Update: totally not dead

Hello, it has been a while. I have been surviving Winter Doom Festival and look at that! Completely alive and not at all a ghost possessing a laptop…

I have done not a lot of reading to be honest – hoping to get back into it. I have finally finished The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin which was excellent – I hope to post a review soon but it’s going to be tricky simply because I am not sure I can do it justice.

Writing: I am aiming to get some exclusive content written for Tales from Tantamount and look into the cost of making a hardcopy. My current thoughts for the content exclusive to the hardcopy are Notes from the Historians’ Handbook, and possibly Haikus about (or by) the Carrion. I don’t have a timeline for this at the moment, as everything is super busy so I am just getting things done as and when they are possible.

After that, I want to take a look at a series I started a while back – this is a series of lighthearted adventures in space, and mainly full of queers and zero scientific reality… I have some of it written, and would be looking to get another 6 episodes written in advance so that I can post them on here at a rate of one a week for the duration of the story.

The Life and Times of Angel Evans is sadly no longer available as an ebook, as the BookSmugglers are no longer publishing. The story remains available on their website, and the rights will revert to me so I will be looking for a new home but again, there’s a lot happening in my life and I will have to do this as and when I am able (that said, if anyone thinks of a publishing house that would like to rehome an awkwardly lengthed novelette about a depressed pansexual hero, please let me know!). I will update my website soon to reflect this.

Reading: I am thinking of doing a mega Discworld re-read and posting those re-reads here as low-key reviews, though they will mainly be suitable for people who have already read the Discworld books. I think this would be fun, and you’ll be the first to know if I decide to do this!

Enjoying: Into the Spiderverse! That film was absolutely stunning!

Pondering: why I have to keep having periods every.damn.month…………………….. one day the menopause will come.

 

And that’s all – hopefully back soon with a review of The Fifth Season and maybe some Pratchetty goodness.

Take care!

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Wednesday update: very silly videos

Hello all! A quick update, as I am very busy at the moment and not sure when I’ll post next (tax returns urrrgghghhh)

Reading: I am currently reading Red Witch by Anna McKerrow, sequel to Crow Moon. It is fantastic so far, and I’m really interested to see where she goes with it.

Writing: Not a lot – this is due to the dreaded tax returns. Fingers crossed I can get the accounts out of the way this week and get back to writing!

Went to: Piranha Poetry night on Monday! Really fantastic evening, very high standard open mic. I read some things despite being absolutely terrified. I may make the poems that I read available on the blog at some point.

Reviews: I’m reading very slowly at the moment, but should have some reviews for you soon.  Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi, Akata Witch (published as What Sunny saw in the Flames in the UK and Nigeria)(I ended up with the US edition, but have just found out that the author prefers the UK edition) and Binti: the Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor.

Feeling grateful for: my local bookshop – one of the staff there has my taste completely pegged now, so whenever I go in she has something hidden under the counter to recommend to me. It’s terrible for my wallet but lovely for my bookshelves.

Listening to: PYNK by Janelle Monae. You should watch the video; it has vulva trousers!

Also watching this: I mean, how have I never come across it before? It is the most ridiculous thing to ever ridiculous and I love it.

That’s it for now – wish me luck with the tax returns, and hopefully I’ll emerge from beneath them next week. Take care!


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The Tearling Trilogy: a rambly and disorganised discussion

So, I recently finished reviewing this series. And it made me think a lot about stuff, so I wanted to do a very rambly discussion post. It’s gonna have spoilers, and may be a little bit incoherent if you’ve not read the books (I’ll try to make it understandable).

This series does a lot of things that I found really interesting. It also had its flaws (among other things, most of the cast are white, and although there are a few non-straight characters they have pretty small parts).

One of the things it did that made me go “yeeeees!” was that it created a realistic, brutal fantasy world in which things are kinda shit for women (“noooooooo!”) but it absolutely refused to sideline its female characters. And this for me was important. I get super sick of people building fantasy worlds with magic and dragons and freaking goblins and then being like “yeah but sexism is still totally a thing”. Aside from everything else, I think it speaks of a lack of imagination. So although the culture is rather similar to some kind of medieval Europe, including the church being not great, the main character is a woman. The main baddie is a woman. Some of the other baddies are women, and a lot of the important side-characters are women. This means that the patriarchal norms of the world get questioned and poked and prodded and challenged. And as a reader, you start thinking ‘well this is ridiculous’ when the most powerful woman in the country has to sneak about to get her hands on contraception.

It also had a culture based in medieval/feudalistic type reality, and did not flinch away from how awful that system was for most people. Which I tip my hat to, because again I get sick of fantasy where it’s assumed that having a monarchic system is going to be great – you’ve only got to read some history to figure out that no, for most people, that meant working your whole life for someone else who might take your entire livelihood away from you at any moment and nobody cared. I liked seeing that trope challenged.

And then there’s the long running theme of utopia and dystopia. This one will take a bit of background info, so beware the SPOILERS. The Tearling was founded by William Tear, who used magic sapphires to Cross time with a group of idealists trying to leave what is heavily implied to be a version of our world. The people who Crossed wanted to build, effectively, a Utopia. In the books they call it the Better World. And they try really hard, but they fail. William Tear failed to take into account human nature, and also, very importantly, history. None of the adults who Crossed could bear to talk about their history, about exactly what they escaped and what the price was. So the next generation grow up with no history, with no knowledge of the world that their parents fought so hard to escape from. And when things get hard in the Tearling, none of them know the dangers of handing over responsibility in return for safety…

Which leads to the Tearling in the present day: feudalistic, illiterate, with a barely functioning economy, a pretty awful monarchy that rarely cares about its people, a church that cares even less, and a monthly tithe to Mortmesne of slaves taken from its own population by lottery. Effectively, a dystopia. One that, somehow, Kelsea Glynn has to reforge. And she knows her damn history, which is pretty awesome. I really liked the way that it was made clear how important that can be, and that she was trying so hard to create something good with the odds stacked against her.

The ending SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS is really interesting in that Kelsea basically travels in time (and this is going to sound pretty deus ex machina when I describe it, but I promise it was actually foreshadowed really well) to the point in history when Jonathan Tear, William Tear’s son (one of them ooooooh) is assassinated. She does not stop the assassination, but kills the ringleader of the assassins leaving Katie (Jonathan’s bodyguard and lover) in a position to rebuild; originally, Katie fled. It’s actually an intensely terrifying sequence; one of the bits where the imagery has stuck in my mind and won’t leave.

And then Kelsea wakes up, in a new timeline, in the new version of the Tearling that she has created. And it is, if not a proper utopia, at least utopian.

Now originally I sorta felt cheated by this: even though it made absolute sense within the logic of the world, and it was made clear how much this was hurting Kelsea. Here she was in this incredible world that she had sacrificed everything for, and not only did nobody know what she had done, nobody knew full stop. Her memories are confused, none of her friends recall her. And it hurts and hurts and hurts. And part of me was going: “hang on, isn’t this a bit of a cop out? Almost like it all being a dream?”

And then I really thought about it. Why would it be more satisfying to have a harsher ending? Why, exactly, did I think I’d prefer something else? And I thought about how we’re trained to believe that utopia is impossible whereas dystopia is only ever just under the surface, so that even in a fantasy trilogy there was part of me that was reluctant to believe this ending. That was interesting, I thought, because I knew when I was reading it that utopia/dystopia was a massive theme of the entire trilogy, and although I always wanted Kelsea to succeed, somehow in winning as completely as she did I instinctively felt a bit disbelieving. Like, it’s not the time-travelling sapphires that tripped me up, it’s the ending well…So it gave me a lot to think about. Dystopian fiction is pretty popular, whereas trying to find anything utopian is a bit of a challenge. It’s like we simply can’t imagine it. It’s like how people can believe that there are dragons but not that women can have a functional role, or will read a fantasy novel a quarter of which is in a made-up language but throw a hissy fit if there’s some Spanish in there. We can believe that things can get worse, and we can believe that things can get better, but the best is somewhere hazy and beyond. And that, well, that’s interesting because if we can’t imagine something better, nobody’s going to try to build it are they?

Anyway, I have a hell of a lot more thoughts so please do come chat 🙂

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