the Little Red Reviewer

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There was a neat panel at this year’s PenguiCon about author self promotion. I didn’t make it to the panel, but I wanted to, and I bet a lot of what I bring up in this blog post was mentioned there. Or at least I hope it was.


As a blogger, I’m on the receiving end of all that author self promotion. What authors put out there tends to end up in my inbox and in my twitter feed, and allows me to make a snap decision on if I’m going to give them 5 seconds, or a week of my life to read and then write an in depth review of their novel.


I’ve been blogging since mid 2010, and on twitter for about five years. I’ve seen plenty of author promotion – some of it effective, and some of it terrible.   Us blogger types can be harsher than slush readers and professional editors and publishers. At least those folks are obligated to read your first few hundred or few thousand words before deciding to read on.  I’ll be making a decision to interact with you (or not) based on the first few sentences of your first interaction with me.


(tl;dr:  do: be authentic and friendly . Don’t: be pushy)

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I’m sure by now, most of you have heard about this.

And this.

I’ve made a few public comments, I’ve sent a number of private e-mails. My brain processes this kind of stuff very slowly. And these announcements especially have been a challenge for me to process, because I’m not sure how to categorize them. Retirement? Loss? Like a friend moving away? Like a party ending? Graduation and everyone scattering? All of the above?  So much feels.

But the overwhelming emotions I am feeling right now are gratitude and responsibility.

I have so much gratitude for John, JP, Kristin, and everyone else at SFSignal who took a chance on me. They gave me a place and welcomed my sometimes weird voice. Thanks to SFSignal, I’ve gained other opportunities I otherwise would never have had. Opportunities became stepping stones, which became introductions, which became other opportunities. SFSignal is where I *became*, if that makes any sense. It’s where I blossomed. We all throw around the word community, and the phrase the SFF Community. I didn’t know what that word meant, until SFSignal.

So, gratitude. I wouldn’t be the person I am without SFSignal.

The biggest, best, and least talked about opportunity I had through SFSignal was being able to pay it forward. New author I’m excited about? New short fiction magazine that’s doing some cool stuff? Someone is editing an anthology I wish more people knew about? I could give those people a voice at SFSignal, through interviews, book reviews, columns, and Mind Melds. I could make sure projects I believed in got a little more attention. Talented blogger? Let’s get them a column or a gig as a Mind Meld coordinator. A responsibility grew in me, a responsibility to pay it forward.  And maybe that’s how you know you’re part of the right community, part of the right online family – because everyone’s passions and positivity rub off on you. I wanted to be my best self for the people whose support and guidance helped me become who I am.  Also? it’s awesome to pay it forward.

When John and JP decided it was time to shut down SFSignal, what a lot of people heard was “goodbye”.

Underneath the sads, and the feels, and my exploding twitter feed, what I heard wasn’t “goodbye”, but “you’ve graduated”. Now I, and all the other SFSignal irregulars, get to take what we’ve learned to our other communities and online families. I blossomed at SFSignal. And now I’m full of seeds that can be planted anywhere.

Schools over.  It’s time to see what we’ve all learned.

And in case you’re wondering, I have no plans to go anywhere.  I’ve been a bit slow lately here at LRR, but I’m still here, quietly and happily doing my thing.

Have you seen? Stefan Raets is hosting a read along over at of Kage Baker’s Company novels.  The first book in the series gave me #allthefeels, and I’ve been slowly collecting everything by Kage Baker since.  When Stefan mentioned this read along on twitter, I asked if there would be spoilers. And well, since the later books in the series touch on one huge overarching plot, yes, there would eventually be spoilers.

I’ve read up to book 5 in the series.  And I’ve been avoiding reading further. Because once I run out of Kage Baker books, there will never be any more.  it’s a sad prospect.

it’s sort of like. . .

How I’ve avoided finishing the 7th season of Parks and Rec because I don’t want the story to be over.

How I’ve rationed how fast I read Iain M. Banks Culture novels, because once I run out, there won’t ever be any more.

How I don’t even want to know how many episodes there are of Jane the Virgin, because I don’t want to know how close I am to the end.

How I still haven’t read the third book in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy because I don’t want to have closure in whatever the fuck is going on in those books.

I guess I just don’t like endings.  Closure is a type of separation, and I don’t want to be separated from these experiences.

But screw that, because life is too short.  I started the 6th Company novel the other night, and don’t mind if I do binge read through the rest of the series.

And when I run out of Kage Baker and Iain M. Banks books? I’ll just read ’em again, and find everything I missed the first time around. There’s nothing stopping me from reading the entire Southern Reach trilogy again whenever I want, so what’s stopping me from reading the final book? And Parks and Rec is so good I’ll just watch the first few seasons again.

Because the end isn’t the end.  When it comes to reading, and especially reading a completed series, the end is just the beginning of a new way to enjoy a much larger story.  Each novel is a tree, the end of the series is the forest.  and why to cling to just one tree when there is this gigantic forest to explore?

Sounds like I got some Parks and Rec to binge watch.

Daylight saving time,  Purim, Easter,  Hyacinths,  everyone tweeting links to their Hugo Eligible stuff. It’s that time of year. Do blogs count as fanzines and/or bloggers count as fan writers?


If you are so inclined,  here is some stuff I blogged in 2015 that I’m especially proud of. And if you’re not inclined in that direction, here are some well written books and short stories that deserve their own nominations.


a review of Bone Swans by C.S.E Cooney

a review of The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

a review of Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz

a review of Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

all that Vintage SciFi stuff that I’ve done every January for the past  not sure how many years. On the sidebar to the right, Click on all the Januarys for all that stuff.




outlanderOutlander, by Diana Gabaldon

published in 1991

where I got it: purchased new




As much as I love speculative fiction, sometimes I want something a little different. As much as I usually eat food that’s pretty healthy, sometimes I just wanna eat Arby’s curly fries.

And I am now part of the Outlander cult. One book in, and I’m all about drinking the kool aid and fangirling all over the place. This book was curly fries, really good potato chips, and salted caramel ice cream all rolled into one. It was all my guilty pleasures bound together into a doorstopper of a book that was a surprisingly fast read. Reading this book was like the best hand-to-mouth snacking ever.

And yes I know it is a TV show now. I haven’t seen the show.

Some of you are saying to yourselves “she’s finally read Outlander!”, and others are wondering what the hell the rest of us are going on about. For those of you in the second group, Outlander is a portal historical romance. It’s 1945, the war is over, and Claire and her husband Frank are enjoying a much deserved romantic getaway in Scotland. It’s the perfect location for Frank to research his family tree, for Claire to talk to the locals about herblore and local medicinal plants, and for the two of them to get some mental distance from everything they experienced during the war. And then one night, Claire touches something in a stone circle and finds herself hurled back two hundred years.

She doesn’t yet know when she is, but she knows where she is, and since she’s been listening to Frank drone on about his family tree, she knows his many-times-great Uncle Jonathan Randall is floating around here somewhere. She’ll just find a Randall, and all will be good, right? Oh wow, so wrong.

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I was an art minor in college. It took 32 credits for me to learn that while I am rather creative, I am not artistic. One of my art professors had us do a project where we created a self portrait shadow box using found items. Of what little I owned at the time, I sure wasn’t going to sacrifice any of it for some art project. And the things that I felt represented me either weren’t things, or weren’t easily available. On the day of the critique, I remember most of the shadow boxes included parts of the single serve cereal boxes you could get in the dorm cafeteria. Somehow Lucky Charms and Apple Jacks was supposed to represent all the anxiety a college freshman away from home from the first time experiences?


I do wonder though, if the art professors had a bet going to see how many students used stuff pilfered from the dorm cafeterias in these “found objects” projects.


I’ve been listening to a lot of techno music lately. It falls under different names – techno, EDM, dance remix, electronica. Yes, I know all those words technically mean something different, but in Venn Diagram land they all overlap somewhat. It’s the kind of music where someone has taken lots of bits and pieces of other songs and layered them on top of each other, and on top of a dance beat. it’s really fun to dance to. the beats per minute is usually pretty high, so it’s great music to run or work out to. If you have Sirius Radio in your car, I listen to channels 51 and 52 a lot. Hardwell, #ASOT, Tiesto’s Club, stuff like that.   Last week on channel 52, I heard a dance remix of the main theme from the movie Interstellar. Someone had taken Hans Zimmer’s music and put a dance beat behind it, and mixed it around a few other ways. It was so beautiful i nearly started crying. I only have access to this radio station while in the car, so I was nearly crying while driving too fast down the interstate.


If i knew now what I knew back when I was taking that annoying art class, I’d have turned in a dance remix instead of a shadow box. And probably received an F, because it was an art class, not a music appreciation class.


More on this at a different time, but i’m one of those weird people for whom sound often has a corresponding color.  When I listen to a song on the radio, the singer’s voice may have a certain color (not all singing voices have a color, but the ones that do have a consistent color). So the whole radio song is usually the same color. Still with me? But the techno music, because the melody changes all the time, it’s like the DJ (or mixer, or composer?) is layering all sorts of different colors, painting with different sounds. In the course of 5 minutes, I get to hear lots of different colors! wheee! It’s the sound of a colorful painting, but not in an overwhelming fashion. More like it’s a few colors at a time, and those colors slowly morph to other colors. Sort of.


Whoever has put the song together has chosen their bits and pieces of music and put them together in a very particular way, with one sample shifting into the next, which shifts into the next, and so on.  Like an orchestral overture, a particular melody might make multiple appearances.   Maybe the composer switches up tempo, or pitch, with a faster beat being following by a slower beat, and then a faster beat, or a short melody followed by a long melody, followed by another short one.  And the entire thing together? It is a shadow box of the whole song – a bunch of found objects that when put together represents whatever the composer/artist wanted to represent.  If you’ve ever been in the terminal tunnel at Detroit Metro Airport, a lot of the techno music I like sounds a lot like the shifting colors in that tunnel.


I’m not sure what to call the folks who make this kind of music. DJs? mixers? artist? composer? How about “editor”?  They are pulling together things that will work together, choosing an order of what should come after what, deciding how the end user should experience their creation.  It’s like they are editing an anthology of sound.  An anthology you can listen to in 8 minutes.
there you have it: how techno music is like fiction anthologies.  And if you read your anthologies cover to cover in the order shown in the TOC, techno music might be for you.

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In the last few days, I’ve zipped through about two thirds of Gabaldon’s Outlander, read Tim Powers’ forthcoming novella Down and Out in Purgatory (very fun, wish it was longer!), and have been randomly pondering the following:

1.Whose point of view are you more interested in, the protagonist or the antagonist? Who has a more interesting story to tell – the “good guy”, or the “villain”?

2. What’s the book that took you the longest to read? How long did it take?

3. How embarrassed should I be that my bookshelves aren’t organized, like, at all? All the cookbooks are together, and the manga is mostly together, and some shelves are 100% paperbacks, but mostly the shelves are just a mish mash of books. Are your bookshelves organized? What’s your organization method?

4. home made chicken stock – start with raw chicken, or stock up the carcass from last night’s roasted bird?


See? I told you. totally random.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.