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Book Review: PLANETFALL

Planetfall_EmmaNewman

Amazon | Goodreads

Notes on Diversity:
This book is rich with diversity on multiple levels. The cast is composed mostly of people of color. I read Ren, the main character, as a woman of color. Many of the other important characters–Suh-Mi, Sung-Soo, Kay, Carmen, Pasha, Neela–are also people of color. Their race seems to impact their lives only minimally; it’s presented or coded matter-of-factly, but I didn’t pick up any situations where Ren or others experience outright racism or microaggressions due to their race. I don’t know how much of this is Emma Newman writing as a White woman, and how much of this was intentional on her part (presenting the colony as a space without racism, but some scenes are flashbacks where Ren could have experienced racist interactions?). In any case, the characters are carefully chosen scientists, and they come from a wide array of backgrounds.

Front and center is Ren’s deteriorating mental health. Much of the plot is actually predicated on Ren’s mental disabilities, which are presented here as hoarding, possibly with some OCD symptoms woven in.

Ren (and Kay) is also queer. Like the representation of race, her sexuality is presented without any struggle or any antagonism. She simply is bisexual. This, for me, was refreshing–it was clear that Ren had shame around her sexuality, but it was not because of her desire for other women. It was bound up with her mental health issues. I welcomed and connected with a character who was queer, and crazy, but not crazy because she was queer. And I welcomed that the book acknowledged that craziness impacts how we connect with partners and lovers.


Review:
I both loved this book and felt dissatisfied with it. Like Ren herself, Planetfall is slim and enormously complicated. I wonder if it’s not actually two books stitched together. Right from the start, there are two competing plots. Newman tries to weave them together, but by the ending, it was clear to me that they could have been utterly separate books. And I wanted them to be. And I think I could have loved them both.

Renata Ghali is brilliant. Back on Earth, she figures out technology to print her father a new pancreas, which opens the way for new medical technology that has the potential to save millions of lives. Ren is brilliant, and devoted to her roommate, Suh-Mi, who becomes the Pathfinder. A fluke (or perhaps not?), a mysterious plant, a seed, and then Suh-Mi falls into a coma. Ren stays by her bedside. When Suh-Mi wakes back up, she has a plan, and a vision, and a path to a planet to find God. Ren knows she’ll follow.

But all of that is backstory. The plot takes place on the planet that Suh-Mi has guided Ren and a thousand other carefully chosen devoted to. Ren’s brilliance has leaked into other domains–she’s learned to pilot spaceships for Suh-Mi, she’s learned to engineer sustainable houses for the colony. Planetfall did not go as Suh-Mi planned. Ren has been keeping secrets, and the secrets have taken their toll on her, wearing her down over the years. When a young stranger appears at the edge of the colony, everything in Ren’s carefully calibrated world unravels.

There is part of this book that is about secrets and trauma and healing. That was the part of the book that I was most interested in. Ren as a broken woman, Ren as a woman simultaneously fascinated with and hiding from and trying to heal her past. Over and over again, Ren refers to herself as a mosaic–and I think the metaphor is an apt one. She is loss after loss, and none of them resolved, each one fracturing and shattering her fragile self a little more. Circumstances break her, and she retreats into herself, trying to glue the pieces together.

And above all, Ren is still brilliant. No matter how wounded, Ren is still brilliant. She is the picture of a functional mentally ill person. And as someone who has struggled mightily with depression and anxiety while being functional (while being called smart and impressive), I saw so much of myself in Ren. I don’t hoard things–if anything, I throw them out, get spare and Spartan instead–but I understood her insatiable need to collect, to fix, to make a tangible mosaic between herself and everything that reminds herself of what’s gone so very wrong.

If that was all the book was, it would need to be set on a planet far away, though, would it? It would, however, be a much cleaner book. The book is also a murder mystery. And a book about faith. And about the (literal) nature of humanity. And a book about revenge. I could do with it folding in the murder mystery and the faith*, but this last piece is what really breaks the book for me.

Ren’s redemption is as much to do with faith and her facing a reckoning with long-buried guilt and violence as it is the internal work of mental health. What breaks the book is that this great human reckoning is only hinted at and glanced at. It is crammed into the last few pages of the book, and–most importantly–Ren escapes that reckoning. When the colonies collective chickens come home to roost, Ren watches its effect on her fellows, but she scrambles away and literally goes on a journey of faith herself. It is implied, at the end, that the choice she makes services a collective good, but I found myself left with so many questions. Would she have made that choice if not driven there by the threat of bodily violence? Maybe her choice leads to good for future individuals, but what about her friends and lovers she’s left behind at that moment, the ones facing bodily harm literally at that moment? Is it a redemption, or is it an evasion?

And if there was to be no narrative payoff, no closure for all of that chaos and violence only just introduced in those last few pages, then why introduce it in the first place? why not drive Ren to those final choices in another, different way?

So much of the book was so very very good, but the book seems to lose narrative cohesion right at the end. I understood what was happening, but not the narrative choices that Newman employed here. The gravity and stakes of the ending was so high after I was so invested in the characters and the book that refusing to give closure–and guiding Ren to a choice that frankly, seemed to minimize, what was happening below her–felt like a cheap shot.

3 stars


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GUEST POST: On Black Elves by Constance Burris

I am THRILLED to have Constance Burris here with a guest post today! I loved her book, Black Beauty, and I have her book Coal high up on my to-read list. Constance is a fabulous, thoughtful writer. Take it away, Constance!


 

I’m a thirty-something-year-old black woman, and I wrote a novel with elves, dwarves, and dragons living the fey realm. Then I really went off the rails and wrote a prequel where magical elves interact with poor, black urban youth in the human realm. For me, this was my way of inserting myself (poor and black) into the (lily-white) fantasy I’ve been reading since kindergarten.

Like a lot of people, I love stories with fey– elves, dwarves, giants, and trolls. But I was never able to see myself in any of the heroes until I stumbled across The Dark Elf Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore. As a black nerd, I hungrily devoured any fantasy where I could see myself reflected back. When I discovered Drizzt, a dark-skinned elf, I dark elf trilogyfell in fandom. Yes, the dark elves were still considered evil, and thus it fell into the dark skin equals bad stereotype, but Drizzt was dark-skinned and good.

Eventually, I found the RA Salvatore forums where I could talk with other fans about Drizzt all day every day.

One day, while conversing with who I thought were my people over the love of Drizzt, the topic of who should play him in a movie came up. That’s easy Wesley Snipes, yo! He was popular (at the time) and he had the dark black skin color that would match perfectly with Drizzt.

WesleyAh lawd, all hell broke loose. How could I possibly indicate that a black man could play the role of an elf? What the hell was wrong with me? According to the forum, elves do not have such negroid features like a wide nose, thick lips, or kinky hair. Are you crazy? Elves are tall and slender with straight noses and thin lips. They have Arian features.

Needless to say, I was trolled and bullied out of the forum.

The experience stuck with me.

I decided to write my own story with black elves. To stick with the original canon, I made all of the elves white except for the main elf, who by way of shapeshifting, chose to be black. She still has Arian features. But in Book 2, I will have my negroid elf. He (or she) will have a wide nose, thick lips, muscular build, and kinky hair. I will take these elves that were never intended to look anything like me and create them in my own image.

I’m writing the books I want to read with characters that look like me and mine.

So I want to give a shout out to the bullies in the RA Salvatore forum. Your racist hatred inspired me to write and finish my first book. Good looking out.

For fun, here is the post I wrote when I tried to pitch my first novel to a literary agent.


 

Constance is an environmental engineer by day and a writer of black science fiction, fantasy, and horror by night. You can find her first book COAL here and the prequel BLACK BEAUTY here. She blogs at www.constanceburris.com/blog.

 

Disrupting Publishing Linkspam: 2/2/2015

It’s that time again: that time every week where I round up links to articles written by marginalized people pushing back against oppression in publishing. I’m aggregated as many marginalized voices as possible from as many vectors as possible, and the more intersectional the better. As always if you’ve read something I missed please link it in the comments.


 

Moar from the POCs Destroy SFF Lightspeed Kickstarter
“We’re Going Places” by Jeremy Szal

Diversity cannot exist if it exists solely within America and is dominated by American terms. So how do we do that? How do we move past that singular ideal?

“Dancing in the Margins” by An Owomoyela

I want to write because it’s important to me to see writing into the edge cases. Because those edge cases, and the ways in which race/ethnicity/color/call-it-what-you-want is defined, is manifested, in different places, at different times, is a huge part of the mess about what it means to be white or not in our community—this community that I live in and write in, and which affects me, day to day.

“On Destruction” by Naru Dames Sundar

In “destroying” SF, we are in fact rebuilding it, we are taking all that it was and adding to it. There are many voices out there, voices of different races, cultures, backgrounds. Voices that carry an authentic understanding of the things that underpin their histories, their people’s histories. I want to see their histories extrapolated into that unknown future. I want to see the stories that come out of their unique and incredible experiences.

“Blue-Shifted Futures” by Vajra Chandrasekera

No, Zhemais just referenced it because Colombo was the nearest major port to his fictional island. The funny part is that I noticed it so intensely, this one throwaway line, that I remember it to this day. It was the first time I’d read a science fiction novel showing a future that included my city in it, and it didn’t even need to be on fire.

“The Amazing Authentically Authentic Latina Author!” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Doesn’t ring true generally means people expect you to bring in the exotic. They’ll be like, “I once went to Acapulco so this gives me super great knowledge about your country and therefore this is not exotic enough.” Awesome. They want you to show a sarape, bring out the donkey. Check out the rooster in The Three Caballeros. That’s the sense of place you should aim for.

“On the Topic of Erasure” by Z.M. Quỳnh

I write so that I can become whole, so that we may become whole once more. I write so that my stories will be real again, so that my people’s stories will become our own.

“Unlearning Erasure” by Julia Rios

When I was much older, I had a conversation with my sister in which we both discovered that we had found the show I Love Lucy comforting as children. It was the only thing on TV that showed a family with a white mom and a Latino dad who shouted a lot and also liked to sing. The conversation made me realize how much seeing ourselves represented in fiction had meant to us. How much erasing ourselves from the default narrative was damaging. I thought again about all the books and movies my father had introduced me to, and I wondered how that sense of self-erasure had damaged him.

 

 

 

Novelette Review: CALIFORNIA SKIES

CaliforniaSkies_KaylaBashe

Less Than Three Press | Amazon | Goodreads

FTC disclosure: I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Notes on Diversity:
Y’ALL. This is a NON-BINARY TRANS ROMANCE.

giphy1

The book is very queer, frankly so, in a way I deeply appreciated. The treatment of its central transgender/non-binary character–California Talbot–ways lovely and thoughtful. I also loved that there is a gulf between Maggie and California, that for the romance to blossom they must cross a chasm of class of which they are both acutely aware.

It is a very White novelette; I won’t lie. I read California as racially ambiguous. California themself is an orphan described as golden-skinned and black-haired, which in the West could mean any number of things. But it’s not called out explicitly, it’s all an open question.


Review:
California Skies, by Kayla Bashe, is a story about two people, each told by society they are unlovable, who find solace in each other.

It’s also a story about righteous vengeance.

The Chelson gang comes after Maggie’s family, looking for jewels they’ve hidden. They’ve hidden them so well that the gang doesn’t find them. In their frustration, they kill her brother, maim her sister, and slice up her face. Once her wounds turn to scars, Maggie searches for California Talbot, a mysterious childhood friend turned bounty hunter, to help her hunt down the gang that tore apart her family.

She finds California wearing a calico dress and dried blood in a dusty bar. Their is, immediately, a brawl. California is impressed when Maggie stands her ground. Maggie came already impressed by the memories of California and is smitten before the afternoon is out. Together, they track the Chelson gang, each getting to know each other again, slowly, tentatively, falling for each other.

Maggie has to get over her scars. After a lifetime of being told her worth is tied to physical beauty, she no longer feels like she has any appeal to anyone. She is trying to reconcile herself to invisibility. And yet, California sees her. Consistently sees her. But, still, Maggie can’t quite allow herself to trust it:

It felt strangely beautiful to have someone looking after her. She hoped she never got too used to it; a woman with a maimed face, after all, would never have anything like a wife.

Ah, there’s so much to go on about. I love that Maggie is a writer, and that to love her is to love the stories she constructs. And I love that California knows and understands this about Maggie, and that on their journey they construct their own narrative. I love that the only things that hold them back from each other are narrative that they’ve been told by others–things about class, things about beauty–that the other doesn’t believe. Things that they cast off in due time.

I love all of this in part because as a genderqueer and queer person so much of my adult life has been, quite literally, about the creation of very intimate and personal narratives. About how what we’ve been told is true about beauty and life and love and families doesn’t actually have any weight except the weight we give it.

2007

 

I loved this story. I loved these characters. I am definitely going to seek out pretty everything Kayla Bashe has written after this.

5 stars


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Book Review: BOOKBURNERS, SEASON 1

Bookburners_MaxGladstone

Serial Box | Goodreads

Notes on Diversity:
Bookburners follows Team Three of the Vatican’s anti-magical forces, and Team Three is canonically multi-culti and world-traveling. Sam Brooks, the lead character, is a White woman, but her team mates spend as much time in the spotlight as she does. Asanti, the archivist, is a Black woman with fascinations and curiosities all her own. Father Arturo Menchu is a South American priest haunted by past mistakes. Grace Chen is Asian, and a powerhouse–the team’s secret weapon–and incredibly layered. Liam is an Irish White guy…so not diverse. But he is well-written, and he is a character who is actively coping with PTSD more or less openly through the entire course of the season (book?).

Basically, I was pleasantly surprised.

2003

It makes absolute perfect sense that the Roman Catholic Church would have an ethnically/racially diverse group of people targeting magical artifacts given that Catholicism has a global reach, but, honestly, I think many authors would have taken this story and whitewashed it.


Review:
Bookburners is a team-written serial piece of fiction* about a lady cop who gets drawn into a world of magic thanks to curiosities of her wayward brother. Perry Brooks, Sal Brooks’ ne’er-do-well brother, gets his hands on an old, creepy book. And then that book gets its hands on him. Sal is drawn into the web of Team Three’s secret dealings, the ways in which they pull magic artifacts out of the world to protect unknowing mortal citizens, to get her brother back. Over the course of the season, along with Sal, we are introduced to magic users (benign and otherwise), the good and bad sides of the Vatican, and her teammates in Team Three.

Like the best serial dramas on TV, Bookburners strikes a great balance between problem-of-the-week story in a given installment and slowly building a season-long arc over the course of each episode. Some episodes pull more directly into that season-long arc than others, but all of them are excellent. Similarly, Bookburners features mutiple authors working together to create a single cohesive voice, and they pull this off quite well overall.

There are some real standouts to Season 1. The theme of redemption comes through loud and clear–not just for Perry Brooks, but for Sal herself and for Arturo Menchu, and also for Grace. Grace became, over time, my favorite character.

2004

GRACE, GET YOUR CANDLE AND HOLD IT TIGHT.

Grace starts the story giving virutally everyone the cold shoulder and slowly, carefully, opens up to Sal. It takes until episode 7 (“Now and Then”) for the reader to learn much about Grace at all besides the fact that she is sharp-tongued, and reads a lot, and that she is incredibly, almost monstrously dangerous in a fight. But in episode 7 everything comes together, and we learn why she is the way she is. And it is so wonderful. But this part is key:

We’ve always recruited from survivors.

Menchu says this to Sal as a way of explaining that everyone on the team has been touched by magic in some way before joining the team. He says it to tell her that she is not alone, that her position is not unique, that they have all had horrifying scrapes with the uncanny, and lived, and been unsettled enough to want to protect the world from it. That’s why they’re there; that’s why they’re teammates. But then, he tells her to “let Grace be Grace.” He refuses to tell he what she survived. The perspective switches, then, so that the reader sees what Grace survived from her own perspective. We are allowed to see Grace be Grace. Between this episode and a later episode (episode 10, “Shore Leave”) where Grace is allowed a day off, the story for me shifted very much to Grace. I still like Sal very much, but Grace was the one I was hooked on. She was the one who held the emotional stakes for me. By the last episode (16, “Siege”), I was desperate for resolution for her.

The beauty of the way Bookburners is written is that there is enough POV switching between the characters, and most of the characters have enough depth, that you are likely to hook into one of the teammates like this and find your favorite and ride them to the end. It is unequivocally Sal’s story, but Liam and Grace and Menchu all have their own side stories which have enough depth and pathos for you to dig into and connect with. Asanti, I feel like, is the weak link here–not present enough on the ground in their missions in the early episodes to get fully realized, but fascinating, but still somewhat two-dimensional by the season’s end.

I wonder where Season 2 will go. Given the ending of Season 1, it’s clear Sal will stick with the team, but there are intriguing questions with regard to her brother. I wonder what the arc will be. I want to see more of Asanti–much more of Asanti. I’d like to see more of Menchu beyond the fatherly team leader role. And Grace. Give me all the Grace-centric episodes you can, please.

Suffice to say my subscription is renewed.

 

4 stars

*So it’s a book that was released episodically. All the episodes are now available through Serial Box, so you could read it (or listen to it; I more or less alternated) all in one big gulp. The writing team behind Bookburners is stellar: Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty, and Brian Francis Slattery. Xe Sands’ narration for the audiobook is also really excellent.


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Goal Update: January

Trying something a little more structured this year! My year long goals are here for reference. To recap, here are the plans I had for this month:

  • Finish edits on Extraction and turn in polished second draft to press
  • Write a short story
  • Blog on schedule

 

Extraction
Edits are very extremely nearly done! Probably by the end of this week I’ll be able to tie up those last loose ends and send it to my editor. On track!

I also am very, very tempted to go on a close reread of everything canon in the Aerdh universe right now, as I’m migrating all my universe worldbuilding notes to Evernote. I have a tendency to do this every couple of years. It happens usually when I close-edit a big project (like this), and then the editing madness comes upon me, and then I feel compelled to make sure everything fits. I am currently trying to decide if this is necessary or not.

Short Story
I have two very fleshed out ideas, one of which is in active progress and probably will be drafted by the end of the months. On track!

Blog
Off to a rocky start, there, at the beginning of the month, but we’re back on track!

 

 

Disrupting Publishing Linkspam: 1/26/2016

It’s that time again: that time every week where I round up links to articles written by marginalized people pushing back against oppression in publishing. I’m aggregated as many marginalized voices as possible from as many vectors as possible, and the more intersectional the better. As always if you’ve read something I missed please link it in the comments.


 

About that Clarion Tweet
Ann Leckie, Blog Post (1/19/2016)

Now, Gaiman has no obligation to worry about the emotional states of every new or struggling writer. He can quite easily ignore a day’s cloudburst on twitter. But a lot of struggling or aspiring writers? Can’t ignore him as easily. And by speaking, they send a message to other, silent folks on the sidelines–don’t let this stop you, do your best to put this tweet in your Insignificant bin, keep writing.

“Do We Count As Real Writers, Too? (AKA That Thing About Clarion. That. Thing.)” by JY Yang

The point of this post– if it were to have a point, and not merely be a rambling collection of thoughts– is not that workshops are necessary to become a serious writer. The point is that for people who don’t have easy access to a support system, it feels like it’s necessary in order to break into the global SFF scene. And it shouldn’t be.

“How Can SFF De-Expensify Itself? Lotteries! Lotteries! Lots and Lots of Lotteries!” by Jo Walton

And science fiction and fantasy is incredibly expensive.

Because it’s expensive, it’s elitist.

It directly selects against those on low incomes. It directly selects against those living in countries with comparatively weak currencies. It indirectly selects against those groups who tend to have low incomes, or who live in such countries.

 

Personal Essays from POCs Destroy SFF Kickstarter
“Pushing Back Against The Wall” by Aliette De Bodard

I get up in the morning, and the same things keep happening with clockwork regularity. I see people who don’t understand how hurtful it is for minorities that writers take viscerally painful subjects and mine them for shiny elements that can be put into a story—how gut-wrenching it is when someone takes your wars and your oppression and makes them into bowdlerised theme parks that readers can dip into for a moment’s entertainment—when this watering-down becomes a lauded, awards-garlanded reference, and everything else is inauthentic, or unnecessarily grim, or too political by comparison to it.

“I’m a Big Black Man Who Writes Science Fiction” by Malon Edwards

I don’t remember the first book I grabbed. Probably Dune. The Bene Gesserit fascinated me. I—now a little eight-year-old black boy on the South Side of Chicago—wanted to be one of them. When my sister came home from college, I told her. We talked science fiction for days. Even today, we still do.

“Spoiler Alert: The Future? Yeah, I’m in It” by Yash Kesanakurthy

Science fiction is often futuristic but, to me, it’s kind of the opposite. To me, it’s about addressing the past. It is about looking at the present and thinking, “How did it come to this?” It is about looking at the page and thinking, “Where will it go from here?”

“I Have a Few Demands” by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

No. Miniscule increments aren’t enough. I demand more diversity in the genre I love most. I demand that more POC who write science fiction are given the opportunity to expose the wider world to their genius. I demand that science fiction incorporate more substantive characters of color. I demand these things because I don’t want my children and future grandchildren to ever feel like mere spectators to the genre I have taught them to love.

“Thirsty for New” by Malka Older

Give me characters that represent me, when you can, but also give me characters that are completely, mind-openingly other. Other does not mean just those that are not me, but also those that are not the fingernail-thin sliver of humanity depicted in the vast majority of mass culture.

“My Life as an Alien-American” by Arthur Chu

“Asians are aliens and aliens are Asians,” he said, and it was like I felt a light switch flipping on inside my brain, whole seemingly unrelated puzzle pieces from my life snapping neatly into one big picture.

 

 

 

Book Review: THE BUTCHER’S WIFE

TheButchersWife_LiAng

Amazon | Goodreads

Notes on Diversity:
Diversity is the wrong word here1; this is a Taiwanese book written for a Taiwanese audience populated by Taiwanese people. It’s authentic. If you’re looking to read outside of Western authors, and you’re looking for something particularly dark and excruciatingly feminist, then check this out.

There are no queer characters, but Western notions of queerness may not fully apply here, so I may well have missed some subtext. There are characters who deal with physical disabilities–Auntie Ah-Wang hobbling to and fro on her bound feet is a particularly striking example.

ContentWarning

 This book deals, explicitly and vividly, with sexual and physical abuse. It is not an easy book to read. Much of the plot and much of the text is devoted to detailing how Lin Shi, the main character, tries and fails to cope with her husband’s continued abuse.


Review:
Li Ang’s The Butcher’s Wife is harrowing. And feminist. And brilliant.

I first read this book in college. I worked at the library circulation desk; someone turned it in and I picked it up and read it. I didn’t know anything about it. I read it, and it was horrible and fascinating and etched itself into my brain. I’ve thought about it off and on in the years since and recently ordered a copy and reread it. It definitely held up to the reread.

The Butcher’s Wife is about a woman, Lin Shi, in a small village in Taiwan who is sent off to marry a pig butcher by her uncle, Chen Jiangshui. Right from the start, she’s traded like cattle, treated like goods: ownership of herself, her fate, her body is clearly not hers. Her husband is a brutal man; whether he is drawn to the slaughterhouse day in and day out because of his inherent brutality or whether  his brutality is a response to his murderous line of work. In either case, his brutality remains a fact. He rapes Lin Shi. He beats her. He psychologically and emotionally berates her. He does these things, it seems, simply because she’s there. Simply because she exists, and because she now belongs to him.

The structure of the book is such that we know how the story ends before it even begins. In my copy, Pig-Butcher Chen’s fate is revealed in the Author’s Preface. If you skip that, then it’s revealed on the very first page of the book, in a fictitious news report2. Lin Shi kills Chen Jianshui. This isn’t a spoiler; this is the conceit of the book. The book isn’t about what  will happen to Lin Shi. We go in knowing. The book is about why she does it. And in that narrative design, Li Ang gives Lin Shi and immense amount of power and agency within the story.

This is in keeping with the book’s overall themes of control and power. The book zeroes in on women, their interiority, how they relate to or don’t relate to each other. There are occasional scenes from the perspective of Lin Shi’s husband, but even those are mostly his ruminations about the women in his life, either Lin Shi or the prostitutes he frequents3. Lin Shi spends a lot of time alone, trying to fill the utterly boring hours before her terrifying husband come home. Every day, she goes out to do laundry, and through that chore we come to understand her relationship to and her place among the village’s other women. It’s a complex and shifting situation that Lin Shi never quite successfully navigates.

What I am left with most, though, is the way The Butcher’s Wife spells out how utterly suffocating and unrelenting patriarchal control is/can be. Lin Shi endures and endures and endures until she can’t anymore. And she snaps; she kills her husband. She metes out this great and terrible and vicious act–this irreperable and irretreivable act–that is hers and hers alone. Or so you would think. But even that is stripped from her:

Chen Lin Shi’s confession defies all reason and logic, for, since ancient times, a murder of this sort has always been the result of an adulterous affair.

On the very first page of the book we have proof that Lin Shi’s act has been drastically rewritten in the social narrative of the village. She didn’t really do it on her own. she must have been sleeping with another man. She must have killed her husband at his behest. That’s how it always is. That’s how women are. Even if they kill you, it’s not really them killing you–it’s really the other man wielding them as a weapon against you.

Even in her own confession, Lin Shi is silenced. In a book absolutely chock-full of horror, this is one of the most horrifying elements to me.

(If you’d like to check out more about this book, I highly recommend this review on Goodreads.)
5 stars

1I’ve got a post brewing about diversity and the way this term is loaded. Watch this post if that’s a topic that interests you.

2Li Ang, in her Author’s Preface, makes clear that the news report, though fictitious, has roots in actual reported cases in mainland China. Another observation: the structure of this book, along with its length and use of diegetic extra-textual elements like the fake news clipping (here’s the ending! here’s how it happened from several points of view!) reminded me quite a bit of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd on this reread. Which was not a comparison I was expecting to draw. So, now I want to go reread Billy Budd.

3One of the most interesting parts of the book, to me, was the contrast between Chen Jiangshui’s relationship to Lin Shi–a woman he doesn’t know at all and doesn’t care to know, who he treats solely as an object– and his relationship to his particular favorite whore, Golden Flower. With her, he is companionable, almost sweet. They know each other as people. Is this because their relationship is still transactional? It’s unclear, but it’s certainly different than how he treats Lin Shi.


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Disrupting Publishing: 1/20/2015

“Race, Publishing, and H.P. Lovecraft: A Conversation with Daniel Jose Older and Victor LaValle” at Tor.com

Older took the idea in a fascinating direction: “I believe in the revolutionary power of happy endings. Especially when you’re dealing with marginalized people… we need to see that there’s hope.”

“Unearthing the Sea Witch” by Nicole Pasulka and Brian Ferree for Hazlitt

In the film, Ursula is a fat villain who preys on a skinny heroine. Her largeness is presented as evidence of her evil nature. But in this case, that evil nature is also liberating. The character is an inversion. Someone who made something we thought was impossible—a mermaid walking on land, for example—possible. In treading the fine line between homage and mockery (not to mention between male and female), a drag queen does this too.

“Buzzword” by Alyssa Wong for Lightspeed‘s POC’s Destroy Science Fiction Kickstarter*

The more you read, the more you realize the truth. These posts were never about you as a writer, or even as a person. They’re about what you represent. They’re about white supremacy and yellow peril, a majority’s fear of growing irrelevant and being displaced. It’s about hating you for taking up space they believe they deserve.

Tess Sharpe on Quiltbag YA

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>There is a lot of coded language you are subjected to, as a QUILTBAG writer, in publishing. You're told you're a &quot;hard sell&quot;</p>&mdash; Tess Sharpe (@sharpegirl) <a href=”https://twitter.com/sharpegirl/status/676455891462283264″>December 14, 2015</a></blockquote>
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*Psst I am not telling you how to live your life BUT I 100% PLEDGED FOR THE POCs DESTROY ISSUE AND I SERIOUSLY DOUBT I WILL REGRET THAT DECISION, FYI.