the title of this post is a lie.
Letter writing is not a lost art. It happens all the time.
I hated writing letters as a child. I hated writing Thank You notes for birthday gifts, I hated writing out holiday cards. I didn’t like addressing envelopes, I didn’t like pretty stationary.
Luckily, I grew out of that. Way out. These days I voluntarily write letters, purchase fun cards and stationary, go to Postcard expos, and I even enjoy addressing envelopes! Did any of you hear on the radio the other day that the Post Office had good profits last year? well, me and my letter writing friends go through a lot of postage.
It probably shouldn’t surprise me that I’ve come to really enjoy
epilostery, epistoler, stories told through letter writing. Characters writing letters back and forth? that sounds so cheesy! so old fashioned!! but somehow, I find this method of telling a story so much more effective than a bunch of characters wandering around doing things together. It’s strange, how the limits of letter writing flip themselves inside out to something infinite when used to tell a story. Think about it – when you write a letter you only have so much space on the page. It limits your space, so it limits what you can say (unless you want to send a 10 page letter, which is totally OK), so you have to prioritize what you want to say, and details may get left out. Letters also contain far less internal monologue, more inside jokes, the opportunity to add a doodle, misspelled words that may be crossed out, and handwriting that changes sizes or may be difficult to read. Handwriting is a personal and non-verbal communication method all by itself.
So, anyway, I like those kinds of stories, and was lucky enough to run into three fantastic ones recently. Unfortunately, some of these aren’t available for public consumption yet, but they will be soon!
A few summers ago, my husband and I went to an Anime Con in Chicago. It was a blast. And holy cow, the cosplay! The costume contest was the highlight of the weekend for a lot of attendees, and people waited inline for hours to get into the contest. I had a great time enjoying a Chicago summer afternoon and photographing people who were in line. The costumes were beautiful and very elaborate. There was everything from Disney princesses to Anime characters to steampunk interpretations of characters to mechas to Star Wars, to Gothic Lolita and American Superhero outfits, there was everything. The wigs, the props, the dresses, the spandex, just WOW. it was glorious, and it was intimidating. Nothing I could make with my skill set would ever come close to any of these outfits. The generic anime schoolgirl cosplay I was wearing was a button up shirt and a necklace (it’s the middle of the tie) I owned, and about $20 worth of stuff from Goodwill. Maybe there was a reason no one was complimenting my outfit. Who the hell did I think I was, I wasn’t even wearing a styled wig! Maybe successful cosplay just isn’t for me.
More than once, I’ve described myself as a “bad cosplayer”, because I am intimidated by the very elaborate costumes. I don’t have the sewing skills to make a beautiful dress, I don’t know how to style a wig, i don’t know how to shape boiled leather or make something approximating armor. I don’t have the patience for any of that stuff. All those “easy” projects that require something to be done outdoors because of poisonous fumes are a challenge for us apartment dwellers who don’t have a garage or back porch. Could I learn how to sew? Certainly. But I am also very impatient and not all that interested in developing a lot of costuming skill sets (did you not see my blog post earlier this month about having zero free time?). First and foremost, cosplay should be FUN. And to me, FUN means easy. FUN means as little stress as possible. FUN means using the skills I have, such as papercraft and glue, iron-on interfacing, and hand sewing. FUN means fun, not stress.
So, here’s the first of my “reading diary” blog posts.
I’m nearly half way through Ship of Magic, by Robin Hobb. If you’ve never read her, she’s awesome. This trilogy is probably a good starting point for someone new to her work, as it’s sort of a stand alone series. A number of years ago I remember maybe Hobb talking about her own work, or someone else talking about her work, and they said she imagines the worse possible thing that could happen to her main character, and then she does it. and then does it over and over to that person. And yep, that’s about what usually happens in Hobb books. She’s a damn genius writer, so she gets you all emotionally invested in this character (even if you don’t like the character, you will still be invested. Because Robin Hobb), and then all those horrible things that happen to the character? because of your emotional investment, it feels like it’s happening to you. or, erm, maybe that’s just me.
So, in Ship of Magic, Althea is cheated out of her inheritance. Her douchebag brother-in-law, Kyle, persuades the rest of the family that only he can look after the family’s legacy. He’s such a jackass whiny twat that I want to call him Kylo. see all the horrible words I’ve already used to describe him? Althea isn’t an angel either, she’s kinda whiny too . . .
Oh, but what could this inheritance possibly be that they are fighting over? A liveship. Like, the ship is made of a special kind of wood, and after a while, the ship wakes up. It’s alive, and liveships are a totally normal thing in this area. And the ships talk. And they are awesome. There is one liveship that supposedly went mad, and it’s been beached. Althea talks to it sometimes. I bet it would be super therapeutic if that beached ship could swim again. I totally want to pet that poor ship and bring it cookies. and Kyle needs to die in a fire. But, this is a Hobb, so he won’t.
published February 2016
Where I got it: Received ARC (thanks!)
What if, for a very small fee, you could be better at math? Or could fall asleep easier at night? Or could digest anything? Or had better eyesight? Or could hold your breath a little bit longer? Or any one of a hundred other things that could make your life just the smallest bit easier? Wouldn’t that just be the best?
Thanks to mysterious marble sized orbs that fell from the sky, everyone’s life is a little easier. All you have to do to reap their benefits is find a matching pair and burn them. Burn the slate gray ones for a beautiful singing voice, forest green for enhanced senses, copper to become ambidextrous, chocolate for enhanced strength, and so on. The rarer colors are of course, more expensive, but anyone can afford a common color, or even find the common ones in their own backyards and randomly all over the city. Orbs can only be used once, but the skills they impart last a lifetime.
Teenager David Sullivan, who goes by Sully, had his fifteen minutes of fame when he found a Cherry Red, one of the rarest and most valuable orbs. Young and naive, he was talked into selling it to a famous collector. And then a team of lawyers cheated Sully out of the money. Well, the collector, Alex Holliday, says it was done fair and square. It’s not Holliday’s fault Sully didn’t read the contract through. It’s an event that’s come to define Sully’s life.
Is there such a thing as a free lunch? Some people feel the orbs are evil, that they are harmful. Some people refuse burn them, yet still buying and selling them to make a living. Sully and his working class friends often burn only the commonest, cheapest orbs. As it is, the little bit of money Sully makes at the flea market barely makes up for the family’s lost income when his mother loses her job. Sully feels protective of his Mom, he’s all she’s got.
But what are the orbs, really? Should we be burning them, willy nilly, with no thought of what it could do to us, long term? Holliday continues to brag about all the colors he’s burned, making speeches and putting his prized orbs on display in his department stores. He reminds me a little of Zachary Quinto’s character in the first season of Heroes, “collecting” every talent he can. Ugggh, I want to punch Holliday in the face.
How things were in my life until January 2015:
Most days it was easy to find a half hour to read slush and at least an hour (and sometimes 3) to read a book. I had a super cushy job that mostly involved waiting around. If nothing was happening at work, it was totally OK for me to sit around and read a book. Finding a few hours here and there to write long and passionate reviews as also pretty easy. I’d spend Saturday mornings catching up on my RSS feed, commenting on other blogs, arranging author interviews, plotting and planning read-alongs with other bloggers, requesting ARCs, and all those other fun things that come with being a passionate blogger. For four years, I was in book blogger heaven. I was ridiculously spoiled and I no concept of how good I had it.
Things changed, as they do, and in Oct of 2014 my employer reorganized and downsized, which resulted in me having a
nice and relaxing depressing and terrifying 3 month vacation from working. In January of 2015 I landed a job with a very large and very stable company. They wanted to pay me a lot of money to do something I truly do enjoy: field management. The hours are long, and the job is incredibly intense and challenging. Finding time to read and blog has practically disappeared, as you can see from the drop in my published reviews and general online presence.
I’m not giving up my blog. She’s my labor of love, my baby. She’s not going anywhere. But, if I’m going to keep her alive, I need to change gears. But I only have so many spoons.
I used to call these posts Vintage Science Fiction ’round the Blogosphere, but Vintage SciFi is now on Instagram and Youtube! Wow! Let’s see what all these fantastic folks have been up to:
Red Star Reviews gives a great summary of the four authors he focused on for Vintage Month, Frank Herbert, Gordon R Dickson, Joe Haldeman, and Henry Kuttner. I don’t completely understand how Instagram works, but Red Star Reviews has been instrumental in getting a lot of images posted to Instagram. Click here for a fantastic gallery.
on Youtube, Winx and Ink reviews The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Booktuber The Space Possum shares her Vintage Book haul
Galactic Journey discusses everything that was new and innovative in 1961 – short fiction from Galaxy and Analog Science Fact and Fiction magazines, films of airships and apes, and more!
Bev over at My Reader’s Block reviewed The Platypus of Doom by Arthor Byron Cover (that guy’s name rings a bell!) and Imagination Unlimited which collects stories by Bradbury, Sturgeon, May, deCamp, and others
Starbornis a fantastic Andre Norton tribute site
Worlds in Ink went for the Smorgasbord of goodness with the Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 25, featuring all the greats from the early 60s
Two Dudes in an Attic offers an in depth discussion of what We Who Are About To by Joanna Russ is, and isn’t.
As always, Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations offers up book reviews, cover art galleries, and discussion of titles such as Irrational Numbers by George Alec Effinger, and the Universe 1 anthology edited by Terry Carr
Lynn’s Book Blog has been showcasing some fantastic (and weird!) cover art from She by H. Rider Haggard, Logan’s Run, The Stepford Wives, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and a review of The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. Go let her know which cover arts are your favorite!
Weighing A Pig Doesn’t Fatten it wasn’t at all impressed with The Santaroga Barrier by Frank Herbert (while I, on the other hand, found this book fun and weird. But I’m a Herbert fangirl.)
The Howling Frog reviews The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
as for myself, I recently read The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. It was very enjoyable, but i still haven’t gotten around to reviewing it. If you liked Gaiman’s Stardust, then you’ll like The Last Unicorn. Beagle plays around with language and fairy tale tropes, and “how the story is supposed to go, because that’s how all these types of stories go”.
What of the above books look interesting to you?
Published January 2016
where I got it: Received ARC from the publisher (thanks Broadway Books!)
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Two asides, by method of introduction:
Robert Jackson Bennett knows how to make a damn good sandwich.
I find mythology tragic, yet addictive. It’s like a scab I can’t stop picking at, a trainwreck I can’t look away from. The more we tell these beloved and culturally powerful stories, the more we trap their inhabitants. One of my favorite examples of this is Loki (Fenrir is another). He is trapped in his destiny, he can’t make other choices or do other things, even if he wanted to. And every time his story is told, the shackles get tighter. As storytellers, we need him to be a particular archetype, we need him to act a certain way, to be a certain lever of the world as we know it. Because otherwise, the myth wouldn’t have the desired effect.
Mythologies are cultural artifacts of incalculable value, and as we gain strength and inspiration from their telling we enslave the characters within the myth, because we know how the story has to end.
Confused yet? Excellent. Let’s talk about City of Blades.
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City of Blades is both a very easy book to talk about, and yet a very difficult one. It easily falls into my favorite category of books, those “that aren’t what they say they are about”, which makes it very easy to talk about without spoiling important plot bits. However, it is hard to talk about, because there are intimacies and honesties in this book that as a reader, I feel I have been trusted with. I do not want to betray that trust by mis-speaking about someone’s experiences. I just realized I am treating Bennett’s characters as if they are real people. I talk about not wanting to betray someone’s trust, yet that someone is a fictional character, whose life and secrets are available to anyone who wishes to turn the pages of her life. You know what? I like thinking about Turyin Mulaghesh as a real person. It’s a comfort, to give that kind of weight to her life, and to the lives of the other characters in the book.
Both this new novel, and it’s predecessor City of Stairs, reminded me a little of Cordwainer Smith – as in both Smith and Bennett flat out refuse to follow any of the expected and so-called “rules” of the genre in which they are writing. Both authors write as if there simply are no rules or conventions, as if no one ever took them aside and said “you know you’re not supposed to present this type of story this way, right?”. With City of Blades, Bennett takes it one step further and joins Seth Dickinson in dragging an eraser through the genre, erasing the so called rules and conventions.