You volunteer for a thing. Good for you. Seriously, non-sarcastically: good. The world needs people to step up on so many fronts, and you do. And you do the thing, and then the thing gets done, and sometimes you have a natural gift for it, and sometimes you don’t, sometimes you just work hard at it and do some learning and figure out the thing. You get good at the thing, fast or slow you get good at it. There’s a little bit of applause but maybe not as much as there is work done. There never really is, that’s how volunteering works.
Great! Fantastic! Now stop.
I’m serious. I’m really, really not kidding. You need you to stop. Your organization needs you to stop.
Not stop volunteering completely. Nope. The world needs people to step up. But here’s the problem: if the same person steps up to the same job for too long, it becomes invisible. It becomes A’s job. And A still gets thanked, hey, good job, A, what would we ever do without A. But sometimes that last rhetorical question turns literal: A is probably not immune to breaking their leg, having a family member who needs care, a job crisis, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Tahiti. (Or Australia. Hi, Paul.) A, to get really morbid with you, is probably not the world’s first immortal. So if you can’t do the thing without A…you can’t do the thing. And the more important the thing is, the more that’s a problem.
Also of concern, and very hard to bring up: sometimes A’s skills slip for one reason or another. Yes, you. Even if you’re A.
Say you’re arranging the little kids’ Christmas program. And the first two years, you are filled with joy and energy and you have so many ideas and it is amazing! And people tell you how amazing it is! The best ever! My golly! What a Christmas program! And the next few years, you have not quite so much joy but so much experience, so the combination is still pretty great, probably better than anyone else could do! Wow! You are the Christmas program monarch! And when a 4-year-old vomits off the back of the risers, you have someone ready to clean it up quietly, and you have enough adults to make sure that the 6-year-olds do not rampage when they get offstage afterwards, and this is just a super, super job!
And ten years down the line, not one single person has approached the beloved mainstay of the community to say, “Your Christmas programs stink on ice and you need to stop.” Which of course they would feel totally comfortable doing, so you can definitely tell that you’re still at the top of your game and feedback will always get to you before people are frustrated enough for it to be non-constructive.
Say it’s not the Christmas program. And it’s not just burnout. Say it’s finances, and say your memory has started to go. This is not a random example; I know someone who was in charge of part of the finances of a volunteer organization and started to slip into the early stages of Alzheimer’s. And for the first few years, experience carried them through, and I bet that they told themselves that it was still fine and they were still doing a better job than anyone else would have done. And for the first few years they were probably even right. And by the time they moved into the memory unit, there was literally over a decade of mishandled finances for that volunteer organization. No one is the villain here. That person is not a bad person. But we never think it’s us. We never think, I bet I’m the problem here.
Nor is Alzheimer’s the only way this can happen. There are habits of thought one falls into, things that seem obvious, that are just The Way We’ve Always Done It, and some of them are because We have had Bitter Experience, and some of them are…just habit. Sometimes the Bitter Experience no longer applies. Sometimes this is all very true, and passing the job along to someone else will mean that it is done worse. We have to do that anyway. We have to be willing to let someone else make mistakes and do it worse sometimes. And sometimes we can pass along notes and advice and all sorts of information to make this smoother, but it can never be perfect.
But seriously. Rotating jobs. Changing what you’re volunteering for. I very, very occasionally see this discussed as a favor to yourself to avoid burnout, and it is. It’s also a favor to your organization. And you can come back after a few years, when someone else has taken a turn and learned to do the thing…although if it’s always you and the same person alternating, that also tells you a thing about the organization.
The last question is, what if no one else steps up? And the answer is: that tells you something about the health of the organization, right there. If no one else steps up and you are literally the only one, then maybe it’s time to say that your volunteer energies should be used on something else anyway. Which is a bitter pill to swallow when you’ve put a lot of time, energy, and love into something. But. Sometimes.
I have no exact perfect answer for a timeline on this. There is no five-year rule or ten-year rule or one-year rule. It depends on what you’re doing, how often it happens, what kind of energy it requires, what size of group, all sorts of things. But I’ve seen this in more than one kind of organization–churches, art groups, science fiction conventions–all in the last year, so I thought I’d say: we never think it’s us. Sometimes it’s us when we least want it to be, and those times are the times when we get the least signaling about it.
1. Iced coffee. Turkey bacon. Challah french toast.
2. Cuddling with my kid yesterday and marathoning a bunch of Sword Art Online, which I enjoy as much as he does.
3. My kid is seven and a half today! On his suggestion, we're going to the grocery store later today to get cupcakes to share with friends later this afternoon.
4. Watching wee birds at my bird feeder, supping on seeds.
5. Friends. Including all of you.
I have just finished watching season 1 of Skin Wars on a friend’s recommendation. It is very very far from my usual sort of thing: it’s a reality show that’s a competition in body painting. My friend promised that it was very low on the interpersonal cattiness/drama, with lots of very skilled work and a certain amount of people learning stuff about their art, learning from each other. New art and learning? Hey, I’m there for that. And I was immediately hooked, and I will definitely watch the other two seasons, especially since my friend is a person who would have warned me if there was a lot of body-shaming weirdness in store.
One of the things that fascinates me is that the artists involved in this were often financially struggling–it’s not a fast route to fame and fortune–and they had pretty well-entrenched justifications for why they deserved success that were not always easy to dislodge by circumstances that really should have dislodged them. Examples:
—I have put in the time. I have worked long hours. This is a competition with firmly set time limits, around each piece and around the competition as a whole. Each artist gets literally exactly the same amount of time. There are no examples of artists putting their feet up and being done early, and beyond that here is absolutely no way for anyone to put in more time than anyone else. Eventually this got clarified to:
—I have put in the time. I spent my whole life learning this. Finally someone turned to the person who kept repeating this and said, how old are you? and determined that they were very close to the same age. And that they had both spent their whole life learning it, so…yeah. Not a distinguishing feature. I’ve seen both of these at conventions, though: I have devoted more time to science fiction than the other people at my day job! And I’ve seen a certain amount of it in various factions in the field who are convinced that they are the ones who are truly, deeply devoted–and that that kind of devotion has to be what matters. (Spoiler: it does not have to be. Sorry.)
—I need it the most. My living conditions are worse than other people’s without recognition. There are indeed need-based scholarships for various types of study, and I’m very glad. But they’re usually clearly labeled, and “I like your art a lot” and “I think you need money” are not actually the same thing–and “you should like my art a lot because I need money” doesn’t actually work very well.
—I need it the most. I poured my heart into this piece. “You should like my art a lot because I need validation” does not turn out to work better than “you should like my art a lot because I need money.” It is often a great idea to pour your heart into art. I recommend it. Then make more art and pour your heart into that. Also technique at the same time.
—I have the most technical skills. Ever heard a pianist play Hanon? They are finger exercises. They are finger exercises, they are to make you a technically better pianist, and nobody plays them in concert because they are no fun to listen to. (Or play. Freakin’ Hanon.) Okay, okay, they have a certain hypnotic power, they can be impressive, but…at the end of the day if you are showing up and playing Hanon, nobody is buying your book, your painting, or in the most literal sense, tickets to your piano concert. (Freakin’ Hanon.)
It is apparently really, really hard to say, “Mine is good. Here is what I did well. Look at this part. I deserve this because mine is really good art. I combined the technical and the creative, this has thought and feeling and everything it’s supposed to have, and who cares whether I picked up those skills in two minutes or ten million hours, who cares whether someone else thinks that they are overall better than me and paid their dues more than me, here is the thing I made, it doesn’t come with dues, it comes with awesome.”
It is even harder to say, “I don’t know what’s missing. I did everything right. It’s just not happening for me. Can you help me see what’s going wrong in my piece?” And sometimes there are ten million answers, and sometimes there’s one answer, and sometimes there…isn’t. And sometimes the artificial contest structure of a reality show has made something happen that reality doesn’t support, it has made a thing where there is a winner and a loser where actually in a group of ten there might be three pieces that really work and four that don’t and three that meh, or ten that meh, or any other combination of numbers.
But the attachment to previous explanations of why you deserve it, the strength of that: that really got fascinating for me, and I will be riveted to see whether that continues for future seasons.
Look, I am only a casual superhero comics fan, but here’s my sideline/peripheral take:
When I was two years old, Lando Calrissian betrayed his friends to the Empire. And then he thought better of it and became a good guy again. Two years old. I don’t actually remember experiencing this story for the first time, it’s a thing that entered my brain through cultural osmosis and repetition. I am now almost thirty-nine.
Why do I bring this up?
Because “maybe someone you thought was good is actually bad! but wait, no, they’re actually good again!” is not a new story for anyone who is an adult now. We have all done this one. It is not daring and new, it is not a shocking twist, it is–in fact–kind of the default. Yes, yes, who can you trust, anyone might turn out to be blah blah whatev.
We have never experienced a Superman without a kind of kryptonite that can turn him evil. We have never had a hero without shades of gray. And I’m not suggesting that we should do a ton of that. I’m not suggesting that abandoning nuance is the way to go. I’m just suggesting that “the ground beneath your feet is shifting! who should you trust!” is yeah, yeah, yeah, pretty old hat to more than one generation in a row by now. So you really need something better than that if you’re going to try to convince readers that you have something great up your sleeve. As far as twists go, this is as twisty as “maybe they’re all dead we promise they’re not oh wait they are.” Other people have made the moral arguments already, the arguments based on character background/origins. I find them pretty compelling. I just wanted to say, also? it’s really sad when you go to shock people with things that have been standard templates for longer than they’ve been alive. It relies on one of us not paying attention, and buddy, it’s not me this time.
List the first five (or so) lines of your last 20 stories (or however many you have altogether. WIPs count). See if there are any patterns.
( Read more... )
Well, where there's a style to pastiche, I do my damnedest to pastiche it. And I seem to be very keen on jumping into the middle of the action, where the stakes of that action are not very high, and then backtracking a little to show where we are and what's going on, and then plunging into the real meat of the story.
Share the final line of five of your fics — your favorites, or the most recent ones.
And the son of Mercédès Herrera thought of all the years that his mother had waited, and suffered, and hoped, and he thought that perhaps it was true, after all.
Only The Good Which We Can Do (The Count of Monte Cristo)
He reached out to take Yuuri's hand, and a sudden shock of sunlight broke through the clouds and turned the sea to gold, too bright to look at.
What Love Is (Yuri!!! on Ice)
And they never found her, you know, alive or dead, and I have often thought that even Faithful Janetta could not keep Maria constant for long, at that.
The Blood of the Hentzaus (Zenda novels)
He rested his elbows on his knees and watched until all traces had vanished, then got to his feet and turned, reluctantly, for home.
Rosemary (Romeo and Juliet)
And off she goes to her lecture, a woman with all the future to enjoy.
Evening Classes (Doctor Who)
So I have a thing for beginning my final sentences with conjunctions, apparently.
If you were to remix one of my stories, 1.) what would it be and 2.) what would you do.
2. Last night I tried a new (to me) recipe for rhubarb poached in red wine (eaten over vanilla ice cream) and it is delicious.
3. Today has been a better day than yesterday was. That's a low bar, but I'll take it.
4. The sun is shining. I'm home from work. I'm sitting on my mirpesset with a seltzer, enjoying the flowers. (Including the pot of pink begonias that someone gave me last week; secret message to batdina: I am thinking of them as scarlet begonias and that is making me smile.)
5. There is rosé vinho verde in my fridge (vinho rosa?) and later I intend to have some.
How are y'all?
Saturday, May 27, 1 to 2:15 p.m., Conference 4, Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading. Eight members (including me) of Broad Universe, an organization for women writers and editors of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, will read brief works. I’ll read an essay about how much money Miguel de Cervantes earned for one of the greatest novels of all time, Don Quixote de la Mancha. You’ll be horrified by how little.
Saturday, May 27, 4 to 5:15 p.m., Conference 5, Women of Atheism. Four of us will speak on not believing in the existence of deities and how that affects our perspectives and lived experiences. Come and talk about what you believe and don’t believe.
Sunday, May 28, 1 to 2:15 p.m., University C, Speculative Fiction in Translation. Rachel S. Cordasco, Arrate Hidalgo, and I will talk about who gets translated, why, and what you might enjoy reading. If you come, you’ll receive a reading list, maybe some M&Ms, and even a free book (supplies are limited).
— Sue Burke
It was an astonishing fortnight for books I did not finish, with thirty in that category. Wow. I also have been having a hard enough time that even with that I finished, shall we say, several others.
Michael Ajvaz, The Golden Age. This was amazing. It started out feeling like a formless travel narrative of a particular sort, and instead it was substantially recursive and self-referential, with pieces of nearly everything you might be looking for, infinitely textured. I really liked The Other City. This was better. Is there more Czech lit like this? Is there more non-Czech lit like this? What is it? I would like it, please.
David Biello, The Unnatural World: The Race to Remake Civilization in Earth’s Newest Age. A book about the Anthropocene, the era of human influence on climate and nature. Short, mostly stuff that you will know if you’re reading Nature cover to cover every week, a decent primer if you’re not.
Maurice Broaddus, Buffalo Soldier. Novella that is very, very densely worldbuilt. So much worldbuilding. The North America and Caribbean depicted are simultaneously very recognizable and very different, and Broaddus gives us an unusual pair of central characters with very clear relationship in their vivid world.
Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith, Rebel. Discussed elsewhere.
M.R. Carey, Fellside. The cover image of this book felt calculated to imply that it was related to The Girl With All the Gifts, to me, but it was definitively not. This is a women’s prison story and a ghost story, the story of an addict whose life went to hell and the ghost who needs her, the story of the corruption inside a prison. There’s no way its elevator pitch didn’t have Orange Is the New Black in it. And yet Carey’s writing is compelling, despite the fact that I don’t really like either of the genres he’s mashed up here. He’s pretty good at writing things I don’t want to read and making me keep turning the pages anyway.
Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. This started out with all sorts of juicy facts about the kingdom of Serbia in the first two decades of the twentieth century (plum jam exports! heirs kicking their valets to death!) and went on to answer crucial questions like who was actually making the foreign policy decisions in each of the national capitals and what their background was for doing so. I found it very compelling and ended up squirming through the book despite having the ending spoiled for me by the title and, er, the entire rest of the last hundred years of history.
Paul Cornell, The Lost Child of Lychford. When it comes to balanced novellas, with setting and character and plot and everything all playing their role at their proper scale, I’m not sure anybody does it better than Paul Cornell. And I’m reading a lot of novellas lately. I particularly like the vicar in this setting–she is lovely and so well drawn–but really all the characters, I like the whole thing. I see why this has gotten attention.
Annie Dillard, The Writing Life. Reread. I have been going through some of my shelves and considering whether I still want to spend the space on some things, and books about writing are getting a particularly careful eye. I had cleared out several of the “show don’t tell” level of writing manuals several years back but kept the more emotive, essay types. I revisited this one to see what it had to share with me, and…this was maybe not the best time. Because there are some passionate passages that still made me smile, certainly. And there were also pieces of…how do I say this. Self-aggrandizing bullshit. Dillard suggests, for example, that it is possible to be too healthy to write. This is not the sort of thing that someone dealing with a chronic health condition finds charming. She also compares writing a novel to sitting up with a dying friend. Since I am writing a novel this month and also have had a friend die this month, none of my responses to that were polite. We were not the level of close where his wife, another friend, would have called me to sit with him even if his death would have been more lingering, but even so, on the whole, I think I may safely suggest that this is the kind of self-important assholery that makes writers feel dramatic and important and should be avoided.
Mike Goldsmith, Discord: The Story of Noise. The first third of this rambles on annoyingly through the history of sound at large. I suppose it might not be annoying to everyone, but it seemed like the odds that someone would pick this up and not know that, for example, sound travels as a wave…really? Who is that target audience? Anyway, it picked up somewhat later, although there was a serious skew in the author’s interests toward talking about environmental pollution (which: fair enough) and away from talking about what factors might practically be used in weighting different kinds of pollutant (not fair enough, actually, if you’re going to write the book actually show up for your book) and also away from topics like how cultures and individuals grow more acclimated to discord in their music. He didn’t have to write the book of the last topic, I just…would like it from someone, please. And there were some bits where he was off his main expertise and flat-out wrong, related to that. (Do not listen to him about Stravinsky. Dude knows nothing about Stravinsky. He is not even trying to know about Stravinsky.)
Linda Legarde Grover, The Dance Boots. A collection of short stories about Ojibwe people from up in Duluth and surrounding areas, families over several generations. Repercussions of mission schools/Indian schools and other abuses. Traditions loved and reclaimed. Other traditions mourned and deprecated.
Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, Real Friends. Discussed elsewhere.
Elizabeth Hand, Generation Loss. This book is like gravel and broken glass, so much damage, so much pain, so much desperation to be somewhere else. A little bit of learning to be okay somewhere, a lot of ocean and small town. And drugs and photography and punk. Did I like it? I’m not sure. I’m glad I read it. I think it’s well done. I guess I should say it is a novel, that’s not clear from what I said.
Frances Hardinge, A Face Like Glass. Discussed elsewhere.
Bill Hayes, Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me. This is a memoir of Hayes moving to New York and his relationship with Oliver Sacks. It is tender and quirky and funny, and Oliver Sacks is weirdly worried about fireflies. There are journal notes, there are interviews with strangers and friends and the guy who sells them magazines. It’s short. I’m glad I read it.
Carlos Hernandez, The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria. I rarely come into speculative fiction short story collections completely cold these days, and this one I did, and it was glorious. I loved it so much. It made me wish that I was on book recommending terms with Samuel R. Delany so that I could verify that he has read this. He has, hasn’t he? Does one of you know? Can somebody poke somebody else who can check? Because the story with the pandas and the robot suits, that is the story that somebody who actually knows him ought to hand him and say, “I am so excited, look at this field, look what this person is doing, he did it on his own, but if you hadn’t made this field what it is, he couldn’t have, so well done both of you.” (If nobody gets back to me on this I will go find him at Readercon. I mean it. But it will be a lot more awkward because I don’t actually know him.)
A.E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad. Kindle. I read this in the intermission of the symphony, and I had read several of the poems in it before, but never all at once. They point. They point toward the coming Great War, so it was good to read with The Sleepwalkers like that. There are some beautiful things, the cherry trees, I like that. And there is some bitterness, anger, frustration, some stuff that where you can see the taking of the Queen’s shilling not being all it is cracked up to be. You can see the dulce et decorum est cracking, you can hear him telling people, trying to tell people, that while the athlete dying young is being praised for his wisdom this is maybe not completely wise. He thrashes. He flails. He comes around to “Terence, this is stupid stuff,” which I have loved for years, which I never fail to read all of, never. Okay, be angry, be frustrated, have some poetry and some cherry trees and wonder whether it’s enough. I will read his later poems soon and see what shape that makes. I hope he’s still flailing.
Gwyneth Jones, Proof of Concept. This science fiction novella goes off into the deep blackness of beyond with so many characters. So very very many characters. I like Jones in general, but by the time I got myself oriented within the cast we were almost done. Novellas are hard to balance.
Margaret Killjoy, A Country of Ghosts. This is an anarchist utopia with an embedded journalist who gets converted. They are fighting a war against imperialists, sort of, inasmuch as anarchists in a utopia do anything so organized as fight a war. It is exactly what it sounds like. Some of them make things to eat or things to eat out of, and they explain how their society works. People get hurt and take care of each other. There are people of different colors, gay people, disabled people. It is a lot nicer than most utopias, and the fact that there is a war (-ish) and a person being converted gives it as much structure as its length really requires. And when I picked it up, it was a good day for reading about a bunch of people trying hard at a thing, even if some of them were going to get hurt or die. Dreadfully convincing? Not really. Reasonable to read? Yah.
Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change. This is not just the sort of thing that a person who’s reading Nature all the time will know but the ten years out of date version of it. Still worth a quick read if you’re interested in knowing what other people will be hearing about these topics, but not the first thing you should reach for probably.
Mark Molesky, This Gulf of Fire: The Destruction of Lisbon, or Apocalypse in the Age of Science and Reason. Ah, the eighteenth century. Time when people hoped they had some idea what the heck was going on, and totally didn’t. The Lisbon Earthquake is very telling about the rest of Portuguese culture at the time, and the merchant cultures that fed into it, and their assumptions. A particularly interesting read after Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built In Hell.
Nnedi Okorafor, Binti: Home. A direct sequel, full of ramifications from Binti. Emotion, family, and aliens are centered here, all things I enjoy very much, and there’s a lot going on for something that’s only novella length.
Helen Phillips, Some Possible Solutions. This was blurbed by other short story writers in the weird and interstitial area whose work I have recently enjoyed, Kelly Link, Karen Russell. I could see why Phillips was put in with them, why they were given her collection to blurb, and yet where they hit dead center for me, she was off, and I couldn’t tell whether it was her or me or the combination of the two of us. If you’re passionate about those two, pick this one up. It has a nastier edge, less kindness. If you’re iffy on them or really don’t like them, you probably won’t like this one either.
Zia Haider Rahman, In the Light of What We Know. I was so excited about this for something like 85% of the book. It was erudite and discursive. I had no idea where it was going, and I was excited about that, excited to be along for the ride, for the footnotes that went here and there in music and culture and history and literature. It was as though David Foster Wallace had some heritage in Bangladesh and Britain as well as the US and also was not a jerk. And then. And then the plot twist at the end, the plot twist was the most incomprehensibly boring plot twist–there was a plot twist, first of all, and it was staggeringly dull, it made the entire book worse. I had this from the library, and up until the last 50 or so pages I was all set to buy a copy for Mark’s birthday, and then he had to make this plot twist about interpersonal melodrama in this book about friendship and learning and what we think is worth knowing and why. And since he put it in the middle of things, he made it so it was supposed to ramify out, what ramified out was…distasteful, melodramatic, small, petty. Oh. Well then.
Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag, Shattered Warrior. Discussed elsewhere.
Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832. Largely though not solely about the relationships among Black slaves, the free Black community, white Americans, and the British during the War of 1812. Informative but not particularly inspired.
Loung Ung, Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites With the Sister She Left Behind. This is a parallel memoir/biography: Ung describes her life as a new immigrant in America and also her next-eldest sister’s life staying in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. There are a lot of things about which she is gratifyingly honest, but the threads of her life are not necessarily pulled together very well–how does she get from despair to direction? She doesn’t really say, it happens between incidents. Ung has written other memoirs, so perhaps it could be pieced together there, or perhaps the fragmentary recollections are the kind of story she wants to tell.
Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland, Spill Zone. Discussed elsewhere.
Kate Wilhelm, Storyteller. Reread. This is another how-to-write that I kept past the initial purge because I enjoy the writer’s other works, but it’s really very basic show-don’t-tell stuff, in addition to a few things that are memoir about the early days of Clarion. I didn’t go to Clarion and don’t have emotional attachment to it–mostly what I felt was horrified at the levels of sexism Wilhelm felt obliged to cope with even when she didn’t seem to think she was describing the overt sexism–so I will feel comfortable letting this one find a new home with a much younger storyteller than I am.
If I drink any hard alcohol in winter, it's a snifter of calvados, my favorite apple brandy. I want something that my hand can warm, that warms me going down. But when the weather gets nice again (and I am betraying my biases: I have learned to enjoy fall and winter, but what I truly love is exposing skin: wearing sandals, and sleeveless shirts, and showing as much leg as I can respectably manage, because I love the feeling of sunshine on my body) I start craving a G&T at the end of a long day.
And good God, has today been a long day.
And I bought a bottle of Hendrick's the other day, but it was still in the 40s a few days ago. Today it was in the 80s. Now the sun has gone down, but the sky is still bright, and the birds are singing their twilight songs, and I am sitting on my mirpesset barefoot listening to the sounds of evening, and I have a gin and tonic in hand. And it is really, really good.
Shehecheyanu, v'kiyimanu, v'higianu lazman hazeh -- I'm thankful to the One Who kept me alive and sustained me and enabled me to live through another winter until it was gin-and-tonic time again.
Review copy provided by the authors, who are personal friends. Of mine, I mean, although also one expects of each other. Although, hey, still friends three books into writing a series together, more power to them.
So yes: this is the third book of the Change series. It is not my recommended starting point. There is quite a lot of backstory here, but more importantly this is very much a character-driven story. There are very active plot elements–fire and fight and family feud and scheming and politics and travel–but the thing that ties together all the many point-of-view characters and their several concerns is coming-of-age, finding one’s place in the world, characterization stuff. And if you don’t have the background for that, it won’t have nearly the punch.
These books are diverse along numerous axes. They are about teenagers trying to figure out who they want to be in worlds that have complicated attitudes toward some aspects of their identities–and even in the places where the world is not restrictive, sometimes it’s still hard to figure out just because it’s hard, just because learning to human is hard even before you start throwing in mutant powers and post-apocalyptic Southern California landscapes. But at their core, these books are full of people who care about each other, and who are effective at doing it, too. Which is far too rare.
Review copy provided by First Second Books.
Colleen is a human on a world colonized by humanoid aliens. She was born before the Derichet arrived, and her family was one of the richest, most powerful families on the planet, but that’s all gone now. She works in a factory, longs for her dead and missing relatives, and scrapes by as best she can.
One night she meets Jann, a fellow human involved in the rebellion against the Derichet. She moves from self-protection to a larger political activism–and opens up in her personal relationships along the way.
Ostertag is the artist who draws Strong Female Protagonist, and her style is clearly recognizable in this, her debut graphic novel. Shinn is the author of lots of speculative fiction novels, and her previous style also shows through, particularly in the ways the romantic relationship beats fall. I feel like it’s a reasonable introduction to Shinn’s work, accounting for less story per page than you’ll get in her prose novels. Ostertag, too: the modes of being expressive, the way interpersonal and action scenes are shown, are distinct from SFP but clearly the work of the same hand.
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