Fangirl Friday: what and who are you reading?

Y’all, I’m illin’. And not in the 80s sense. In the actual fighting off cold virus cooties sense.

So my head is all fogged n’ clogged and though I was conducting scientific re-watching of the most recent Wynonna Earp episodes, I’m too hopped up on decongestants to dive deep into my usual profound ruminations to figure out what the hell I’m doing.

So please, y’all — let’s talk about things you’re reading that you’re loving and/or particular authors that you’re loving. Introduce us to some new ones! I’ll start, and heads up — I’m partial to spec fic, so if that’s not your gig, I’m hoping something among these will convince you to try it out.

Here are 5 authors/things I’m reading that are blowing my mind (prior to decongestants):

JUSTINA IRELAND
My podcast buddy and author colleague Lise MacTague and I just did an episode on Justina Ireland‘s Dread Nation, a thought-provoking historical framing of a zombie apocalypse that occurs during the Civil War and ends up re-creating the systemic racist and segregationist policies of whites toward blacks, even years after the war when the country has settled into an existence between the living and the undead.

Black children are taken away from their families at early ages (this country has a history of doing that to people of color) to work for whites, and some girls are taken to “finishing schools” which train them how to be servants/companions/bodyguards for young white women. Basically, black people are trained in zombie (“shamblers” in the parlance of Ireland’s world) killing, but without guns.

It’s written in first-person present through the eyes of Jane, a young black woman at a finishing school who has mad skills with sickles. It’s a POV that’s not generally my fave, but Ireland is so good that I got sucked right in. And I love how she constructs her post-apocalyptic world as basically a reconstruction of the old, replicating race and class hierarchies against a backdrop of the undead.

Also, Lise and I would really like a poster-sized image of the book cover. kthx.

REBECCA ROANHORSE
I freaking love this woman’s work. AND she just won a Hugo (she’s also a Nebula and Campbell award-winner) for this utterly brilliant futuro-colonial brainfuck story, “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian ExperienceTM“, available via Apex Magazine. Hit that link; you can read it for free.

So I’m also reading her debut novel, Trail of Lightning and I fucking LOVE it. The protagonist is Maggie Hoskie, a Dinétah monster hunter, and I’ll tell you what — ain’t no monsters like freaking Dinétah monsters, y’all.

And Roanhorse gives us another twist — this tale (first in a series) takes place after an apocalypse referred to as “Big Water,” which is cataclysmic flooding as a result of climate change. And part of the world that survived is the American Southwest. Part of that is the Navajo Nation, so the locations Hoskie talks about I’m familiar with, and it was just so great to see those settings through her eyes.

Hoskie has Diné clan powers, and she ends up with a sidekick who also has some clan powers, and with his help, she has to figure out who’s creating monsters that are terrorizing and killing people. And she has to of course dispatch the monsters AND to confront her past. All against an amazing backdrop of the American Southwest and Indigenous cultures. Freaking love this.

P. DJÈLÍ CLARK
I discovered Clark’s writing by accident while I was running around on the Twitterz (as I am wont to do) and saw that he had posted a link to a short story that he had written, available at the Tor Books website (Tor is a major spec fic house). It sounded really cool, so I went and started reading and I couldn’t stop and at that point I started following him because he’s super-talented and writes really interesting characters, including strong women protagonists.

Called “A Dead Djinn in Cairo,” it’s a fabulous steampunkish and otherwordly view of 1912 Cairo. Plus, he writes really freaking cool blogs on science fiction and fantasy and history and also POC in media (which you can find on his site).

His debut novella just dropped, like, two days ago. The Black God’s Drums takes place in an alternate New Orleans, including airships, adventure, and orisha all tangled up in the Civil War. A wall-scaling girl called Creeper wants to escape the streets for the air, specifically aboard an airship helmed by Captain Ann-Marie. She works to earn her trust with info she’s got about a Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.

I mean…YES, PLEASE. I haven’t started the novella yet (just bought it), but I’m psyched to read it.

BECKY CHAMBERS
My fab podcast colleague Lise MacTague recommended Chambers’ work, which is awesome space opera. I’ve started reading the first in her Wayfarer series, which chronicles the interwoven futures of the everyday beings (human and other) living in the future.

Each of the three books has been shortlisted for boocoo awards and they’ve won a few. The first book, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, takes the reader on a journey with a motley crew on a crazy adventure (through space, of course). The crew of the Wayfarer includes Rosemary Harper, Sissix the reptilian pilot, the engineers Kizzy and Jenks, and Ashby, the captain. Life is chaotic aboard the Wayfarer, and things get a lot more dangerous with a job the crew takes.

Super fun space opera with great characters and fab writing. I’ve just started this one, too, and so far, SO FUN! WOOO! Thanks, Lise, for pointing me in this direction.

ONEMILLIONGOLDSTARS
OMGS (dig that acronym I just created) is writing a really cool Clexa fanfic titled “A Crown Seldom Enjoyed.” What the author is doing here is writing Clexa AU in the Game of Thrones setting and it’s sucking me right in.

The writer updates regularly, and how about THIS for a description of this fanfic deliciousness?

To maintain the fragile peace between north and south, Clarke of House Tyrell is sent to live in Winterfell as an act of faith between the two kingdoms. There, she is put under the protection of the first queen in the north, Queen Lexa of House Stark, Daughter of Wolves. A woman draped in steel and silver, wolves at her heels and rumoured to be a manifestation of the fury of the old gods; Clarke refuses to be awed be her quiet violence and cold smile. Instead of fostering unity, the meeting of the wolf and the rose lights a spark that spreads through the rest of Westeros, threatening to burn it to the ground.

That’ll give you a taste of this writer’s style, too. Totes enjoying it.

(For those not in the know, Clexa is the relationship of Clarke Griffin and Commander Lexa from the post-apocalyptic drama The 100.)

And y’all, do yourselves a favor and read N.K. Jemisin, who just won her THIRD Hugo! WOOO! This is a THREEPEAT, friends, in that award. Never been done before! Her acceptance speech two weeks ago is truly amazing. It’s being hailed as one of the best ever, and well it should be:

Anyway, what’s on your device/coffee table for reading? 😀

Happy Friday, and may The Force be with us. Or at least with the decongestants…

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6 comments

  1. I’m currently finishing The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel and I have the next book in the series The Fated Sky ready to read as soon as I finish. I’m really enjoying The Calculating Stars and can’t wait to see where it goes next.

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  2. I decided to read something different for me. I love cozy mysteries like Agatha Christie or the like, but another author was brought to my attention online. I’m currently reading The Lake House by Kate Morton. (https://www.amazon.com/Lake-House-Novel-Kate-Morton-ebook/dp/B00LD1S3PY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535117272&sr=8-1&keywords=the+lake+house+by+kate+morton) It’s moody and suspenseful, set in Cornwall. The story goes back and forth between 1933 when an 11 month old boy is found missing from his crib, and 2003, when most of the rest of the story happens. What makes it very moody is that the story begins in a manor house as they prepare for a midsummer party with hundreds of guests. As the party finally winds down, they discover the baby missing from his crib. Despite a frantic and thorough search, he is never found. The devastated parents shut down the manor, close the house up and move to London with their other children, never to return. Seventy – yes, that’s 70 – years later, a young detective happens upon the run down and overgrown manor house while visiting her grandfather. Drawn to the place, she is apparently going to try to solve the mystery of the missing child. Should be an interesting read. I’m just a few chapters in, and her descriptions and storytelling are, indeed, as good as the over 2,600 reviews say they are.

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  3. I’ve got both those first two books on my TBR and am looking forward to them a lot. And always awesome to hear that someone’s enjoying Becky Chambers – I love her books!

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  4. Yo, Andi Marquette… you’ve fangirl’d that reading truth with this article!

    Let me just say upfront that one of my reads is your novella, Some Kind of River. To talk about it briefly—because I know these article postings are not meant to be article poster kiss-up times—first it’s helpful to know that I am not a swimmer—not by a long shot—much less a person who will ever rock a kayak. In fact, fear of open water runs deep in this one like the force runs deep through all them Skywalkers. As a child, I nearly drowned, twice, and I fell off a boat. So, yeah, me and large bodies of water—outside of bath time and the shallow end of a swimming pool with a lifeguard present and arm floaties equipped—is a no go. Just to push home that point, I’ve lived on two different Hawaiian islands, smack dab close to beaches (like walk outside your door and take short, no-break-a-sweat-or-breath hops close) and spent shocking little time at the beach, because ocean in sight. I even hate playing water levels in video games (yes, even the tame ones in the Sonic games, but especially the terrifying ones in the Monster Hunter series.) Needless to say, I thought I’d be squeamish about reading the whitewater rapid bits. However, I was immersed in the story due to just how well you described the rapids on an emotional level (though, at one moment, I read with one eye closed and the other one half-closed due to the tension in a particular scene. Still, it helped that everything was filtered through Dez’s eyes and that she loved and knew the water). Enjoyed how you depicted the river rat culture, the inner thoughts of a river rat (Dez), and the mechanics of camping out and riding the rapids. Also loved how you nailed female friendships; even your minor characters rang true. And, lastly but most importantly, I really vibed with the cute-turned-sexy love story that hit a bit close to home because I comb over important moments that pass between myself and other people like how Dez fretted over mixed signals between herself and her best friend Mel. Sometimes I wanted to yell—loudly mind you—at Dez (girl, use your dayum words!) and other times I wanted to mama bear hug her (because she needed one). So, thank you for writing Some Kind of River.

    Like you, I loved Trail of Lightning. Like, a helluva lot. Like, the world-building alone was worth the price. But, Trail of Lightning also showcased great female characters, unique plot developments, hella scary tense moments, cool story elements, on-point social and general life commentary, and addictive writing. It’s like Roanhorse was on that road to kill the urban fantasy game right off the starting block in her first chapter type of great writing. I knew what Maggie would do in that first chapter—the eerie feeling of what could happen creeps up on you as she talks to a certain person—but I still sat there with my jawbone broke the hell off my head afterward and I couldn’t stop reading the rest of the book because the grit of her writing just flat out ruled my synapses, hardcore. It’s so refreshing to have a Native American heroine in an urban fantasy novel that is unapologetically herself with a setting that prominently features aspects of her culture. Roanhorse doesn’t shy away from putting Diné culture in a true spotlight and exposing hard truths about life and relationships in deeply honest, relatable and emotionally raw ways. To top if off, the ‘magic system’ of clan powers is ripe with imagination, meaning, relevancy, and uniqueness.

    I also loved Dread Nation. Justina Ireland is skilled at making on-point commentary in her books without being hella preachy, and Dread Nation is definitely Ireland on top of her creative and killing-em-softly game. Dread Nation rocks unique framing of many poignant life and societal observations whilst simultaneously shaking up the zombie genre; it’s a great exploration of racism, classism, colorism, gender, politics, personal agency, built sisterhood, female empowerment, and survival within the backdrop of zombie genre conventions made fresh. Brilliant premise on so many levels. Not only did she put her own spin on zombie tropes but she also changed up the women-as-each-other’s-adversary game too. I liked the main character’s snark—so often young back girls are labeled as being “angry black girls” or “difficult” whenever they express one iota of a dissenting opinion, ones that if uttered by their Caucasian counterparts would just be taken at face value as the gospel truth. I love how Ireland doesn’t make Jane shy away from having those types of thoughts and opinions, and sometimes even saying them, even though the consequences for harboring them or expressing them can be detrimental-to-deadly on several different levels for Jane, and I love how Jane grows to allow different perspectives to inform her maturing ideals, opinions and feelings–because the crucible of a zombie apocalypse would put a lot of things into a clarified perspective. Excuse me while I head over to check out your podcast about Dread Nation…

    The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers and The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin (1st book in her Broken Earth trilogy) are slated to migrate from my TBR pile and hit my actual reading rotation in mid-October. I’m not sleeping on NK Jemisin—I know she’s amazing-ness in human form; I’ve read some of her short stories on Tor.com like The City Born Great—but I had to wait until I got my hands on the entire Broken Earth trilogy and also wait until I banked enough time in my schedule to binge read the entire series without any other (reading) distractions. I’m going to do the same for her Inheritance trilogy. And, I’m also going to read the other books in Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series, A Closed and Common Orbit and the latest one, Record of a Spaceborn Few, soon. Because, ladies in space in leadership roles. Plus, I’ve read non-spoiler parts of reviews that all mention how Chamber’s world-building is crazy good.

    I haven’t read P. Djeli Clark yet, so thank you for putting him on my radar. For sure will check out The Black God’s Drums. An alternate New Orleans + airships + WOC protag = gonna read it! You don’t even have to convince me. Tor’s site is such a treasure trove of author finds as is Lightspeed Magazine’s site, which has a recent P. Djeli Clark interview I’m going to read. It’s also the site where I discovered one of my all-time favorite authors, Seanan McGuire aka Mira Grant, and her short story Dragonflies that ruled my life for days after I read it (which, if anyone does read it, being an older sister is a major reason why that story resonated with me.) Speaking of Seanan McGuire, Marvel recently released her Kitty Pryde X-men comic, so I’ll be all over that one soon, too.

    Just finished up my second—albeit much quicker—read thru of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi so I could have it fresh in the memory banks for discussing with my kids. So many good things to unpack with this one. A dark-skinned teenage girl with newly awakened magical powers as the heroine with an African setting… I really wish something like it had been written when I was younger—I would have worshiped it like I did Frank Herbert’s Dune series and how my kids worshiped the Harry Potter series—but I’m happy for my kids to have it at their fingertips now. I did eventually discover the goodness that is Octavia Butler, first with her novel Kindred, in my teen years—thank G-d for that development, for certain—but there was a huge, terrible drought for WOC in the scifi & fantasy genres for a long time afterward. Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone is another stellar, knockout YA read that explores many of the same themes as Dread Nation but within the context of an African setting with an African ruling class, so it deeply traverses the topic of colorism. I purchased 3 hardcovers so I could donate one, read one to post-it note/highlight it all the hell up, and keep one in pristine condition (a special edition version). The cover is another one that needs to be made into a large poster. And, the story is slated to be a trilogy, so even more money is gonna fly out my wallet!

    I read multiple books throughout the day/week, usually 5 chapters at a time. It’s just the way I’m wired. So, I’m currently reading in a random-ish rotation: Six of Crows by Leah Bardugo, Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, Chasing Stars by Alex K. Throne, Monstress Vol 1 by Marjorie Liu (graphic novel), Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (who is another WOC scifi/fantasy writer I discovered through short stories, this time her short story Hello, Moto on Tor.com; she is also hella good—I mean, she made technology-and-juju magic enhanced colorful wigs worn by three Nigerian scientist witches a pivotal thing in a scifi/fantasy story, and the posters for the short film titled Hello, Rain showcasing the three lead lady characters are to die for), Deadline by Stephanie Ahn (an urban fantasy novel with a lesbian protag who is a witch), City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty, The Infinity Gauntlet (Marvel comic), and Tricks For Free by Seanan McGuire (the talking Aeslin Mice have an included novella, hooray!)

    On audiobook I’m currently rocking: Who’d Have Thought by G Benson (so far it’s my top contender for the best fake-relationship trope lesfic book released in 2017-18, and one of the best when stacked into the mainstream ones I’ve read this year), Criminal by Karin Slaughter, Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller, and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson (I have so much nerd love for that dude and just have been vacuuming up his talks and books lately).

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