Worldcon Recs

Here is a list of the recs I picked up from various panels I attended at Worldcon. (These are likely not complete, but they're the ones that I wrote down.)

In Defense of the Unlikeable Heroine:

  • We Who Are About To - Joanna Russ

Non-Binary Representation In Fiction:

  • Transcendent: The Year's Best Transgender Speculative Fiction - ed K M Szpara (anthology)
  • The Black Tides of Heaven / The Red Threads of Fortune - JY Yang (forthcoming in Sept)
  • Provenance - Ann Leckie (forthcoming, but read some on her website)
  • Jacob's Ladder - Elizabeth Bear
  • River of Teeth - Sarah Gailey
  • Pantomime - Laura Lam
  • Killing Gravity - Corey J White
  • Interactive fiction Craft phone games (Choice of Deathless/City's Thirst) - Max Gladstone (you can play an nb character)
  • "Masculinity is an Anxiety Disorder" (essay) - David J Schwartz
  • Rose Lemberg
  • Foz Meadows
  • A Merc Rustad

Beyond the Dystopia

(This one should be complete as I moderated the panel and made a point of writing them down to tweet afterwards.)

  • Two Faces of Tomorrow - James P Hogan
  • Culture series - Iain M Banks
  • Dragonlance
  • Too Like the Lightning and Seven Surrenders - Ada Palmer
  • The Postman - David Brin
  • A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed And Common Orbit - Becky Chambers
  • Hospital Station - James White
  • Malhutan Chronicles - Tom D Wright (panelist)
  • Orbital Cloud - Taiyo Fuji (panelist)
  • The Goblin Emperor - Katherine Addison

Older Women in Genre Fiction:

  • All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses An Eye - Christopher Brookmyre
  • Blood Songs series - Anthony Ryan
  • Remnant Population - Elizabeth Moon
  • Barbara Hambly

Also, Catherine Lundoff keeps a bibliography of books with older women protagonists.

Colonialism and the Space Opera:

  • Praxis - John Williams

Moving Beyond Orientalism in SFF:

  • Black Wolves - Kate Elliot
  • Vixen and The Waves - Hoa Pham
  • Isabelle Yap
  • Ken Liu
  • Stephanie Lai
  • Zen Cho

(Plus one from Nine Worlds in which the MC has Borderline Personality Disorder: Borderline - Mishell Baker)

Review: Spider Circus, by Alice Nuttall

Note: I was given a free copy of this for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.

Spider Circus (Amazon link) (also available from Smashwords) is a YA fantasy novel (the first of a series, though the rest aren't out yet), following protagonist Lizzie as she is pulled into the world-travelling Spider Circus. While trying to find her feet and her niche within the circus and its folk, she also uncovers a mystery involving ringmaster Jack.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. I loved the world-building; the circus itself and the people in it, the multiple other worlds, and the interaction between the two. Lizzie is a great, sympathetic character, and I was emotionally involved in her various struggles. (She's also black, and it's nice to read non-white protagonists, especially when this isn't made a big part of the story itself.)

Towards the end I did feel that things got a bit rushed. The plot and ending hang together, but the pace seemed to pick up quite abruptly from the earlier settling-in stuff. The reveal of the bad guys (she says, trying to avoid spoilers) was a bit too unexpected. Unexpected is good, but I didn't feel that as a reader I'd been entirely set up for it. Ideally a plot twist should feel both surprising and, once it has happened, inevitable ("oh, of course!"). This had some of that, in that I did see how it fit in, but I think it could have felt a little more satisfying.

There were also a few stylistic niggles and infelicities here and there. But not many, and I noticed more of these in the first few pages than elsewhere in the book. I suspect this was because I was very quickly sufficiently drawn into the characters and the story that I didn't mind any more. Personally, I would far rather read a gripping story and well-realised characters with the odd clunk than matchless prose with a dull story and characters I don't care about.

Despite the ending feeling a little sudden, I finished the book very keen to read the next one (once, that is, it's out), and I'd happily recommend it to others.

(One minor note which is not about the book but about me - I find the "leaving home without parents knowing" trope (very common IME in YA and especially in fantasy) really quite upsetting now in a way that I never used to. This parenting business does affect your brain.)

Alice's website can be found here, with some more stories available, some of which are free.