The Whitney Plantation in Louisiana is the only US museum and memorial to slavery. The Atlantic has a video about the museum and its founder, John Cummings, who spent 16 years and $8 million of his own money on it.John Cummings racism slavery USA video
“We’ve got a pipeline problem, so let’s build a better pipeline.” –Bess Sadler, Code4Lib 2014 Conference (the link goes to the video)
I should add, right here: I’m no longer trying to get a librarian-coder position*. This post isn’t about me, although it is, of course, from my perspective and informed by my experiences. This post is about a field I love, which is currently shooting itself in the foot, which frustrates me.
Bess is right: libraries need 1) more developers and 2) more diversity among them. Libraries are hamstrung by expensive, insufficient vendor “solutions.” (I’m not hating on the vendors, here; libraries’ problems are complex, and fragmentation and a number of other issues make it difficult for vendors to provide really good solutions.) Libraries and librarians could be so much more effective if we had good software, with interoperable APIs, designed specifically to fill modern libraries’ needs.
Please, don’t get me wrong: I know some libraries are working on this. But they’re too few, and their developers’ demographics do not represent the demographics of libraries at large, let alone our patron bases. I argue that the dearth and the demographic skew will continue and probably worsen, unless we make a radical change to our hiring practices and training options for technical talent.
Building technical skills among librarians
The biggest issue I see is that we offer a fair number of very basic learn-to-code workshops, but we don’t offer a realistic path from there to writing code as a job. To put a finer point on it, we do not offer “junior developer” positions in libraries; we write job ads asking for unicorns, with expert- or near-expert-level skills in at least two areas (I’ve seen ones that wanted strong skills in development, user experience, and devops, for instance).
This is unfortunate, because developing real fluency with any skill, including coding, requires practicing it regularly. In the case of software development, there are things you can really only learn on the job, working with other developers (ask me about Git, sometime); only, nobody seems willing to hire for that. And, yes, I understand that there are lots of single-person teams in libraries—far more than there should be—but many open source software projects can fill in a lot of that group learning and mentoring experience, if a lone developer is allowed to participate in them on work time. (OSS is how I am planning to fill in those skills, myself.)
From what I can tell, if you’re a librarian who wants to learn to code, you generally have two really bad options: 1) learn in your spare time, somehow; or 2) quit libraries and work somewhere else until your skills are built up. I’ve been down both of those roads, and as a result I no longer have “be a [paid] librarian-developer” on my goals list.
Option one: Learn in your spare time
This option is clown shoes. It isn’t sustainable for anybody, really, but it’s especially not sustainable for people in caretaker roles (e.g. single parents), people with certain disabilities (who have less energy and free time to start with), people who need to work more than one job, etc.—that is, people from marginalized groups. Frankly, it’s oppressive, and it’s absolutely a contributing factor to libtech’s largely male, white, middle to upper-middle class, able-bodied demographics—in contrast to the demographics of the field at large (which is also most of those things, but certainly not predominantly male).
“I’ve never bought this ‘do it in your spare time’ stuff. And it turns out that doing it in your spare time is terribly discriminatory, because … a prominent aspect of oppression is that you have more to do in less spare time.” – Valerie Aurora, during her keynote interview for Code4Lib 2014 (the link goes to the video)
“It’s become the norm in many technology shops to expect that people will take care of skills upgrading on their own time. But that’s just not a sustainable model. Even people who adore late night, just-for-fun hacking sessions during the legendary ‘larval phase’ of discovering software development can come to feel differently in a later part of their lives.” – Bess Sadler, same talk as above
I tried to make it work, in my last library job, by taking one day off every other week** to work on my development skills. I did make some headway—a lot, arguably—but one day every two weeks is not enough to build real fluency, just as fiddling around alone did not help me build the skills that a project with a team would have. Not only do most people not have the privilege of dropping to 90% of their work time, but even if you do, that’s not an effective route to learning enough!
And, here, you might think of the coding bootcamps (at more than $10k per) or the (free, but you have to live in NYC) Recurse Center (which sits on my bucket list, unvisited), but, again: most people can’t afford to take three months away from work, like that. And the Recurse Center isn’t so much a school (hence the name change away from “Hacker School”) as it is a place to get away from the pressures of daily life and just code; realistically, you have to be at a certain level to get in. My point, though, is that the people for whom these are realistic options tend to be among the least marginalized in other ways. So, I argue that they are not solutions and not something we should expect people to do.
Option two: go work in tech
If you can’t get the training you need within libraries or in your spare time, it kind of makes sense to go find a job with some tech company, work there for a few years, build up your skills, and then come back. I thought so, anyway. It turns out, this plan was clown shoes, too.
Every woman I’ve talked to who has taken this approach has had a terrible experience. (I also know of a few women who’ve tried this approach and haven’t reported back, at least to me. So my data is incomplete, here. Still, tech’s horror stories are numerous, so go with me here.) I have a theory that library vendors are a safer bet and may be open to hiring newer developers than libraries currently are, but I don’t have enough data (or anecdata) to back it up, so I’m going to talk about tech-tech.
Frankly, if we expect members of any marginalized group to go work in tech in order to build up the skills necessary for a librarian-developer job, we are throwing them to the wolves. In tech, even able-bodied straight cisgender middle class white women are a badly marginalized group, and heaven help you if you’re on any other axis of oppression.
And, sure, yeah. Not all tech. I’ll agree that there are non-terrible jobs for people from marginalized groups in tech, but you have to be skilled enough to get to be that choosy, which people in the scenario we’re discussing are not. I think my story is a pretty good illustration of how even a promising-looking tech job can still turn out horrible. (TLDR: I found a company that could talk about basic inclusivity and diversity in a knowledgeable way and seemed to want to build a healthy culture. It did not have a healthy culture.)
We just can’t outsource that skill-building period to non-library tech. It isn’t right. We stand to lose good people that way.
We need to develop our own techies—I’m talking code, here, because it’s what I know, but most of my argument expands to all of libtech and possibly even to library leadership—or continue offering our patrons sub-par software built within vendor silos and patched together by a small, privileged subset of our field. I don’t have to tell you what that looks like; we live with it, already.
What to do?
I’m going to focus on what you, as an individual organization, or leader within an organization, can do to help; I acknowledge that there are some systemic issues at play, beyond what my relatively small suggestions can reach, and I hope this post gets people talking and thinking about them (and not just to wave their hands and sigh and complain that “there isn’t enough money,” because doomsaying is boring and not helpful).
First of all, when you’re looking at adding to the tech talent in your organization, look within your organization. Is there a cataloger who knows some scripting and might want to learn more? (Ask around! Find out!) What about your web content manager, UX person, etc.? (Offer!) You’ll probably be tempted to look at men, first, because society has programmed us all in evil ways (seriously), so acknowledge that impulse and look harder. The same goes for race and disability and having the MLIS, which is too often a stand-in for socioeconomic class; actively resist those biases (and we all have those biases).
If you need tech talent and can’t grow it from within your organization, sit down and figure out what you really need, on day one, versus what might be nice to have, but could realistically wait. Don’t put a single nice-to-have on your requirements list, and don’t you dare lose sight of what is and isn’t necessary when evaluating candidates.
Recruit in diverse and non-traditional spaces for tech folks — dashing off an email to Code4Lib is not good enough (although, sure, do that too; they’re nice folks). LibTechWomen is an obvious choice, as are the Spectrum Scholars, but you might also look at the cataloging listservs or the UX listservs, just to name two options. Maybe see who tweets about #libtechgender and #critlib (and possibly #lismicroaggressions?), and invite those folks to apply and to share your linted job opening with their networks.
Don’t use whiteboard interviews! They are useless and unnecessarily intimidating! They screen for “confidence,” not technical ability. Pair-programming exercises, with actual taking turns and pairing, are a good alternative. Talking through scenarios is also a good alternative.
Don’t give candidates technology vocabulary tests. Not only is it nearly useless as an evaluation tool (and a little insulting); it actively discriminates against people without formal CS education (or, cough, people with CS minors from more than a decade ago). You want to know that they can approach a problem in an organized manner, not that they can define a term that’s easily Googled.
(I have a whole slew of comments about hiring, and I’ll make those—and probably repeat the list above—in another post.)
Once you have someone in a position, or (better) you’re growing someone into a position, be sure to set reasonable expectations and deadlines. There will be some training time for any tech person; you want this, because something built with enough forethought and research will be better than something hurriedly duct-taped (figuratively, you hope) together.
Give people access to mentorship, in whatever form you can. If you can’t give them access to a team within your organization, give them dedicated time to contribute to relevant OSS projects. Send them to—just to name two really inclusive and helpful conferences/communities—Code4Lib (which has regional meetings, too) and/or Open Source Bridge.
So… that’s what I’ve got. What have I missed? What else should we be doing to help fix this gap?
* In truth, as excited as I am about starting my own business, I wouldn’t turn down an interview for a librarian-coder position local to Pittsburgh, but 1) it doesn’t feel like the wind is blowing that way, here, and 2) I’m in the midst of a whole slew of posts that may make me unemployable, anyway ;) (back to the text)
** To be fair, I did get to do some development on the clock, there. Unfortunately, because I wore so many hats, and other hats grew more quickly, it was not a large part of my work. Still, I got most of my PHP experience there, and I’m glad I had the opportunity. (back to the text)
I'm giving away about 170 back issues of Analog. Let me know if you're interested. Details follow.
My father had about 350 issues of digest-sized science fiction and fantasy magazines; I retrieved them from his house after his death.
About half of those are issues of Analog. The earliest-dated Analog issue is July 1966; the collection is sporadic through the '70s, but includes nearly every issue from the 1980s. Then it tapers off in the '90s, ending with 1994. (Plus one issue from 2000 and one from 2006.)
I'd like to give away these Analog issues to someone who would appreciate them, but the academic library that Kathleen talked with already has them, and iIrc used bookstores tend to have a hard time selling old sf magazines. And there's another factor that probably makes it harder: most of these issues have at least a little bit of soot on them, mostly on the spines. It would probably be feasible to remove most or all of the soot, but it would take a fair bit of work. (Kathleen has been removing soot from my father's books, but I gather that it's a bit harder to remove from magazines.)
All of the issues look fine and are intact and readable. But I think the soot means that libraries and bookstores are unlikely to want them.
So if you'd like a bunch of free old issues of Analog, let me know. I'll happily ship anywhere in the US. International may also be feasible.
My preference would be to keep the whole set together, not because it's a full set or collectible but just because I suspect it'll be even harder to find a taker if I create more gaps by handing out individual issues. However, if you want some subset (such as a full year's run, or even a single issue), let me know. Certainly if you want a single issue that I have two copies of, I'll be happy to give you one.
(Edited to add: The whole set would likely take up about three bookshelves in a bookcase. Call it roughly 90 shelf inches.)
I would prefer to give them to someone who would read or otherwise appreciate them; my intent here is not to have them used as an art project, or to have the covers cut off and the rest thrown away, or anything like that.
The catalog is available as a Google Sheets document. For the first couple dozen in the list, I added links to ISFDB entries, and occasional notes about famous authors listed on covers. I probably won't get around to doing that for the rest of the collection.
(Dates are given as the first day of the month indicated on the cover, for ease of spreadsheet sorting. Or the 15th, in cases like “mid-September” issues.)
If you have questions or are interested in some or all of the issues, let me know.
(I'm not yet giving away the non-Analog magazines; I'll post again if that changes.)
The Wolfpack is a documentary that follows the six Angulo brothers, whose father kept them sequestered (along with their sister and mother) inside a four-bedroom apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan for fourteen years because he thought the city unsafe, allowing only annual or semi-annual trips outside. The boys' only access to the outside world was through movies, which they recreated in their tiny apartment. The trailer:
With no friends and living on welfare, they feed their curiosity, creativity, and imagination with film, which allows them to escape from their feelings of isolation and loneliness. Everything changes when one of the brothers escapes, and the power dynamics in the house are transformed. The Wolfpack must learn how to integrate into society without disbanding the brotherhood.
They did not mess around when it came to their filmmaking...this is a surprisingly realistic Batman costume made out of cereal boxes and yoga mats:
The Wolfpack won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year, and the brothers made a few videos to thank the festival for their prize. Here are the Clerks and The Usual Suspects thank yous:
They also filmed a scene from one of their favorite movies of 2014, The Grand Budapest Hotel:Batman Clerks movies The Grand Budapest Hotel The Usual Suspects The Wolfpack trailers video
It’s been a week long celebration here. Our Five Year Anthology is released, Issue 23 is live and full of fantasy and fairy tale magic, and our authors continue to publish incredible things. Thank you for joining our celebration this week. After all, there’s nothing better than discovering your new favorite author.
Kim Mary Trotto‘s novel Goodlands, a teen adventure-romance, is published on Swoon Website. And, make sure to check out her short stories “The Last Memory of Bally” (published in Frontier Tales), Hullabroo (published in Aphelion Webzine), “Well Suited” (published in Defenestration) and of course, “The Gold Fish” published in LSQ.
A. E. Ash published her sci fi poem “Sidereal” in Apex Magazine May 2015.
Allison Har-zvi won first place in the Women’s National Book Association’s annual writing contest! Her winning story “If You’re Ready” is now online in their publication, The Bookwoman. Unlike her work for LSQ, this story doesn’t fall into the speculative fiction category, but, as she says, “I’d be flattered if you wanted to check it out anyway.”
K C Maguire has published her first novel! Check out Inside the Palisade, her YA dystopia story.
If you like what you’re reading, consider getting a copy of our Anthology, and checking out Issue 23. And trust me, with the authors we publish, we’ll always have a few suggested readings and great news to share. Keep reading and keep writing. It’s good for the soul.
As someone who’s adept at using the internet to connect with folks and broaden my audience (I can safely make that statement without disclaimers now), you might think I’m one of those tense, big-eyed folks slavering at the keyboard screaming, “YOU MUST BE JACKED INTO THE MATRIX AT ALL TIMES OR RISK OBSCURITY.” But one of the things I’ve kept top of mind throughout my career is this: the writing comes first, and in order to write I need to be sane. The marketing brain and the writing brain are actually two wildly different modes of communication. One of those requires me to be loud and extroverted. The other requires me to be quiet and solitary. Inhabiting those two frames of mind at the same time is almost impossible for me.
This is why I always recommend that people read Booklife. It was the first advanced writing book I read that addressed a lot of the business aspects of this odd profession, including how to juggle the marketing vs. writing thing, and it recommended setting aside big blocks of time for writing, and then blocks of time for promotion, instead of trying to do both at once. I’ve put this system into place the last 18 months or so and achieved something like success with it. For six weeks every year, I’m “on” – I’m available for ALL THE INTERVIEWS and ALL THE BLOG POSTS right there during release month for my latest title. But come October 26th, I’m going mostly dark again until about mid-January when I’ll start to spin up again just in time for ConFusion.
I echo what Tobias Buckell says about only doing stuff you enjoy, and then only for as long as you enjoy it. When you start hitting burnout, you need to back off. The reality is that what we’re all really here to do is write… right?…not play at being internet famous. Because without the work, what are you, really, but another blathering blowhard on the internet? I haven’t worked the last twenty years to be just another senseless internet wonder without sticking power. And that means I need to spend my time where it counts most: writing the books that matter to me.
To achieve that I need study time, I need quiet time, I need big epic blocks of writing time, and that’s not going to happen if I’m constantly checking in on Twitter and comparing my life to everyone else’s highlight reel. I ditched Facebook last year because it had become a noxious distraction of bigotry and infighting, and never looked back. Twitter still has far more pros than cons, but I recognize that the time I spend updating and reading my feed and interacting with friends and colleagues is time that I would be spending reading or researching if I wasn’t hooked in. As an author, I need the break sometimes to swing back to reading and thinking instead of constantly reacting. And that’s really the downside to a lot of social platforms – if you’re not careful, you may find that you spend all of your time constantly reacting to rage after rage after rage and mention after mention after mention, like a rat with a sugar delivery button.
This is the real, insidious problem with staying hooked in too long: you start to think your little bubble of outrage and book squee is all there is in the world, and it sucks out all your writing inspiration. It becomes all-consuming, and it can color your perception of the world in strange ways. I do my best writing and research in concentrated chucks of time free of distractions. This is one reason I got into writing in the first place. I lived in the middle of nowhere and didn’t get out much, so I spent a lot of time making up pretend friends and having imaginary adventures. It was pretty easy to transfer that to the written word once I could actually make marks on paper.
So I’m a big believer in the necessity of internet breaks, and in selectively choosing when and to what purpose you choose to react to what’s happening online. You can go away for a month or two or three and come roaring back with your batteries recharged and you know what? The world may be obsessed with another Hot New Thing, sure, but they would have been obsessed with that anyway. If you bring them good work forged in the heat of your dedicated break and promote it like a bad ass, you’ll survive just fine. It sure beats driving yourself into the ground and burning out in a flaming spectacle and never writing again, eh?
It’s the same with who and what you choose to engage with. You’re not a sorry piece of shit for sitting out some bullshit rumble. You’re putting your time toward creating amazing new things that make the rumble irrelevant.
Go forth and make cool shit.
Vidder: Sumana Harihareswara ("brainwane")
Fandom: Multi (documentaries, movies, TV, comics, coding bootcamp ads, and more)
Music: "Blank Space", Taylor Swift
Length: 3 minutes, 11 seconds
Summary: The tech industry has a blank space, and is quite eager to write your name.
Content notes: Implied verbal/emotional abuse, a few seconds of very fast cutting around 1:50
License: Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike (CC BY-SA)
Download: on Google Drive (165 MB high-res MP4, 23 MB low-res MP4, 98 MB AVI), or at Critical Commons with login (high- and low-res MP4 and WebM files)
Stream: at Critical Commons (choose View High Quality for best experience)
Subtitles file: http://www.harihareswara.net/vids/pipeli
Premiered at WisCon 2015 (the vid party) in May.
More notes at my Dreamwidth.
If you recut the scenes from seasons seven & eight of Seinfeld to emphasize certain aspects of Susan's death-by-envelope, you get a feel-good TV movie about George Costanza, a man who finds triumph in the midst of tragedy.
Tags: remix Seinfeld TV video
Her death takes place in the shadow of new life; she's not really dead if we find a way to remember her.
Mum's also annoyed that now I won't be visiting for my birthday, because I'll be in Austin two weeks later anyway for the new surgery date, so she's trying to arrange Birthday Things for me in Chicago. Which is nice of her, but I couldn't really care less, like, I have nothing against birthdays but I don't get nearly as stoked about them as she does. I fully expect 36 will be harder than 35 was; god knows 31 was much harder than 30. Having outlived both Jesus and Alexander the Great, I've set my sights on Napoleon, and I've got quite a stretch to go before I hit 51. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
She DID subsidize my yearly birthday trip to the Midnight Circus, a small indy circus in Chicago that does fundraisers for local parks in the summer, so that's nice. I suspect she will also be subsidizing dinner afterward.
In the meantime, I'm going to keep living my Twilight Zone Week and hoping that standing in a liminal space for this long has no lasting supernatural effects...
Post by Mark Lashley, La Salle University
Fandom can either be a deeply lonely or incredibly connective enterprise, depending on what you happen to be a fan of. And expression of that fandom in a public forum has traditionally come with some element of risk. Increasingly, the fear of outing oneself as a fan of some phenomenon or other has dissipated as digital media enable an immediate dialogue between fan groups, and between fans and the objects of their interest (check out how Taylor Swift makes dreams come true!). What’s piqued my curiosity of late, though, is the way the podcast medium plays into fandom, as a venue that is tailor-made for delivery of content for incredibly segmented audiences.
Fan podcasts, or podcasts dedicated to discussing a specific cultural artifact, aren’t an especially new thing–The Whocast, made by and for Doctor Who fans, dates back to 2006. However, this single-serving podcast form seems to be having something of a moment. And oddly enough, much of this work seems to be coming from the comedy community. As a few examples, comedian Geoff Tate hosts a Cheers-themed podcast called Afternoon, Everybody! W. Kamau Bell and Kevin Avery launched Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period last year. Kumail Nanjiani’s The X-Files Files is nearing its fiftieth episode. And Adam Scott and Scott Aukerman have spent two years on an on-again off-again project about their mutual love of the band U2, called U Talkin’ U2 To Me?
I want to talk a little here about U Talkin’ U2 To Me? partly because it’s probably the most listenable version of the fan podcast out there, even for those who can’t stand the nominal subject. The show isn’t really about U2 (except in certain moments, when it most certainly is), but instead uses the band as a platform to spring off into one diversion after another. Aukerman and Scott have managed to curate an entire world that revolves around their pop culture obsession, but only periodically dwells in it. A given episode of U Talkin’ is just as likely to include a 20-minute riff about Turtle from Entourage as it is to debate the relative merits of Rattle and Hum. The other reason to highlight U Talkin’ is that, in its latest episode, the hosts landed their dream guests: the four members of U2 themselves, whom they had the chance to interview in New York during the band’s run of shows at Madison Square Garden.
After the hour-plus interview concludes within that U Talkin’ episode (which is likely to be the series finale, seeing as it’s reached something of a natural conclusion), Aukerman discusses fandom at some length, noting the ability for large communities to gather around a single purpose and produce meaningful discussions about the work itself, forge connections with like-minded others, and generally have a good time. This is not an uncommon sentiment about fandom, certainly, and there’s a rare candor in Aukerman’s voice when he thanks all the people that reached out to talk about the podcast (fans of U2 or not) and what that connection means for him and Scott. The theme here remains on how this community helped to make a dream come true (meeting the band!) for Aukerman and Scott. And that’s where the platitudes and idealism of fan culture may need to be tempered a bit.
What goes unspoken here is that Aukerman and Scott’s experience with the object of their fandom is anything but common. It’s also an experience that’s predicated largely on their high status and cultural capital: their pre-existing industry connections and their own level of fame. The same is true for, say, Nanjiani, whose podcast tackles a different episode of Chris Carter’s sci-fi series in each installment. Nanjiani is accomplished as an actor, as well, and his X-Files love recently landed him a supporting gig on the forthcoming reboot. In a lateral example, we could even look at WTF With Marc Maron‘s recent booking of President Obama and the awestruck post-mortem episode that followed it. These are all high-status fans, and by privilege of access and talent have a much greater shot than the average fan to make these experiences happen. In a recent book, Barrie Gunter refers to the concept of “celebrity capital,” and it’s not much of a stretch to see a certain level of commodification at play here. It’s also a two-way street–we can see the benefits of exchange for U2 the band as well as for the U Talkin’ guys. Similarly, there’s some positive advance PR to be had for the X-Files in hiring an actor like Nanjiani who is a self-described “superfan” of the series.
I point this out not to say that Aukerman, or Scott, or Nanjiani, or Bell, et al. aren’t “real fans.” Listening to their work, it’s enlightening to hear the fun they have simply engaging with things they love. But they are definitely not ordinary fans, the kind who listen to these podcasts and enjoy them at least in some part because of the vicarious access they afford. The last two episodes of U Talkin’ are exhilarating. In the penultimate episode, the hosts detail their backstage encounter with two band members (including Bono’s offhanded acknowledgement of their enterprise, “We know more about you than you’d like”). Then there is the nervous, awkward, and ultimately charming interview with the whole foursome in the last installment. If we are to step back and reconsider this experience through the eyes of a couple of regular U2 fans, would the experience would even have registered as a cultural moment? Is it not part of the appeal that U2 themselves were thrust into a universe that had already been carefully constructed by a pair of media-savvy TV and podcasting veterans? (If you’re a regular listener, you’ll understand what a coup it was to get the band engaged in some of the many podcasts-within-a-podcast that Scott and Aukerman had established, like “I Love Films”).
Perhaps a broader discussion might lead to how these podcasts exist as entertainment products on their own terms, though it’s hard to disentangle them from their objects of analysis. Moreover, there’s a question on both sides of the microphone about what we want our celebrities to be, or perhaps just what we want to see in them. Maybe the success of this form comes not from engaging with the specifics of what the people we’re fans of are fans of. Maybe the appeal is in knowing they are fans, just like us.
I'm going to try to do a proper writing day today -- after I get the kids on the bus @ 7:30, I'm going to come back to the house, pack up, and walk a few blocks up to the Starbucks. If I stay at home to write, I think I will completely fail in discipline right now -- it's just too easy to watch tv / putter. So the plan is to turn off Facebook around 8, and then try to write until 2, when I need to come home to meet the kids (early bus on Wed.)
A six-hour writing day -- I can't quite imagine it, honestly. It's been so long since I carved out more than an hour or two at a time to write. But someone recently told me how much they enjoyed "Seven Cups of Water," which reminded me that I wrote that entire story in a single, seven-hour draft, sitting in a bookstore coffee shop in Salt Lake City, overlooking the Temple.
I need to start carving out bigger blocks of time; the whole point of quitting a third of my job last year was to make more writing time -- cancer basically ate all of that time up, and then some, but I am determined to start getting it back. Books to write! Books and books and books.
There is apparently only so much disaster and slaughter I can take before I have to take refuge in a nice drawing room with a cup of tea, where the worst thing that happens are some cutting remarks. Although I suppose even Austen sometimes gives in to the authorial temptation to artificially withhold critical information from the characters, 'causing a great deal of unnecessary grief. I'm looking at you, Edward Ferrars.
I’ve used this product for about three months and have found it very helpful in easing discomfort related to plantar fasciitis (heel pain). Thanks to the Foot Log and stretches and exercises I learned from the previously reviewed Fixing Your Feet, I’m back to running after a two-month hiatus.
While the previously reviewed Surefoot Foot Rubz is a good product, the Foot Log is superior. It has more surface area and a variety of surfaces, and the edges are particularly helpful in working out my sore feet. The Surefoot Foot Rubz (or a lacrosse ball) is only better for travel, since it’s so much smaller.
-- Elon Schoenholz
Available from Amazon
Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam (2012) - It's closing in on the end of the Sirens Reading Challenge, and this is one of a few books I've read in the last few weeks that are on that list. This book won the 2012 Tiptree Award, and while I agree with everything the jury said about the book, these stories also, by and large, just weren't my thing. I don't particularly care for myths, and I think the mythic aspect of Salaam's writing is part of why most of the stories in the collection didn't quite click for me.
Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce (2007) - This book, on the other hand, I loved so instantaneously from the first page that I found myself rationing the chapters to prolong the reading experience. Many people have read these books already, but the stories are set in an alternate 19thC version of San Francisco, the Republic of Califa, which is under the suzerainty of the Huitzil Empire after a losing war nearly a generation ago. Flora Fyrdraaca is the youngest daughter of the Republic's leading general, and her mother's stubbornness (matched by her own) gives Flora a lot of problems, particularly since she doesn't want to follow family tradition and enter the Army but rather become a Ranger. The fact that the Corps was disbanded at the end of said war doesn't phase her, which says something about Flora. There are many things to love in this book--gender equality! impressive 19thC worldbuilding (and yes, the 19thC was pretty great in some ways, and Wilce taps into many of them)--but what I really loved, missing my California home as I do at the moment, was how freaking Bay Area it was. The Bay Area drives me up the wall, but I love it at the same time, and Wilce's not!San Francisco is a real pleasure to spend time in for anyone who's ever thought that Emperor Norton was pretty great. At least there are sequels!
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link (2014) - I adore Kelly Link's short stories, and the fact that these were all bundled together in a neat package was almost enough to make me ignore the fact that most of them are quite old--the newest story in the collection, the one most obviously drawn from Link's own life experience, is also the only one that's never been published elsewhere. Compared to Pretty Monsters or Magic for Beginners, this collection is more somber and less optimistic, but I loved every word.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985) - I'd never read this book before, it's true; somehow I avoided it on summer reading lists, and for the past few years I've also felt that I didn't need to read the book; I could just read Twitter to find out the latest crap that GOP politicians have said they want to do. Having now read the actual novel, well, it's deservedly a classic, and I appreciated some of the stuff that never makes it into discussions of the book, particularly the skewering of academia at the end, though I also raise my eyebrows at the idea that anyone could take Atwood's claims to not be a feminist seriously. I don't think the book is too propagandistic to be effective, but I do think the background details of "ALL the apocalypses at once" were a bit much. And despite the frequent citations of the book on Twitter in reference to current Republican politicians--which are absolutely germane, to be clear, in a way that's hugely depressing to compare with 30 years ago--I also sort of don't think that this is the failure mode of the United States anymore. The breakup of the United States into little theocracies was an article of faith among science fiction writers in the 1980s (it's in the background of all of Gibson's novels from the period, for example), but I think the situation has changed sufficiently that there's no carbon copy of the Republic of Gilead in our future.
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson (2013) - This is a very well deserved winner of the World Fantasy Award, in my opinion, though it was also clearly written in a very specific historical moment that even two years later feels very distant. The story concerns one mixed-race Saudi hacker, Alif, and his trials and tribulations trying to stay two steps ahead of the Kingdom's security forces, led by the sinister Hand, and to patch up his romance with an upper-class girl--all of which is made more complicated when jinni get involved. To be honest, I didn't really feel very emotionally involved in Alif's journey to maturity, but I was very interested in his friend and neighbor Dinah, the American convert they meet (whose story seems to be quite similar to Wilson's own background), and the ways in which fantastical elements were densely interwoven with politics, history, programming, and some very pointed comments about the United States' recent exploits in the region. Definitely recommended.
What I'll Read Next
The only thing left on my Sirens list is Melina Marchetta's Finnikin of the Rock! After that, I have Court of Fives, The House of Shattered Wings, and The Fifth Season winging their way to my tablet!
We're revealing the 2015 FKFicFest stories! They'll continue releasing, one story per day, as long as they last! Expect adventure, humor and romance for all your favorite Forever Knight characters!
Come read! Come wax nostalgic for everyone's favorite vampire homicide cop — and his friends, enemies, lovers, coworkers and car!