I first heard of this book when a friend posted a review calling it a cross between Firefly, Farscape and Girls. I'll admit, I've never laid an eyeball on Girls, but the others remain two of my favourite science fiction works, and I was eager to see what such offspring could be. Althouh initially deterred by the kindle price (yes, I'm one of those people), I chanced across the trade paperback during one of my rare ventures into a physical bookstore, and couldn't resist the gorgeous cover.
The Long Road To A Small Angry Planet is an unusual book. I enjoyed it immensely, but it's a book that made me feel I was enjoying it for reasons I don't usually consider. It does have the sense of family, ensemble-cast and crew-banter of Firefly, and the sense of wonder and smallness of humanity of Farscape, though it lacks the former's Alliance/Browncoat-fugitive tension, and the latter's overarching single narrative.
It's not a book for those who want a rollicking plot. While there are moments of tension, in fact it's quite a gentle read, but it feels all the more real for being so. When taking a great journey to do a great deed, there are a lot of smaller moments on the way. Accepted wisdom is to trim these out--they're not forwarding the plot, they're distracting from the narrative, and Chambers could have done so and we'd have yet another not-that-original space opera with some mildly interesting aliens and interspecies politics. But Chambers has done just the opposite. This is a book of the small moments that make people's lives, the small choices and actions that define them every day. It's a tapestry-book. Not a collection of short stories, but a multitide of smaller stories interweaving to make a larger, general whole that centres on the entire cast. There is a central story--the titular journey to the titular planet. But that's not at all what the book is about.
It is, as all great science fiction is, about us, here and now, in 2015. Set in Chambers' world, with multitiudes of species with different moral codes, beliefs, forms of gender, familiar structure and values, here is a book about real political correctness, in the Neil Gaiman sense of treating other people with respect. About the problems of ethnocentricism, of how we immediately compare anyone who is sufficiently other not to people, but to animals, foods and things. About respecting the beliefs of others, and the question of where the line falls when someone's belief is causing them direct harm. About how greed, capitalism and the quest for resources by the powerful can put entire societies at risk.
Not to make the book sound like some sociopolitical diatribe: it is wonderfully engaging, amusing and entertaining. There isn't a hint of preachiness, merely exploration. This is a book based on what it would be like if that very respect (or attempts at it, because we are only human) were woven into the fabric of society, in ways that many of us can only wish it could be. And for that, it was such a refreshing read. I would not be surprised if it winds up a seminal work of the early twenty-first century, though, for pinning down the very concepts that society was struggling with.
It is not without its faults, although those are few. A character in the book takes a moment to wonder at the marked similarity of all the alien species, that they all breathe oxygen and require water, and I found myself cringing at the artificial coincidence not only constructed by the author, but then pointed out. One could read this as a parallel of how similar all humans really are to one another, but for this reader, it missed the mark. One or two developments in character could have benefited from being slightly more fleshed out, and a crisis involves a perculiar misunderstanding of basic technology that I just have to assume was overlooked (uh, guys, the beauty of data banks is that you can download the data to somewhere else if you need to. Just saying.) But look at that--out of an entire book, I'm complaining about a brief passage of text and a small logic hole.
It's a wonderful read, full of engaging characters, and a fantastic reflection of our time.Write comment (0 Comments)
So, I've upgraded the site, after about a month of slowly upgrading and testing on a demo site. Not only is it no longer dinosaur-era Joomla, there are actually new features (that I really hope work correctly, because configuring these things is never as simple as the initial documentation makes out, and building it on a test site and then transferring just adds confusion. I know, I know, "real coders develop in production" but they really shouldn't.)
We have the fabulous newsletter over on the sidebar there, that'll let you sign up for fabulous updates from yours truly, a mobile view that doesn't involve absurd pinch-to-zoom acrobatics, and the ability to share/like/tweet posts, huzzah. When I list it like that, it's a little sad how long this took, but there was a lot of effort cleaning up the back end to get things running smoothly. If you find any gremlins, please let me know.
I'm also planning some changes to site content. When I started this site six years ago, the idea was to build a readership for my fiction. Along with most writers-blogging-about-writing, I discovered that blogging about writing nets you an audience of writers, rather than readers. (Yes, writers read, but there are fewer writers out there than readers, most writers probably aren't really my audience, and most readers aren't that interested in writing. At least, not at the obsessively analytical level that I am).
So the site languished for a good twelve months (at least) while I did life things and vaguely tried to think of what on earth I'd blog about if it wasn't about writing, because I didn't have some cool-and-tangentially-related hobby to draw on. I work and I write. I occasionally art (totally a verb, now), but not often enough to make a blog out of it. And then, as I was musing over the age-old debate about writing for yourself vs writing for a market, I realised: I love cool concepts, awesome science, intriguing ideas and beautiful things. This is, not coincidentally, what I try to bring to my fiction. Therefore, my readership is probably a group of people who also like cool concepts, awesome science, intriguing ideas and beautiful things.
So that's the new direction of this blog.
There will still be the occasional writing post, because that's where I'm really spending my time, some reviews of books I read, and as more of my work is published, some fiction and work-in-progress chatter, but broadly, I'm planning to take this site far more in the direction of Things I Found To Be Cool. And we'll see how that turns out.
So it's been a while since there was any life on this blog; it was busy happening elsewhere. For the record, my plans to revive this in a rather different direction are coming to a head pretty quickly, so there will be stirrings returning to this corner of internet. Erm, soon.
Some of the life that was happening elsewhere is: I have a short story coming out in an anthology by Zombies Need Brains (don't you just love the name).
The anthology is called Temporally Out of Order:
It’s frustrating when a gadget stops working. But what if the gadget is working fine, it’s just “temporally” out of order? What would you do if you discovered your cell phone linked you to a different time? Or that your camera took pictures of the past?
In this collection, seventeen leading science fiction authors share their take on what happens when gadgets run temporally amok. From past to future, humor to horror, there’s something for everyone.
Join Seanan McGuire, Elektra Hammond, David B. Coe, Chuck Rothman, Faith Hunter, Edmund R. Schubert, Steve Ruskin, Sofie Bird, Laura Resnick, Amy Griswold, Laura Anne Gilman, Susan Jett, Gini Koch, Christopher Barili, Stephen Leigh, Juliet E. McKenna, and Jeremy Sim as they investigate how ordinary objects behaving temporally out of order can change our everyday lives.
My story is titled A is for Alacrity, Astronauts and Grief. I'm also thrilled to be sharing a table of contents with one of my classmates from Odyssey, Jeremy Sim.
The anthology is coming out in August in both paper and ebook.
It's available for preorder here.Write comment (0 Comments)
Happy New Year, all.
I have plans and goals and so many projects for the new year--far more than can fit in a year, but that's normal--and I needed a way to keep track of them. Well, of some of them. Anyway, I looked at Christie Yant's fantastic Google Docs Tools for Writers, and thought this is awesome, but I really want to be able to track XYZ...
So, I built my own. It doesn't have Christie's Career Bingo, nor her page for tracking stories. Instead, it has:
Update: Now also includes the ability to track your work towards a specific WIP goal, with a little progress bar up the top!
It's built in MS Excel 2003, because the other options (google docs, pre-2003 excel, open office and its ilk) cannot handle the complex conditional formatting going on. (Well, some of them possibly could, but I didn't have the time to find out).
Sadly, it has a lot less than the full spec I wanted to create. I started working out how I could put a complete version together, and realised what I was designing was a small application, not a spreadsheet, and trying to build it in Excel would be like trying to build the Golden Gate Bridge out of toothpicks and sand. But as that project dovetails nicely into a larger project I'm working on (yes, too many projects) I hope to have a complete-and-non-Excel version for 2016. (Feature requests welcome in the comments).
Feel free to share, attribution appreciated.Write comment (2 Comments)
No updates for a few days--not because I forgot, but because I was too sick to get out of bed, let alone write blog posts about how sick I was. Safe to say no drafts, though weirdly my fantasy-series is niggling at me again. I think it was to be a novella-super-series. Intriguing idea.
Given I'm not actually better yet, just well enough to not be able to justify lying in bed, my schedule for the last four days of November is a mad scramble to catch the essentials of the week I just lost, jettisoning (for the sake of my sanity and recovery) anything that does not actually have to be done before November 30th. So I have serious doubts there will be more drafts. I am 100% okay with this; the challenge was always just a bit of fun in the hope I'd get a good number of drafts out of it, and given November was already my most stressful, commitment-filled month of the year (okay, maybe it ties with a few months ago when I downsized and moved house) any drafts at all is 'a good number'.
To be honest, I am rather looking forward to some return to sanity, away from huge big life events, where my most exciting thing that week can be a new story idea.Write comment (0 Comments)
No update yesterday. No writing, either. After work I helped some friends move house, and when I came back evidently my immune system had been saving up a special flu bug. The minute I no longer had any obligations to other people for the rest of the month, WHAM. Accelerated all-the-symptoms-at-once flu. So I went to bed.
Honestly given the last weekend, and the stress levels of the weeks before, I am not at all surprised.
This morning I did manage two microfictions for the Museum of Words contest. Free entry, $20,000 prize, open topic, runs for another two days. I'm going to count those as drafts, seeing as they are complete stories, even if they're much shorter than usual. My first two drafts were way over the word count that I normally write anyway, so it pretty much evens out. That takes me to four of my goal of ten.
I really, really doubt I can write six stories in nine days, but you never know. Today I'm mostly moping on my couch wishing I could have thirty seconds without coughing or some joints that weren't filled with formic acid.Write comment (0 Comments)
Almost forgot this post (and completely forgot yesterday's, whoops. Erm. Nothing to report that day, I was pretty much still a zombie.). Still in post-people recovery, frankly. Finally getting my sleep back under control, and catching up on billable work. No words today. Bad writer, no cookie, but hey. It's been a hectic few days.Write comment (0 Comments)
No writing yesterday. The wedding on Sunday went beautifully; a lovely ceremony where the more typical readings and celebrant speeches were replaced pretty much entirely with letters from the bride and groom to their parents and stories of the two both growing up and their relationship from the point of view of family and friends (which is not only frankly a far more interesting and engaging ceremony than I've seen before, but also meant that, when it came time for the dreaded speeches at the reception, the speeches didn't have to include any more funny stories of the bride or groom, and could be just variations on a theme of thanking the people involved, and be over and done with in under five minutes. Best idea ever).
It was, however, an unbelievably long day for the wedding party. Up at 5am for hair and makeup and photos, continuing through until the wedding finally wound down well after midnight. I spent fifteen hours solid in five-inch heels and my feet are still informing me of this fact. Add to that an unfortunately necessary early start on Monday morning, as my boyfriend had to be in a town on the other side of the state by 11am, and Monday was pretty much a blur of recovery and napping.Write comment (0 Comments)