With 2017 drawing to a close, it's time to look back on the blog in 2017.
In 2017, I had set myself a couple of goals, and both were achieved, I'm proud to say:
One of my initial goals was also to review two books a month. I suddenly changed gears barely a few weeks into 2017 by publishing three reviews a month. It seems to me like a good balance between my free time to write reviews and what a (very!) hypothetical reader faithfully following my recommendations would read within a month.
I'm pretty happy about all the books I've reviewed. Looking back, yes, there are one or two that I wonder why I actually ended up reviewing them because a few months later I can say that I'm not as enthusiastic about them as I was when reading them. But for the vast majority, I stand by every single word I wrote.
I'm also quite happy about the variety and diversity I've achieved through the reviews.
You can check below the complete publication schedule with the details, including gender, race, nationality of writers ; genres ; small press / big press ; gender of the characters, etc. So if you enjoy doing statistics, be my guest! I'm pretty proud that I covered writers from almost every continent. I was also quite surprised - not - when I realised that most of the female main characters in the books I read were written by female writers.
Please note: the disparity between male and female writers is because I reviewed an uneven number of novels. But parity remains when you look at the reviews since the opening of the blog and will continue in 2018 when the first novel reviewed will be written by a female writer.
What about 2018?
I still won't apply any quota to QUILTBAG writers as it proves tricky since not all writers announce to the world if they are QUILTBAG and I certainly won't go to pester them to know about it.
I hope you enjoyed the reviews in 2017 and that you will enjoy those to come in 2018. Thanks to every single one of you reading and following the blog and spreading the word about it!
When I was reviewing only one book a month, it was quite easy to see which were my eleven favourite scifi and fantasy stories of the year (the single collection made twelve). Since I've considerably increased the number of reviews per month in 2017, it may not be as visible. On the other hand, I've reviewed more books because I've read great stories and that one review a month wasn't enough anymore.
So, let's now pick la crème de la crème from my 2017 reads! Here are the books that you really must catch up if you haven't read them.
Please note these aren't necessarily books published in 2017. The books are in the order I read them.
Here I am, reading a scifi novel. Let's call it The Graffiti Artist by Joseph Franzen. In The Graffiti Artist, there's a matriarchal society established on another planet. I felt at first ill at ease. At page 60, I'm now cringing. I don't think I'm going to read much more than another 40 pages.
But the thing is, if on the cover it said The Graffiti Artist is written by Josephina Franzen rather than Joseph Franzen, I'd have been willing to give it a much more extended chance.
So my question is: would an own voices novel avoid any misunderstanding regarding what the writer tries to convey?
SPOILER WARNING FOR: The Power, by Naomi Alderman; In the Mother's Land, by Élisabeth Vonarburg.
So you know how it is: you want to do The Ultimate Reading List, the one packed with all the essentials that people Need To Read (note the caps to emphasize intent). And then you delete the draft over and over again because you can't do it, there's always something more that you need to add or that you forget, and in the end it's some kind of Moby Dick: huge, bloated, unkillable and always tantalising you.
But what if you asked people to give you a hand rather than going all Achab?
So, inspired by Hammard's list on Twitter, I set out to ask my Twitter followers help in drawing up The Ultimate Reading List, the one with the essential scifi and fantasy books since the 1960s, with ten books per decade.
The process, including all the nominations, the numbers, etc., is detailed at the end of the post.
The books are ordered within each decade by the number of votes they received.
Scotland... Home to R.L. Stevenson, Charlie Stross, Iain M. Banks, Laura Lam, Christopher Brookmyre, J. K. Rowling, Ken McLeod, Arthur Conan Doyle, and I'm missing a lot!
So, obviously, when I went to Scotland for a few days, it was also to geek out. And Leigh, being a proud Glaswegian, was the perfect guide so we geeked out in pair!
Gareth Beniston (whose blog you can find here) wrote a very interesting blog post on the Shadow Clarke website about quotas (here).
While it addresses the issue in the context of an award, I wanted to address the issue in the context of a book blog, particularly one such as mine which has strict guidelines, a.k.a. quotas.
Matt from Runalongtheshelves and I were eagerly waiting for the Clarke shortlist. Here it is and we started chatting about it.
(Please note that this is a conversation, as indicated by the word "Conversation" in the title of the post. For the reviews, you can head to the "Reviews" section of the site or follow the links.)
The 2017 Clarke Award shortlist will be published tomorrow but I had decided this year to explore the submission list before it. Here's a breakdown of what I read and my own shortlist established with a jury comprised of me, myself and I - we were not always in agreement but managed to keep things civil.
I've been reading a lot of novellas lately, most quite excellent - something I already addressed here - and I read in succession Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw and The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle (review to be published on July 1st and I'll rave about it).
What struck me most about those two novellas was how much Lovecraft's universe was an influence for both. "But", are you thinking, "Lovecraft was a stinking white male racist. Isn't there a paradox here?"
I won't examine "why" Khaw and LaValle both wrote stories that can very much be considered part of the Lovecraft legacy, but what interested me was to examine the parallels and how, as writers of colour both, they also distance themselves from this legacy.
Please be aware there'll be spoilers for both these novellas in what follows.
The post title comes from Rage of Thrones by The Axis of Awesome.
(Please note the video contains a lot of swear words.)
You see where we're going, right? So, book series and waiting for the next volumes is a challenging topic not only because readers experience the waiting time differently, but also because while we wait, the writer is (usually) busy writing and also needs our money to keep on living. So it's easy to look like a spoiled brat if, as a reader, you think that the infamous "six year wait" might be a tad too long...
I'm meeting for the first time this eminent doctor whose field crosses into mine:
"Ah, C.! I'm so glad to meet you, I've heard so much about you.
- So glad to meet you too, Dr Y.
- And what are you reading at the moment?
- Oh, scifi as usual."
There is a moment of blind panic in her eyes and she doesn't say a word for a few seconds. I think I've been suddenly hit by a magical power because I can hear all her thoughts: "Did C. say 'scifi'? Is it really C.? But I was told C. had an agrégation in Modern Literature!"
She dismisses what I've just said with a blink and, barely skipping a beat, goes on to explain to me that she is currently reading Anna Karenina and loving it while I am silently howling with laughter...
You have to imagine Azzie and C. lounging on a sofa, a cup of tea in their hands, a big TV screen in a corner of the cozy room and bookshelves in another, both deep in a conversation that actually began years ago and that will probably go on for many years to come. Come on, step closer: you're welcome and there's still room on the sofa...
I've been faithfully following the Arthur C. Clarke Award for years, mainly because I often agree that their winner was worthy. It may not be the best reason to do it, but it's also a sure way for me to discover new authors, new novels that I know in advance that I'll like.
The contrary is also true: sometimes, after having read a novel that has been shortlisted, I wonder why the heck did that book ever arrived on that shortlist.
But I always make a point of reading the shortlist and last year I even reviewed three of them (Children of Time, The Book of Phoenix and Arcadia, which were, in my opinion, the most interesting novels on it).
So it's always with some trepidation that I wait for the submission list first, then the shortlist.
And hurray, the submission list has been published today! It may not be a longlist, but there are always novels worth discovering on it that won't make it to the shortlist.
Here are a few thoughts, short reviews and predictions...
It all began when Leigh and C. embarked on a complete re-read of Terry Pratchett's Discworld (speak his name). After having been fans for decades, we knew what to expect from a Sir Terry's novel: wit, a thought challenging story, great characters and no chapters.
But when we read again The Colour of Magic (and it was the first time we were re-reading it in years), the chapters jarred a bit. When, after months of reading, we reached Going Postal, the chapters were back, and since we had gone for about 20 books without, it seemed even more shocking and, along with Ian, we wondered how much chapters influenced our reading.
"While we were reading" is an irregular feature in which C. shares thoughts with friends Leigh, Ian, Azzie , Amy and other guests about reading science-fiction and fantasy. Nothing fancy, come as you are.