#SciFiMonth Wrap Up Whoo!

Seems like all the cool kids are using the banner so I figure I should probably use the banner . . . on my last post for the month . . .

Ok so I promised you all (because of the title) a wrap-up post and that’s what I’m gonna do. But first, I just want to wax poetic about how these kind of blog and Twitter and (thank god?) not yet Tiktok (just kidding I love Tiktok don’t kill meeee) “months” are the type of random fun that we fans LIVE FOR. So . . .

Thank you Always One More, and Imyril, for running this craziness. It can’t be easy.

Thank you everyone else who used the #SciFiMonth tag on twitter which is how I mostly found y’all . . .

And thank you for just liking SciFi nonsense as much as I do. I learned sooooo much this month. I hope I can actually get to half the stuff I added to my TBR pile (we’ll seeeee)

So . . . The Wrap Up?

Right!!! Below you will find all of the Sci Fi related stuff that I posted during the month. And then below that you’ll see some posts which I particularly enjoyed (don’t worry if your post isn’t here. I still enjoyed it. It’s just that these were the ones I could think of off the top of my head).

My posts:

There were a couple others but A) I’m lazy and B) I’m not really sure they fit the bill.

So Other people’s Posts!

YES! Everyone who is doing the real work. Here are the posts I felt especially prescient:

I’m sure there were way more, and some of the best convos were tweets which I’m not sure how to really track down at the end of the month.

Anyway . . . .

Thank you #SciFiMonth for a great November!

I’m sure I’ll see you all soon!

Lolz (only) Two Book Recommendations From Indie Presses

No YOU! have a Jurassic London Altar

Wow, leave it to #SciFiMonth to just keep brining in the gut checks.

After barely cobbling together a list of five international (to me) authors last Friday, I looked ahead to the challenge list and saw this Friday’s challenge was to make recommendations from indie presses or self-published authors.

Pfff. Easy.

No problem at all. I’ve backed tons of kickstarters by small presses (Upside Down (Apex), and Temporally Out of Order (Zombies Need Brains) come to mind immediately). Looking back I was a particularly big fan of Jurassic London back in the day and my book shelves are probably sagging a bit from the weight of all the titles I’ve bought from them: The Builders, Jews Versus Omnibus, Speculative Fiction 2013, Speculative Fiction 2014, Unearthed (digital), The Good Shabti, and my pride and joy The Extinction Event!

This, you may say, is a pretty hardy list, and you would be right. The only issue is that . . . I haven’t actually fully read many of these, and also . . . as seems to be my issue quite often, there’s a lot of Fantasy here.

But this is Sci-Fi month not Fantasy month so let me dig through the Goodreads list and see what I can come up with . . .

Aha!

I’ve found two sci-fi titles which I will heartily recommend. And that will have to be the way of it.

The first title I’ve chosen is Future Tense fiction: Stories of Tomorrow from Unnamed press. It’s a great anthology, which I’m kicking myself for not having reviewed here on the blog. The list of authors featured is quite long, and each one of them brought their A-game to this collection. Authors like Nnedi Okorafor, and Annalee Newitz immediately stood out to me, but others will likely recognize Charlie Jane Anders and Paolo Bacigalupi. The ones I didn’t know shined just as brightly as those I did. I think Newitz’s When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis was my favorite but I also enjoyed Okorafor’s Mother of Invention and Konstantinou’s Burned-Over Territory. I highly recommend this one to any near-future-thinking readers out there.

My second choice was a bit of a surprise, as this author usually publishes through Tor Books, but for Miniatures, it seems like goliath John Scalzi chose indie publisher Subterranean Press to create this fun little book. I won’t claim to know how any of the inner workings of Scalzi’s mind . . . well how they work, but this collection really puts some of his wackier ideas on display. There’s a story in which yogurt becomes sentient and takes over earth (I believe there is an episode of Netflix’s Sex, Love, & Robots that took it’s premise from this). It’s been a long enough time since I’ve read it that I’m having some trouble remembering the details, but I know that I enjoyed it immensely. Thankfully, I reviewed Miniatures back in back in 2017 so you can take a look at that.

Well . . . How’d I do?

Not to be too harsh a critic on myself but I’m gonna say not well. Even if we broaden the prompt to all speculative fiction, my list of indie titles is pretty old, and I didn’t include ANY self-pub’d authors on here, despite having self-pub’d my own work. I guess it seems that I’ve been in Hugo Land for quite a while now, and have not spent much time reading Indie Land.

But there’s always tomorrow! Why not dive in then.

I’m anxious to see what the other #SciFiMonth peeps have been reading that I’ve been neglecting. If you have recommendations for me please post them in the comments (if they’re blog posts that’s cool too just drop the link).

Until Next time!

Should ‘Finna’ Win a Hugo?

Hi again. Another Wednesday, another review. This time we’re talking about Hugo Award finalist Finna by Nino Cipri. I’ve reviewed quite a bit of Hugo finalists already, so if you’re interested in checking out any of those, please do.

Also, it’s #SciFiMonth, which is always a great time. The two posts I’ve done for it so far are a review of Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary and Five (non-American) Authors I Want to Read. I’m hoping to do more as the month goes on so I’ll be storing them in the Sci Fi Month tag if you’re interested in the latest.

Anyway, onward with the review!

In general, I really enjoyed this story. I think nearly everyone has shared the experience of getting so totally and completely bassackwardly lost in a big-box store like this (specifically IKEA) that it isn’t hard to imagine you’ve accidently stepped off the path of your own reality and entered into some kind of labyrinthian alternative composed entirely of the latest trending cabinetry.

(Or at the very least had an experience like SCP-3008)

It felt almost cathartic to have it confirmed, and to find out that the corporation who designed such a place, knows about it and attempted to smooth over the problem in the only way they know how: some faux hip instructional bullshit.

Everything mentioned above is enough for an incredible story, but the fact that this is merely the platform on which to explore romance, marginalization(s), trauma, and the path toward healing, to my mind, is what makes this story stand out. It’s also pretty funny at times.

The last element of Finna which I felt interesting to note was it’s use of the multiverse (trope?) theory. In late 2021, we are seeing multiverses EVERYWHERE in fiction. The obvious ones right now are Marvel’s What If, Loki, Into the Spiderverse and the upcoming Spiderman No Way Home, but I feel we’ve seen a lot of multiverse fiction even within the Hugo finalists from 2020 (which means we’ve been in this moment for a while).

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson made expert use of the multiverse to heighten the tension and moral questions of the story. Michael Zapata’s The Lost Book of Adana Moreau was another 2020 award winner which relied heavily on the multiverse (kicking myself for not reviewing it here. sooo goood!). I’m unsure whether portal fantasy counts as a multiverse story, but that would add The Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire, and Naomi Kritzer’s Little Free Library to the trend as well.

All of these stories use the multiverse to express a variety of different questions and themes. What do you do when you (literally/physically) are confronted with a better version of yourself? With one that’s worse? What would have happened if you had done that one thing differently? If your entire world/circumstances were different, who would you be then? There’s a kind of nature vs nurture argument happening in these stories, but also a kind of fatalism.

While I’ve enjoyed many multiverse stories, I’ve started to feel the message has shifted (I would say unintentionally), and I’ve asked myself why do our hero’s actions matter if there are infinite realities in which those actions didn’t take place?

What I enjoyed about Finna was that it seemed to posit that this was a source of freedom rather than despair. There is a universe in which you are a coward and there is a universe in which you are brave, and there are universes in which you do not exist at all. So do whatever you want. You’re not beholden to any other version of yourself.

Perhaps I’ve read too much into what was on the page, but to my mind, this take was quite refreshing and also a relief.

So . . . Hugo Award?

No. Despite all the good and heavy things packed inside of Finna, I’m still thinking that Tochi Onyebuchi’s Riot Baby is the choice. I mentioned in my review that Riot Baby was almost a mood instead of a book. Plus as a writer I could just feel that there was a lot to study and emulate within that story. I did not get the same vibes from Finna.

But know this. Finna will definitely be a hard 2nd place to dethrone, and though it isn’t my choice this time, I would still like to encourage everyone to read this story and see what you take away from it. Also, there are an infinite amount of universes in which Finna was my 1st choice so think on that!

Five (non-American) Authors I Want to Read

Edited these together on my phone so . . .

So this is actually something of a failed post.

It’s November, which means there are a plethora of different challenges going on and hashtags to follow. There’s #NaNoWriMo for authors hoping to bust out 50k towards their next novel (you can do it!), #Norsevember for all the Viking lovers out there (Valhalla beckons my dudes), #Dinovember for . . . well for dinosaur lovers (RAWR!!). There’s even a challenge if you just don’t feel like shaving.

One challenge/hashtag that I always enjoy following is #SciFiMonth. It’s put on by @imyrl over at There’s Always Room for One More and Lisa from Dear Geek Place (they also hosted #WyrdAndWonder, which I had a ton of fun doing back in may. You can see my WyrdAndWonder Wrap up post for everything I worked on for it!). I was pretty stoked and eagerly looking at the list of challenges for different posts I might do on this blog.

I saw today’s challenge was “International Authors” and was like pff I got this. I’ve been making an effort to try to diversify my reading a bit and I think in general I’ve succeeded. I’ve been tracking the 2021 Hugo Awards this year, and I think the breadth of voices represented by the finalists are better than in years past. Just following this year’s candidates has already widened my horizons somewhat, and I think in general the industry has made some strides (although there is still lots more to be done).

So I dove right in and began making my list. I apparently did not read the part where it said no US/UK authors. The UK is international to me so . . . I put some on here. Oops.

Anyway, the exercise was not a total waste because it really opened my eyes to a few things:

  • I’m aware of more fantasy than SciFi – The names that came to mind immediately were those of Andrzej Sapkowski (The Witcher), and Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexican Gothic; Horror but def also Fantasy)
  • Authors I assumed were international were are also AmericanNnedi Okorafor (Nigerian-American), and Aliette de Bodard (French-American).

Anyway, the list I did create is not on prompt, but it is still a list of authors and their books which I’m excited to read so I figured I’d share the list anyway. Here goes . . .

Cixin Liu (Chinese)

I think Chinese Science Fiction is really having a moment the last couple years. This I’m sure is in no small part because of the success of Liu and his Hugo Award winning novel, The Three Body Problem. He also has a few other titles which look amazing. The one I’m most excited for is called Ball Lightning. Pretty much had me on the title alone but if it’s half as good as The Three Body Problem, I’m sure I’ll be blown away.

Stanislaw Lem (Polish)

I think if I had let it, this entire post could have been filled with Science Fiction writers from the Eastern Bloc. At some point, I was inspired to read as much of those kinds of works as possible, but — as with this post — my plan failed. I managed to read through Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Monday Starts on Saturday. Apparently, it soured me to the whole experience because I haven’t read any others, but Lem has always remained in the back of my mind. I keep hearing that Solaris is the one to read, so I think that’s what I will do!

Tade Tompson (British-Yoruban)

I keep seeing this name around recently, although it seems like he’s been around for quite a while. A quick google shows me that he made a big splash with Rosewater (2016), and the rest of the Wormwood Trilogy. Obviously I’ll want to catch up on those, but it looks like he has a new standalone book coming out in 2021 called Far From the Light of Heaven. In order to try to stay on the Sci-Fi theme of this post, I think it’s perhaps better to start there.

Ian Banks (British)

So, Ian Banks is a huge name in science fiction. I read Hydrogen Sonata, back in 2012 (wow that feels so long ago!) and was pretty much blown away. I’ve often been told that while that is a great book, it’s not even his best. I’m considering starting from the beginning with Consider Phlebas, and just reading the whole way through. Wish me luck!

Tamsyn Muir (New Zealand)

I don’t think Tamsyn Muir really needs much explanation. She pretty much exploded onto the scene with Gideon the Ninth, and has kept the momentum with Harrow the Ninth. There’s supposedly two more books in the Locked Tomb series and I will be anxiously awaiting both of them.

You made it!

Congrats! You made it through all five. Please let me know what you think of my list? Have you read any? Is there a better choice I don’t know about? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time!

Project Hail Mary: High Science, Low Feels (a review for #SciFiMonth)

Welcome! If you’re here because it’s Wednesday, and I normally review books on Wednesday than you’re correct. Great work!

But if you’re here because you’re following the #SciFiMonth tag on twitter and happened to see that I reviewed Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary . . .

Well congrats! You’re also correct.

Everyone will get what they want, which is (hopefully) a review of Project Hail Mary.

Anyway, moving into the review, it feels right to say that I was approaching this title with quite a bit of enthusiasm. I loved The Martian, and generally enjoyed Artemis (though apparently did not write a review of it. Curse past me!!).

So as soon as I heard about this book, I placed a hold on it at my local public library, and then proceeded to wait . . . months . . . Maybe even a year? No, it still hasn’t been a full year since it’s been published. Looking at Goodreads, it appears I waited about five months for the book to finally arrive and to begin tearing through it.

I don’t suppose this isolation would be comparable to barreling through time and space for years on end with nothing to think about except the fate of all humanity and how any mistake in your own action could doom said humanity to certain death . . .

(Someone had a rough quarantine).

But it did feel like an especially long wait considering that almost everyone seemed to be talking about this book. Brandon Sanderson sang the book’s praises in a YouTube video, while his Writing Excuses partner and co-author of The Original, Mary Robinette Kowal, seemed to think the book had some issues. Kirkus regarded it highly, while Fantasy Literature‘s review was mixed.

It would seem, that I have to make up my own damn mind about it (yessss!!)

So I did.

And live tweeted my progress through the book with whatever came to me. It seems I was quite excited by the fact there was a 3D Printer (I’m going to try to start tracking this on twitter with the tag #3DPrintingInFiction):

But not happy with the way Weir seems to recognize the importance of gender when attempting to interact with an alien species for the first time, but then just brushes it off as too difficult a problem to attempt to solve (yet Grace IS smart enough to solve a problem that will save humanity):

So . . . recommend?

Yes. Despite some hiccups, I did enjoy the book over all. The reviews linked to above seem to describe Project Hail Mary as Science Fiction for science-y people, and this is definitely true (although I don’t have much science in my background other than from fiction and I found it perfectly accessible). Ryland Grace is an excellent problem solver, likable and very funny (although often bordering on Dad-joke level). When he’s in the throes of solving a problem, it IS exciting to watch him figure things out, to marvel at his knowledge.

I would love to know what Weir’s process was for coming up the aliens in this book. I think he struck a perfect balance of making them incredibly strange, but familiar enough that we could still empathize and feel for them.

In general, there were a lot of great moments to feel feelings in this book, but I’m not sure that Grace (or Weir himself) trusted himself to really experience them. This was perhaps the most frustrating part for me while reading. So many scenes could have had such emotional impact, but ultimately it was more important to be funny and do science.

I still rated this book highly however, because I still think it’s of a vein that we should continue to nurture. Fun stories that inspire people to ask questions and (maybe) even learn some science. We can get the feelings part right eventually. As long as we try . . .

Welp. That’s it everyone. Have any of you read this novel yet? What did you think? Should I live tweet more books? What other books have you read that showcase 3D Printing? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments and I’ll see you next time!