reflectedeve: black & white photo of two white girls, 1920s-era, snuggling with a book. (book love - shared experience)
[personal profile] reflectedeve
I’ve been thinking about posting here again (for things other than exchange letters) a whole bunch lately, especially with rumors of Tumblr’s increasing instability as a platform, and my lack of motivation to check out this Imzy thing. Oh, I’m sure if that’s where the next great migration lands, I’ll wind up following. But in the meantime, I miss this space, the sense of having a stable ’home’ for my fannish/private self online. I doubt I’ll ever post more than sporadically, since a lot of my internet/social media time is taken up by my more public persona, but even so.

femslashex banner featuring Jane and Petra from Jane the Virgin

Anyway, speaking of exchanges, sign-ups are open for [community profile] femslashex, and you should totally get in on it. It’s become my favorite annual fannish event, for fairly obvious reasons ... all femslash, massively multifandom, and includes fanart. I really like this trend in fanwork exchanges, even though there are a fairly small number of fanart pieces every year; I’m not sure if it’s the problem with outreach to fanartists (this is definitely an issue, and one I’m at a loss with), the number of people only requesting fanfic, or both. (Request fanart, people. Please? I mean, I get wanting a story, but we make nice things toooo, and we want to make them for you!)

covers for the five Craft Sequence books, by Max Gladstone

Also, possibly because I’ve become a heavy Goodreads user in the past year (and am thus much more conscious of what I’ve read when), I find myself wanting so many small SFF book fandoms lately. So I made a fairly tl;dr post over on my tumblr with some recs for books you should read and sign up for in exchanges! And now I’m going to crosspost it here.

The Craft Sequence, by Max Gladstone

I’ve nominated and requested this series for every exchange I’ve signed up for since I started reading them, and I think that’s likely to continue. The Craft Sequence is a series of fantasy novels (five so far, with a new book roughly once a year) with an intriguingly fresh take on magical systems, POC protagonists (most of whom are women), queer and trans characters, and tons of extracanonical pairing potential. Especially femslash; I’m requesting a full six pairings for [community profile] femslashex this year, and honestly, there’re more where they came from.

In a world vaguely like our own--where a fair amount of technology is swapped out for magic and the countries and cultures are a little rearranged--human sorcerers have risen up to cast down most of their myriad gods, setting up a new world order using a system which blends arcane craft with legal practice and capitalism. The series deals with culture clashes, class differences, gentrification, oppression, addiction, personal growth, faith, relationships … it’s broad-reaching, sharp and full of engaging characters. Most of whom are people of color and/or women, and several of whom are canonically queer and/or trans. Several books stand on their own very well (the first three, primarily), although a few characters cross over and the universe is increasingly tied together as the series progresses.

My pairings include a goddess and her semi-reluctant worshipper (who is adjusting to the divine’s full personhood and active participation in her life); a strong-minded but struggling Craftwork practitioner (who rebelled against unethical practices in her education and was summarily rejected by the establishment) and her mentor, a hard-edged, experienced and emotionally distant older woman with a more complicated political history than is immediately apparent; the representative of a socially progressive but anti-divine organization and the priest/employee of a business devoted to creating substitute gods which have recently and unexpectedly taken on a life of their own … and more.

There’s a lot to dig into with these books; they are complex and rewarding, and I’m not sure I could recommend them more highly.

Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers
How about a science fiction universe populated with people living very everyday lives that just happen to span galaxies and alien species? One in which humanity is far from being the dominant species in an interplanetary society? Not to mention serious found family feels? (Once again, one prominently featuring female, poc and queer characters?)

The first book in this series, The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet, is the only one currently out, although the sequel, A Closed And Common Orbit, is planned for an October release. I’ve seen reviewers refer to Long Way as ‘feel-good sci-fi,’ and I can’t disagree with that assessment; it was the kind of book I wanted to crawl into and live inside. I want a million stories set in its universe, canon and fic alike.

Long Way has an ensemble cast, varied POVs and a rambling approach to plot; it takes a lot of time and care introducing the reader to individual characters and building their relationships, and is much less concerned with fast-paced action and earth-shaking events (although that isn’t to say there isn’t a gut punch or two along the way). It’s primarily focused on the crew of a small working-class ship (the titular Wayfarer), whose job it is to travel around building wormholes to allow for rapid transit between populated worlds. The Wayfarer is primarily run and crewed by humans, although it features three fascinating aliens as well, and one self-actualized AI.

There’s the captain, descended from a group of less-privileged humans who left Earth for space because of dwindling resources and social discord, and who has a semi-taboo (for her species) long-distance relationship with an alien trader; the two energetic and cheerful techs, one of whom has an especially close relationship with the ship’s sentient computer system (and is dealing with tricky ethical issues regarding the next step in their relationship); the clerk, a privileged Martian-born human fleeing from a mysterious past and experiencing the diverse and sometimes difficult realities of the larger universe for the first time; the captain’s right-hand woman and best friend, a kindhearted reptilian alien from a species with broader approaches to family structure, relationships and sexual expression; the fuel tech, an unpleasant and judgemental curmudgeon who is unaware of his own less-than-normative background (and who is the ONLY explicitly white character); the cook/medic, one of the last members of an alien species who have brought themselves to the brink of extinction through war; and the navigator, who belongs to a species that willingly (and ritualistically) infect themselves with a virus that shortens their lives, but gives them a highly advanced perception of mathematics and physics beyond that of any other known race.

The first book features a canonical f/f relationship that could use a ton more development than fits into the existing story, as well as a number of other potentially intriguing relationships, canon and non-canon, intra- and interspecies alike. And so much worldbuilding to play with! The sequel promises to focus more on the issues surrounding AI/artificial personhood, and to maintain its working-class focus, which is something else I especially enjoyed about Long Way.

I suspect this series would have a lot of appeal for fans of Farscape and Firefly, among others.

The Arcadia Project, by Mishell Baker
Something I did’t know I needed: faery-focused urban fantasy with a side order of varied and complex portrayals of mental illness and recovery/survival.

The Arcadia Project is another series with one book out and another on the way (next year). Borderline introduces us to Millie Roper, an aspiring filmmaker who is trying to manage her life post-suicide-attempt, the wreckage of her barely begun career, Borderline Personality Disorder, and a mysterious diplomatic/P.R. organization that is trying to recruit her to help run interference between human authorities, Hollywood, and … Fairyland.

All humans with a spark of creativity have a secret faery muse/companion, and those pairs who have managed to find each other have gone on to create, among other things, the most innovative and successful films ever made. Unfortunately, this interdimensional business partnership is fraught with a variety of dangers, diplomatic tangles, culture clashes and scheming nogoodniks. Which is where The Arcadia Project–an organization that puts human hopefuls with a history of mental illness to work and, in turn, helps to provide them with industry opportunities–comes in.

Millie’s Arcadia Project group is full of a variety of fascinating characters (and so are the counterpart film studios and Fairyland representatives who tangle up with her story), but I’ll confess that I’m most intrigued by her relationship with Caryl Vallo, the head of the L.A. chapter of the Project. Caryl is a very young woman who is apparently vastly mature and level-headed for her years; cool, calculating, logical and expedient. However, much of this persona exists thanks to her ability to externalize her emotional self as a separate construct, a small artificial dragon called Elliott. Caryl is the traumatized survivor of an illegal childhood Unseelie kidnapping, and while she has been left with impressive magical abilities and knowledge, she considers herself emotionally underdeveloped and volatile, and insists that her emotional self is only an unnecessary encumbrance to herself and her job, best set aside and in effect, not considered to be really part of her.

However, that emotional self, which may or may not be as distinct from her professional personal as she claims, is clearly drawn to Millie … from Elliott’s instant attachment to revelations about the deep connection Caryl feels with Millie’s one prominent film festival effort. And Millie, for her own part, can’t seem to help challenging Caryl’s chosen approach, or to stop getting in her face in general. Not a simple or comfortable set of characters, to be sure, but … I am absolutely aching to see their connection explored further.

(I should note that while I wouldn’t claim to be a competent judge of portrayals of BPD, in particular … the author shares her protagonist’s diagnosis. And while various therepuetic methods and approaches to managing mental illness are presented in the text, some of which strike me as overtly problematic … they are portrayed as complex and individual, and the book does not attempt to promote, excuse or condemn them one way or another.)

There are certain things about Borderline that remind me (pleasantly) of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series (the specific flavor of faeries-in-urban-California, the struggling, acerbic protagonist), though the characterizations are more nuanced.

Yuletide, here I come.

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reflectedeve: Pearl from Steven Universe, in a tux and top hat (Default)
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