itself. The stories are very much of their time, of course, but/and it's really interesting to see the representations of men and women in them. In Leslie F Stone's "Out of the Void," the male narrator is "not as slender as I was once, nor as spry" (30), which made me giggle. In Leslie Perri's "Space Episode," it's the female astronaut who has the guts to do 'the only neat thing', to steal a phrase from Tiptree, and much of the story is taken up with reflecting on the male astronauts. CL Moore's "Shambleau," probably her most well-known short story, is in the 'terrifying woman' mode although as Yaszek and Sharp point out, the terrifying woman resists straightforward readings as strictly female (or male).
The stories are not afraid of politics; Lilith Lorraine (who features heavily throughout) wrote "Into the 28th Century" and imagines a near-utopia (shades of Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time) coming out of great destruction: emerging "from the wreck of private ownership", and "the chariot of diabolical 'efficiency' [had] rolled on and either converted all men into cogs in its machinery or crushed them to powder under its wheels" (118). Full employment meant no more charity and those unfit for labor didn't deserve charity... and the utopia of many centuries later has all citizens embarking on grand educational schemes and a world fully united - and the first World President was a woman (121). Although there is still some eye-rolly stuff about woman is a "more delicate organism" (122), they are full participants in education and so on, and I suspect there is some underlying eugenics in there too. Nonetheless it's a story of magnificent scope. Overall, with the stories, Yaszek and Sharp have chosen a good range of stories to show what women were producing - horror, near and far future SF, and so on. You certainly couldn't say that these were 'girly' stories; there's basically no common thread between them. I was fascinated by the historical comparisons with gothic and domestic fiction that Yaszek and Sharp drew, as well as the discussion of innovation.
The poetry section isn't very long, and I'm no poet, but I liked reading them and considering SF poetry - which I've never really given much thought to. The journalist section is intriguing, because Yaszek and Sharp talk a bit about the prevailing attitude towards science journalism and how some of these women go along with that style, and how some challenge it, and how some wrote very provocative articles ("The White Race - Does it Exist?" for example... which is cringe-worthy in the 21st century but taken in context, where it's challenging prevailing notions, is quite remarkable).
The Editors section really surprised me. I don't think I'd heard of Dorothy McIlwratith: she ran Weird Tales from 1940 until 1954! And then there's Lilith Lorraine, again, who reminds me of Alisa Krasnostein and Twelfth Planet Press in their determinedly political stance. Lorraine established six amateur press publications over about two decades. In one of her editorials, Lorraine calls for training for 'world citizenship,' claiming that 'He who does not love all humanity is a traitor to his country' (316). And that was in 1946. Again, I deeply appreciated the historical context that Yaszek and Sharp provide, by showing how these editors followed a tradition of women editing magazines in the 19th century and how this was updated and changed for a new century and a new genre.
Finally there's the section on artists, which again I can't comment on the art itself but the historical context was great. The idea of women trained in fashion art moving over to covers for Weird Tales and so on is initially odd but of course makes sense, because they understand proportions and so on. Also somewhat odd is Brundage creating the sexy images (seriously, boobs out on a magazine from 1931??), but Yaszek and Sharp point out how often the women are centre stage and not all damsel-ed.
Finally, Kathleen Ann Goonan writes a marvellous essay to conclude the work, tying the works of these women from the 30s and 40s with the work of women up to 2015, commenting on the all-female Nebula podium in 2013 and the Puppies, with some stats of publication rates for women (c/ Cheryl Morgan and others) as well as some particularly well-known examples of misogyny in the field (Connie Willis and Harlan Ellison; that SFWA Bulletin debacle from Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg). In the end, what Goonan concludes and what the whole volume shows, is that women have always been in SF and that what SF can and should do is to welcome all voices, because this "is the first step toward using that strength [of dreams] to point our universe toward unlimited future" (362). ...more
You know, I could probably keep reading this and enjoy it enough. But I'm at page 55 and ... I just don't care. I don't feel like finding out whetherYou know, I could probably keep reading this and enjoy it enough. But I'm at page 55 and ... I just don't care. I don't feel like finding out whether the children find their planet killers and I don't care much about the main characters. And life is too short to read books that aren't captivating....more
This book was recommended to me by the sourdough baker whose course I took. It turned out that I had already one of Pollan's books - The Botany of DesThis book was recommended to me by the sourdough baker whose course I took. It turned out that I had already one of Pollan's books - The Botany of Desire, which was awesome and looked at various plants in light of the general idea of desire. (My biggest take away message: the Agricultural Revolution was the grasses using humanity to destroy the trees. Also that all edible apples are clones.)
This book is Pollan's attempt to learn more about cooking, having looked at the gardening and the eating side for a long time. He divides the book into four sections: Fire, Water, Air, Earth. Or, basically: barbecue, braise, bread, and fermenting.
Pollan makes a lot of interesting claims for cooking throughout the book. That individuals cooking can help "reform the American food system, to make it healthier and more sustainable" (1). That cooking can help people feel a measure of self-sufficiency and stick it to the big corps who want to do everything for us (at a price); that people may well be healthier if they cook at home. It was important for me to remember that this book is firmly embedded in an American culture. He quotes the stat that American households spend 27 minutes a day preparing meals - which is half that of 50 years ago. Now, of course there are lots of reasons for that, and Pollan is certainly not saying that people ought to be spending hours every day making food. He uses this stat more as a way of pointing out that things have changed, and that in America at least people are "handing over the preparation of most of our meals to the food industry" (3). I did a scratch poll of friends and the vast majority say they prepare their dinner 'from scratch' (which may not be the scratch of 50 years ago, but whatever) most nights of the week. Maybe I have particularly foodie friends? I don't know. But I feel that Australians are probably more likely to cook meals... of course with all the caveats about having time and who you're cooking for etc.
At any rate, like I said, this book is an attempt to show that cooking can be a delight rather than just a chore; that cooking can be a wonderful experience, that it can have serious ramifications for our health (variety = better gut micro biome), that it can have social implications, and so on. And before you get worried that this is a man telling women to get back in the kitchen, he is firmly saying that everyone - men and kids as well as women - would benefit from hanging around in the kitchen more.
Fire: as an Australian I am bewildered by the barbecuing of America, and that in some places 'barbecue' is reserved for the cooking of an entire hog. Perhaps this is the legit origins but it's not how it is here! Anyway, while I can't ever imagine going to a southern barbecue place in America - I don't love pork - this chapter was deeply fascinating both for the discussion about barbecue but, more than that, for the discussion about the people (let's be real here, men) involved at the celebrity level.
Water: I quite like a casserole or braise but I don't think I've ever appreciated what's going on at a molecular level. And I definitely don't dice my onions minutely enough. This chapter probably deals most with the change in attitudes towards cooking, and the idea that women moving out of the kitchen was a fundamental part of women's lib. Interestingly Betty Friedan thought all housework a form of oppression, while Simone de Beauvoir wrote that cooking could be "revelation and creation"... and apparently Joan Gussow says there's "no evidence that cooking is, or was, a hated chore from which the food processors ... liberated women" (186). All of which is to say women's history, and indeed women's lives? CONTESTED. Who knew. There's also a fascinating discussion of 'secondary eating' - eating while doing something else - and the difference between eating something that is hard to make vs just buying it. Who's making their own hot chips at home, from scratch? At any rate I may need to investigate the braise a bit more.
Air: look, it's about bread. And especially sourdough bread. I like making bread. I loved reading about the chemistry, and Pollan's experiences with the bakers, and the history of bread and white flour, and was a bit horrified about what goes into Wonder Bread (um, cellulose. As in, bits of trees). This chapter resonated most with me I think because of my experiments this year. And it gave me some ideas of things to try with my own baking...
Earth: the arena with which I have least experience: fermentation. Again, the chemistry aspect is deeply intriguing, as is the discussion about societal expectations and tastes - feeling smug about something that the neighbours can't stand. This is where Pollan talks about beer and experiments with home brew; he goes to visit cheese makers and is amused by the OHS implications of the moulds that happen in cheese places. And he challenges the Pasteurian idea that getting rid of all bacteria from food is a good idea...
The book ends with four recipes - the basics of each chapter - and a bibliography that makes me want to alternately weep tears of 'I'll never get through all of those' and indulge in delirious book-buying madness.
It's a delightfully readable book, and one which wants to at least challenge you to consider your cooking and, indeed, eating habits. We don't have to go back to making our own sausages from scratch. But maybe we could spend just a little more time thoughtfully considering our food and meal options, and attempt to think about cooking as a craft and an opportunity to create rather than just a chore. That's the challenge that I'm taking away; sometimes it's really hard to think that way, and it's then I'm grateful to live in the modern world: because choice is a wonderful thing. And choosing to cook a bit more is a good option, when you can, for a whole bunch of reasons. ...more
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Bloomsbury Children's, at no cost. It's on sale now; RRP $19.99.
The promo material that comes with this sayThis book was sent to me by the publisher, Bloomsbury Children's, at no cost. It's on sale now; RRP $19.99.
The promo material that comes with this says it's for 12+ years. Me, I wouldn't give this to a 12 year old that you wouldn't give Lord of the Flies to - and I'm guessing that's most of them. It's been a while since I read Lord of the Flies but there are definite overtones of that scenario in Carthew's book, especially in the second half. I rather feel a kid would need to be a bit robust to read and enjoy this, because it's certainly not all rainbows and cupcakes. I know dystopia is (was) all the rage but this feels a bit closer to home than that...
The set up sees Trey, as a small child, hiding in a cupboard while his parents are murdered. What a cheery opening, right? And then the story skips forward eight years and Trey is getting himself into a farm camp for juvenile criminals, in theory intended to train the adolescents in useful skills but in reality more like forced labour. Trey has willingly gone there in order to try and find the man responsible for his parents' deaths. Which is a bit messed up I think.
There are some really interesting ideas here, but for me some of the better ones are the ideas that get mentioned and then lost. It becomes clear int he second half that society outside of the camp isn't exactly the society of Britain (I think) in 2016... but exactly what's going on and how it got there is never explored. It's just mentioned in passing, almost for no reason, and then ploop... disappears. The entire set up of the farm isn't explored or explained in that much detail, so it just sort of... exists... as a place for things to happen.
The main focus of the story is friendship and revenge. Friendship in this kind of environment is always going to be a bit fraught, what with sadistic overseers and bullies and a system aimed at breaking kids down. The friendship between Trey and a boy in his bunk room, Lamby, is believable enough but I didn't always buy the friendship between Trey and Kay, a girl with whom he ends up doing farm work. It might have been a bit more believable if there had been other female characters with whom we got to see Kay interacting, or even Trey interacting with them.
The revenge aspect drives the initial part of the plot and again I didn't entirely buy the eight year old boy turning into an adolescent so driven by revenge that it's as if there's a demon under his skin. This idea of a demon gets a few mentions - including on the back cover - but isn't really explained; Trey occasionally talks to it but it's not clear what we're meant to think is going on. Maybe that's left deliberately ambiguous but it didn't work for me in this context. There is some resolution to this revenge plot but, again, it didn't entirely work for me.
This all makes it sound like I hated the book, but I didn't. I didn't love it, but neither did I loathe it. Cart hew writes beautifully on a sentence level; the Financial Times apparently described her as using "vivid, imagistic language" and certainly a lot of the language is vivid. Some of the lacunae are obviously deliberate and evocative, which I liked, it just didn't always sit well with the plot. ...more
I've been meaning to read this book for ages. And I do mean years. Finally got it this year because I was reminded of it by someone when I read a veryI've been meaning to read this book for ages. And I do mean years. Finally got it this year because I was reminded of it by someone when I read a very poor version of the Snow Queen.
Many of the stories are excellent, although it's not quite the anthology I was expecting. I wasn't expecting there to be discrepancy in whether the stories were pretty faithful or quite different versions; I found it a bit disconcerting to bounce from one to the other, and then have completely made up (that is, not based on commonly told fairy tales) stories in there as well. I'm not saying any of those three options is bad but it felt jarring to have them all mixed together. But I think that's mostly my expectations.
Lisa Goldstein's use of Hansen and Gretel motifs to tell a story about a woman's relationship with her daughters was a delight and a really intriguing way to end the anthology. I loved Patricia A McKillip's take on the snow queen and Esther M Freisner's "Puss" was deeply troubling. Actually a lot of them were deeply troubling, but that was kind of the point both because original fairy tales just were troubling and because this anthology was always intended to be about both the fantasy and the horror aspects of the stories. Hence the title. There were a lot of really great stories in this anthology and I can see why it keeps getting talked about. I guess I finally need to read Angela Carter now. ...more
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Bloomsbury, at no cost. It's being published in February 2017; RRP $16.99.
I have to say first off that I thThis book was sent to me by the publisher, Bloomsbury, at no cost. It's being published in February 2017; RRP $16.99.
I have to say first off that I think the title is naff. It doesn't tell you anything and it also doesn't relate to anything in the story. So that's my whinge.
The promo material for this book suggests 12+. I would say 14+, personally; I can't think of a 12 year old I would deliberately give this. Some 12 year olds would take it for themselves and cope quite nicely, I suspect, but that's a different issue.
Zoe's father died a few months ago; her brother goes out in a snowstorm and she has to rescue him; she meets a stranger with tattoos and apparently some sort of extraordinary power. He has no name; she calls him X. He's a bounty hunter; things of course do not go well for him or for Zoe and her family.
It's not the most original-sounding narrative, but there are some remarkable aspects to the book. Slight spoiler: X is from what would be best described as hell, but the Lowlands are quite different from any other incarnation of hell that I've come across in fiction. It's an intriguing vision of the place and of how it might be used. There's no explanation of the Lowlands and how it operates; instead the focus of the narrative is on relationships, and the work of bounty hunters... it's all about the vibe of the thing. And overall that worked. Certainly there are a myriad of unanswered questions about the mechanics, but they don't really matter for the story itself.
The human world and especially Zoe's family are beautifully realised. The different expressions of grief are portrayed sensitively and realistically. Jonah, Zoe's brother, has ADHD; it's just a fact of life and oh my goodness he's a cute terror, as little brothers usually are. Mum is vegan and a bit nuts and fierce and has always struggled to hold the family together: I adored her so much. Zoe's friends Val and Dallas are a delight (Val made a Tumblr of her girlfriend's feet) and although I thought it was going to veer into dodgy love triangle territory Giles avoids that neatly. Dad... well, he was a struggler, and the way mum slowly revealed a bit more about what he was like to Zoe over the course of the book was heart-breaking and, again, intensely realistic.
Into this human world comes X, quite accidentally, and in some ways - although a third or more of the book is from his perspective - he's the most opaque of all of them I think. Partly this is because he almost has no personality, thanks to how he has grown up; he really only starts to live after meeting Zoe. I was reminded of those suggestions of how Matt Smith's Doctor 'imprinted' on young Amelia Pond, as I watched X and Zoe together. I was initially a bit squeaked by their budding romance because I thought he was much older than her; turns out he's maybe 20 to her 16 (which is still a bit squick for me). The intensity of their attitude towards one another, especially his for her, was the main eye-rolly bit for me. It all seemed a bit too intense too fast.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing is that this is the start of a series. It felt to me like the sort of intense story and relationship that ought to be encapsulated in just one, say 450-page, book. I don't know how it could have been resolved but I definitely would have preferred that.
Overall this is a well-paced and intense book that I read in the course of one day. I enjoyed most of the relationships and I was genuinely surprised by a couple of the revelations. I'm not sure whether I want the sequel because I'm afraid it will lose the intensity, but that's a problem I'll just have to deal with. ...more