steampunk

New books I care about, 9.28.2015

The new releases and embargoes pile in the receiving was so tall today that at one point it simply gave up, collapsed, and had to be propped up by a handtruck. September and October are normally heavy on new books, but this year the avalanche of frontlist (read: new stuff) is approaching ridiculous.

Here are a few awesome (or hopefully awesome) books that are out tomorrow:

IMG_0667Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins. I had to take my own cover photo because I couldn’t find the one that adequately reflects the shiny. For some inexplicable reason, I didn’t read this one months ago when I got it, so I am halfway through this on the eve of its release.

I see Gold Fame Citrus as a sort of a sister book to Paolo Bacigalupi’s Water Knife. It has a similar dystopian setting, but it explores the environmental theme in a different way. The novel is about two survivors living some time in the near future in the completely dry Southwest (survive on ration cola kind of dry). They come across a little baby girl, which sends them on the path of possibly finding a better place and life for their new family.

I’m finding it almost painfully beautiful. Watkins’s descriptions are masterful. I remember Battleborn, her short story collection, gave me a certain shortness of breath, and her novel is even more exquisite.

It also makes me really thirsty.

Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last is also out tomorrow. You might remember that I have a conflicted love/hate relationship with Atwood. At this point, it’s more love than hate, particularly after her last story collection, so I am duly excited about the new novel.

There is also the new Jim Butcher, The Aeronaut’s Windlass, which is a start of a new fantasy series. I have not had an urge to pick it up mostly because fantasy, and steampunk in particular, have somehow slipped far down on my ‘want to read’ scale, but the book exists in case I want something with airships and pirates. There are apparently talking cats (and I also have a love/hate relationship with those).

And finally, this misleadingly titled gem is out tomorrow:

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Reading my way out

I shared with him a healthy skepticism and a deep belief that we could somehow read our way out. – Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Part of making this blog’s content broader means also opening it up to more personal matters. Matters like my trans-ness, my queerness, my depression, my struggle to make life more meaningful creativity-wise.

I am a trans man (if you need more info on trans people, you can start here). I am recreating my own body to fit what is in my mind. It’s a project. Sometimes I feel as if I’m sculpting a new David, chipping off marble bit by bit.

Gender dysphoria is a bitch. After being on T for 15 months now and being read (mostly) as male, it still comes out of nowhere and bites in the most unpredictable ways. The strangest things set it off. Arms, shoulders, shape of my hands, neck. Any body part is suspect.

It comes and goes, and right now it’s in the former part. I feel like I’m going nowhere, I’m angry at my facial hair, I’m angry at cis people. Even well-meaning ones. They have no idea. Books, being the general remedy for anything in my life, are what I turn to first for mental health needs.

Here’s where you expect me to give you a list of inspiring and uplifting trans memoirs. And perhaps reading these is a way to go, but mostly trans memoirs dig into my soul and make me cry. They helped me immensely in the early coming out period, and I still seek them out, but other people’s experiences with dysphoria are, oddly enough, not what I need right now.

karenmemoryWhat I need is good fantasy. This doesn’t happen often any more, since I somehow migrated to the hard sci-fi end of the pool in the past few years. Except this time I am going in the opposite direction, and so my current dealing-with-dysphoria pick is Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear. Incidentally, there is a trans character in this one, accepted as such with no fuss – bonus. So far it’s greatly entertaining. I thought I was done with steampunk, but wait, apparently not. I think it’s because the book is not about goggles and divers steam-powered gadgets (there is a licensed Mad Scientists guild, though). It’s most definitely about people first. Badass women, more specifically (I know it will surprise the Sad Puppies contingent that women are people. If you have no idea who Sad Puppies are, read this pretty good summary of the Hugos kerfuffle.).

My other pieces of dysphoria/depression battle armor are comics. Here are some great ones that are out in trade: The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie; Rat Queens by Kurtis Wiebe; Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory (it appears I only read Image publications? Seems wrong somehow.).

A few other series I am reading in floppy/single issue form are:

arclight8house Arclight by Brandon Graham and Marian Churchland. I call it ‘the genderqueer Prophet‘. It has a distinct Graham feeling to it, and Churchland’s art is beautiful (read her Beast, it will blow you away). There is a goose. And if you’re in the DC area for SPX next month, Brandon Graham is going to be at Fantom Comics (my home away from bookstore) on Friday, September 18.

Descender by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen. This remains one of the most beautiful series art-wise, mostly due to Nguyen’s use of watercolors. It’s a space opera with robots. It’s out in trade on September 9, so you can get your hands on issues 1-6 of this pretty thing at once.

Kaptara by Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod. Oh Chip, your mind is a wacky place. A fabulous wacky place.

And now, The Shocking And Unforeseen Conclusion: looking at this list, what we discover is that at this time in my life I really need comics and books that fly in the face of everything Sad Puppies stand for. Books with awesome women, books with genderqueer/queer characters, books with not just white people. Isn’t it amazing that those kinds of books can also be both therapeutic and entertaining?

And if you still need some trans memoirs, here’s a couple:

Man Alive by Thomas Page Mcbee. He is a great writer. It will dig into your soul. It will make you cry.

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock. She is amazing and so is her book.

And finally, a non-book item for you: Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me! It’s a little known fact that I was a punk kid in my previous life.

Blurbs: tiny reviews of some books read in July

This is where I try to cram several reviews in one post. They are all very brief — a sentence or two, just enough to fit on a shelf talker in a bookstore (see what I did there?).

Blood Song (Raven’s Shadow, Book 1) by Anthony Ryan. Available only as an e-book for now, although it is coming in paper format, probably next year. Epic fantasy, complete with swords. Ignore some typos and missing commas (and, to be honest, the most generic title in fantasy) and just enjoy a good story. Really great if you are looking for a Song of Ice and Fire fix. 4.5 out of 5.

God Save the Queen by Kate Locke

I don’t actually read urban fantasy much. I like a couple of series, like Dresden Files and Toby Daye, and that’s about it. This one is a little candy of a book, urban fantasy + steampunk, with your usual mix of vampires and werewolves, but also goblins and ‘halvies’. If you like Gail Carriger’s books, you will probably enjoy this one. 3.5 out of 5.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Young Arab-Indian hacker in a Middle Eastern security state, a book that may be the key to a whole new level of information technology, and some really nice women characters. Cyberpunk with jinns? Who cares what the genre is, it’s well-written, absorbing, and most definitely not like anything you’ve read in the past few years. 4 out of 5.

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The last, but not the least. What if you could step sideways into another Earth, and then another, and then another? The Long Earth is the infinite number of parallel worlds, similar and different, all out there for your exploring (or exploiting) enjoyment. This is obviously a setup for a larger series, so do not expect things to wrap up nicely.  4 out of 5.