starlady: (revisionist historian)
To say nothing of my chosen career path, and avocations.

One might mock—one does mock—the mastery of what is, after all, mere mock history. But the fantasy readers’ learned habit of thinking historically is an acquisition as profound in its way as the old novelistic training in thinking about life as a series of moral lessons. Becoming an adult means learning a huge body of lore as much as it means learning to know right from wrong. We mostly learn that lore in the form of conventions: how you hold the knife, where you put it, that John was the witty Beatle, Paul the winning one, that the North once fought the South. Learning in symbolic form that the past can be mastered is as important as learning in dramatic form that your choices resonate; being brought up to speed is as important as being brought up to grade. Fantasy fiction tells you that history is available, that the past counts. As the boring old professor [Tolkien] knew, the backstory is the biggest one of all. That’s why he was scribbling old words on the blackboard, if only for his eyes alone.

--Adam Gopnik, "The Dragon's Egg"

I--yeah. It's no accident that I consider my interest in history to be strongly motivated by an interest in narrative.
starlady: ((say it isn't so))
First, some important follow-up posts on #YesGayYA:

Author Marie Brennan has a cogent analysis of posts written over the last few days, as well as of the actual issues involved: Followup on "Say Yes to Gay YA"

[personal profile] cleolinda has a more in-depth hashing-over, What's going on with #yesGayYA, which is a great post through and through.

[personal profile] bookshop's post YA publishing & the de-gaying of books has a quotation from an anonymized agent letter, extracted from comments to the posts in the discussion. I personally don't fully agree with her chosen course of action, but it's a good post regardless.


PSA: Last Call for Delicious Users: Transfer Your Bookmarks by Sept. 23

I opted out of AVOS' TOS and switched to Pinboard, but I didn't have a huge collection of links widely used by other people in fandom. If you do, considering opting into the TOS is worth a few minutes' thought. Migrating your bookmarks somewhere else will also preserve them, though not existing links to them of course.


And finally, if you like contemporary classical music, you will want to download the "Remembering Sept. 11" concert, live from the Temple of Dendur, before the link goes dark on Sept. 18.
starlady: Aang with fire (aang can be asian & still save the world)
Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith have a post up at Genreville, Say Yes to Gay YA:

The agent offered to sign us on the condition that we make the gay character straight, or else remove his viewpoint and all references to his sexual orientation.

I've seen a lot of people say some incisive things about this, and I wanted to emphasize two things in particular to bear in mind. As Seanan McGuire points out, the issue here isn't that there are YA books with queer characters out there. Buying, reading, and recommending the YA books with queer characters that have been published is an excellent way to show your support for queer characters in YA fiction, to be sure. But a few isolated exceptions that prove the rule don't disprove the rule. And characters who are subtextually rather than textually queer in YA books aren't examples of queer characters in YA books; they're examples of characters in YA books who may or may not be in the closet.

The other thing is that this particular instance is most obviously about a gay character in a YA book, but the same gatekeeping happens in regards to characters of color, to disabled characters, to just about any and all characters who aren't the normative straight, white protagonist that agents and publishers seem so happy to put out ad infinitum. None of the POV characters in Brown and Smith's novel are white, and I suspect quite strongly that even if all the POV characters were as straight as a yardstick, they'd still be having trouble finding representation. Maybe they wouldn't have been told explicitly that race was the reason; maybe they would have. It wouldn't change the effect of this systemic bias, regardless.

This is not about one particular book; nor is self-publishing this particular book going to solve the systemic biases in the publishing industry.


Data by [personal profile] lightgetsin

I was recently treated to another round of “disabled people need to just ask for accommodations, then they’d be given them,” with the usual accompaniments of “you shouldn’t be so angry” and “you should be nicer."

So I figured, okay. I know this is bullshit from a lifetime of experience, but let’s gather some data.

What I did
I gave myself 7 days. Every time during that 7 days I ran into a particular kind of inaccessibility, I wrote to the owner/relevant authority and asked them to fix it. I aimed for short, factual, informative request letters.



On a happier note, Gene Yang, who is going to be doing the post-series A:TLA comics, has an interview up at Racebending.com! I am SO EXCITED.
starlady: a circular well of books (well of books)
But everyone should go nominate things for [personal profile] eruthros' Alternative Best 100 Speculative Fiction Works.


Also, apparently you're not really Japanese until you've fallen into a rice field.
starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)
Or basically, how much of your lifetime reading capacity have you wasted reading popular crap by mostly white men?

by way of [personal profile] boundbooks:  NPR Books: Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books
NPR Books: Monkey See: NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction And Fantasy Novels: Parsing The Results
Bold if you've read, italicize ones you fully intend to read, underline if it's a book/series you've read part but not all of. Also added [personal profile] troisroyaumes's strikethrough if you never plan to read.

[personal profile] boundbooks - I'm also adding a * if I'd recommend reading it!

100 predictable choices )

Is The Crystal Cave good?  It's almost the only book on here that I haven't heard of and sounds interesting.

Originally posted at Dreamwidth Studios; you can comment there using OpenID or a DW account.
starlady: a circular well of books (well of books)
Or basically, how much of your lifetime reading capacity have you wasted reading popular crap by mostly white men?

by way of [personal profile] boundbooks:  NPR Books: Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books
NPR Books: Monkey See: NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction And Fantasy Novels: Parsing The Results
Bold if you've read, italicize ones you fully intend to read, underline if it's a book/series you've read part but not all of. Also added [personal profile] troisroyaumes's strikethrough if you never plan to read.

[personal profile] boundbooks - I'm also adding a * if I'd recommend reading it!

100 predictable choices )

Is The Crystal Cave good?  It's almost the only book on here that I haven't heard of and sounds interesting.
starlady: Quorra fights CLU's black guard programs (for the users and for me)
Poll #7183 Greatest living SF writer?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 35


Greatest living SF writer?

View Answers

Ted Chiang (source: owner of Dreamhaven Books)
0 (0.0%)

Samuel R. Delany (source: me)
2 (5.9%)

Ursula K. LeGuin (source: me)
28 (82.4%)

Gene Wolfe (source: Neil Gaiman)
0 (0.0%)

someone else I will name below
4 (11.8%)

Write-in candidate?



I just can't believe someone would put Ted Chiang over the woman who coined the term 'ansible,' but maybe I shouldn't be all that surprised.
starlady: a circular well of books (well of books)
The books I'm reading: Oh, so many, some for years. I'm hoping to finish The Silver Chair and Anne Allison's Nightwork: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club this weekend.

The books I'm writing: That one with the pirates and the volcano, and that other one with the princesses which I will not re-set into a cod-1930s, no I will not. Plus some academic papers.

The book I love the most: Too many to name. But the one trilogy of books I haul around the world with me is Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials.

The last book I received as a gift: Mary Elizabeth Berry's Japan in Print and Christopher Bolton's book on Abe Kobo.

The last book I gave as a gift: Hmm. I have not given many books recently. I gave my dad Bob Woodward's new book for Christmas.

The nearest book: Dorinne Kondo's Crafting Selves: Power, Gender, and Discourses of Identity in a Japanese Workplace.

The last book I bought myself: Mary Gentle's Lost Burgundy, C.S. Lewis and his brother's childhood stories, and Shriek: An Afterword by Jeff VanderMeer.

As if I could ever pick just one book that I love the most. And now I'm off to do all the tasks ever, including translating the new chapter of Gate 7.

starlady: a circular well of books (well of books)
I read exactly 101 books this year. I think that's going to be my goal for next year; I'm only off last year by 38, which frankly surprises me; I thought grad school would have more of a negative impact on my reading. Regardless, I don't want to go below 50 non-grad school books read in 2011.

101 books, 5 rereads, meaning that I should be picking 8-9 books for the year's best at a slightly less than 10% selection rate. So:

Eight excellent books
1. Kraken by China Miéville
2. When Fox Is a Thousand by Larissa Lai
3. Scott Pilgrim (6 vols.) by Bryan Lee O'Malley
4. Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
5. Fullmetal Alchemist (27 vols.) by Arakawa Hiromu
6. Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild
7. Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard
8. Kamikaze Girls by Takemoto Novala (trans. Akemi Wegmiller)

Given that I read 1/3 of these within the last two months, I think there's definitely a degree of chronological bias here, but whatever; all of these books are great, and some of them, particularly Nothing to Envy and Bury the Chains, are vital.

I've done better than last year with reading books by chromatic and female authors, and that's a trend I want to continue next year; I also want to actually read some of the Japanese novels I have lying around, as well as more manga (I'm always resolving to read more manga). Half my resolutions relate to reading anyway, so, without further ado:

New Year's Resolutions
1. Get new glasses and new contact lenses (I already have the prescription);
2. Read manhwa! I'd love recs for English-language available series!
3. Watch Kdramas and Cdramas. Recs much appreciated!
4. Read more manga, novels in Japanese, and books in translation;
5. Get Netflix (again);
6. Go to the dentist, now that I have dental again after three years;
7. Keep writing, running, and biking


A very Happy (Gregorian) New Year to my dear acquaintance, each and every one of you. ♥
May 2011 be a very good, and better, year for all of us. 
starlady: a circular well of books (well of books)
Until results from MA come in, with (mostly book) links.

[livejournal.com profile] bookshop, The flip side. Another incredible post.

[livejournal.com profile] zahrawithaz, More than 50 books by Queer People of Color (partially vetted for problematic portrayals). Oo, shiny!

China Miéville, 50 FSF works socialists should read. It's an older link, but awesome. Relatedly, the cover for Kraken is up!

Torque Control, Some books I want to read in 2010. (How did I not know there was a new David Mitchell novel coming out!?)

Via [livejournal.com profile] fjm, The Apex Book of World SF needs to sell 92 copies by the end of January. It's even in English; no excuses, really. (Plus it includes a story by Aliette de Bodard! Her book isn't coming out Stateside until September. ;_;)

[livejournal.com profile] help_haiti ends tomorrow at noon EST. There's a wealth of stuff to be had, and an incalculable monetary need. (Thanks to [personal profile] fish_echo for that last link.)

I caught the end of Working Girl on the tube about an hour ago (Sigourney Weaver's character is right when she calls the story a fairy tale), and I spent the entire credit reel staring at the World Trade Center. We really were stupidly--not innocent, really, just ignorant. And then my TV started talking Holmes09! This is what happens with "premium" channels I suppose.

And now to wash dishes. Oh, Massachusetts.
starlady: "They don't play by the rules, why should we?" (dumbledore's army)
1. Avatar won the Golden Globe for Best Picture, and James Cameron for Best Director, last night. WTF WHAT WHY.
2. [livejournal.com profile] bookshop's post is a dose of cold water on every fannish heart. Why are we still accepting subtext instead of text?

3. N.K. Jemisin, whose book The Hundred Thousand Kingsdoms comes out next month (yay!), has a post on why RaceFail was good for sff.
3a. [personal profile] deepad has a "yes, and" post on the costs of engaging.
4. Everyone's seen [personal profile] melannen's posts crunching the numbers on slashers' sexuality, right? The majority of slashers are queer.

5. Massachusetts voters go to the polls to choose a new senator tomorrow. It might be impossible to resist reading this as a referendum on a) health care reform and b) on President Obama's first year.
6. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 81 years old today. Given that two of my great-aunts died this year at age 88 (one of them just this past Friday), it doesn't seem unreasonable to think that he might have been here to see it, all other things being equal.

Edited to remove the simplistic categorization and to add 3a.
starlady: (bibliophile)
At the moment my tally for 2009 stands at 138 books. If I can force myself through the rest of The Secret History of Science Fiction by tomorrow night, it will be 139, but that book will not feature in this post regardless, so onward.


Seven excellent (fiction) books:

M.T. Anderson, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume II, The Kingdom on the Waves
Roberto Bolaño, 2666
A. S. Byatt, The Children's Book
Kelly Link, Pretty Monsters
Neal Stephenson, The System of the World
Shaun Tan, The Arrival
Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Books I gave as gifts:
Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren
Adam Gopnik, Angels & Ages
A. S. Byatt, The Children's Book
Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Shaun Tan, The Arrival


This was the year I rediscovered sff; hell, this was the year I rediscovered reading for fun. I very much hope that I can keep up the reading in 2010; my goal is to expand my reading range, as well as, in general, to read at least 100 books. We'll see. On that note...


Five 2010 books I want now: 
Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard
A Wizard of Mars by Diane Duane
Lord Sunday by Garth Nix
Cast in Chaos by Michelle Sagara
City of Night by Michelle West


With two prominent exceptions, all the non-fiction books I read this year were excellent, and are recommended. Relatedly, I didn't post about Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama, but it's great, and I think it's a book (along with The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing) that every U.S.-ian should read.

All the links go to the Dreamwidth entries, but there may be more discussion on the LJ posts.

And beneath the cut, without links-back or italics,
starlady: A typewriter.  (tool of the trade)
So I mentioned that I might or might not make a post about my disagreements with io9's 20 Best SFF Books of the Decade. (They call the list simply science fiction, but with Harry Potter and Jonathan Strange on it, it's not just sf. Thanks for that insult, guys.) I was leaning toward might not until I saw [personal profile] jonquil post these choice quotations about Cory Doctorow's new novel on her journal. I can't stand Cory Doctorow as a writer, and [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija's posts related to Little Brother are a good illustration of why.

So this list is shorter, because I don't think I read 20 sff books of the Aughts that were truly...I'm not even sure of the word. But I have read all of the ones below, and could go on at length about them if prompted. I took the ones I had read and agreed with off io9, then added.

Neal Stephenson, The Baroque Trilogy
J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter books
Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
William Gibson, Pattern Recognition
China Miéville, Perdido Street Station
Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass
Kelly Link, Pretty Monsters
Naomi Novik, the Temeraire series
Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
Shaun Tan, Tales from Outer Suburbia

Some of the comments to the io9 post are pretty spot-on; I think the best is the one pointing out how white it is, which is a valid criticism of my list too. I haven't read enough sff by chromatic writiers; I also think I don't, or haven't, read enough sff of ideas--but I also think that not enough sff of ideas is written. And I don't count "literary fiction" as sff, which lops a chunk of the io9 choices off my reduced list.

What do other people think? What are the sff books of the decade by chromatic authors? What sff novels (of ideas) would you nominate? I think that my list is a beginning and that I am left with far more questions than answers, which disinclines me to try to make any sweeping statements.
starlady: "They don't play by the rules, why should we?" (dumbledore's army)
I had to explain "harshing [one's] squee" to my dad tonight. Which was amusing.

In other news, [personal profile] cofax7 brought to my attention that apparently there is a war on that I did not know about--the feminist war against science fiction! That's right, those damn women [and PoC, and non-heterosexuals] are going to destroy...um, what exactly? oh, that's right, civilization as we know it, since the presence of characters who aren't [straight, white] males in any given text automatically invalidates it as a work of...science fiction, or something. I guess this means I'm a foot soldier and didn't know it, in a war (to quote The Hunt for Red October) "with no battles, no victories...only casualties." 

And finally...well, nothing much else is new. Graduate school apps blah blah blah.
starlady: A typewriter.  (tool of the trade)
David Foster Wallace took his own life a little more than a year ago, in November 2008. Quite aside from the private tragedy of every suicide, Wallace's death was a great blow to American letters (NB: I'm using this phrase more or less self-consciously, meaning "literary fiction, its adherents, acolytes and apologists," amongst whose numbers I sometimes count myself), as reading one his books of collected essays, Consider the Lobster, makes heart-breakingly clear. Though probably the best-known fact about Wallace's magnum opus Infinite Jest is that it's more than 1500 pages long, the pretension of which elicited a certain amount of derisory mocking after hours in my high school English classroom, Consider the Lobster reveals on nearly every page that Wallace was in fact the exact opposite of pretentious--he was a deeply ethical, deeply engaged humanist in the fullest sense of the term, whose desire for an American letters that is unafraid to wrestle with the big questions of life is made clear in several pieces, and which stands out in incandescent contrast to the lazy, small-minded self-absorption of supposedly 'great writers' like John Updike (whose Toward the End of Time Wallace skewers mercilessly and accurately in this book).

Given Wallace's eventual fate, it's admittedly slightly chilling to come across, in some of the essays, interpolative passages on suicide: the propensity of suicides to happen in hotels in "Up, Simba," the propensity of porn stars to suicide in "Big Red Son." I'm sure these were cut for publication (just as the paragraph talking about suicide was cut from the book form of the commencement speech Wallace delivered in spring 2008), but hindsight is perfect, and perfectly sad. Ave atque vale, DFW.

Up, Simba, or some observations on contemporary political campaigns )

No, really, think about the lobster for a moment )

American literature and its need to grow up )

Postscript: Dear Little, Brown & Company: Philadelphia's 180-year old major news daily is the Philadelphia Inquirer, not the Philadelphia Enquirer. Fire your copy editor.
starlady: (do i dare disturb)
 The following is a very partial set of notes from the "Race and Star Trek" panel that I saw at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia last night, moderated by Betty Laurence. I didn't take notes on every topic that was covered; things that are attributed to the speakers are a mixture of quotation and paraphrase, mostly quotation. I've tried to contextualize things with brackets--feel free to ask for clarifications and I'll do my best to answer.

You are the dreamer, and the dream. )
starlady: (revisionist historian)
ETA: Excellent post by [personal profile] sami, going into specific historical complaints; [personal profile] naraht is collecting links.

I was, by one of those happy coincidences that lead me to disbelieve in the existence of coincidence per se, reading a volume of incisive articles about pernicious intellectual hegemonies in another field when I saw a post on my reading list about Patricia Wrede's Thirteenth Child, which led me to the review thread on Tor.com.

I urge everyone to give the comments to the original thread a scroll-through. A lot of the comments are predictable, but a lot of them make some good points (full disclosure: I read the two Vorkosigan prequel books when they were packaged together as Cordelia's Honor lo these many moons ago, enjoyed them, and felt no need to continue the Saga).

But, until I actually read the book (and I intend to, because Dealing with Dragons was one of my favorite books in middle school, and because the charge of "but you haven't read the book!" irks me, not least because I do feel it's not entirely invalid), my thoughts are on hegemonies, and how they function best when invisible.

What is a hegemony? Don't go read the Wikipedia article, as it is obfuscatory in that it focuses on hegemony entirely as a political and historical formation. A hegemony, for my current purposes, is any overarching system of thought that functions within a society so that any alternatives to the systems of power and thought that the hegemony authorizes are literally unthinkable, because outside the hegemony's boundaries, which are not properly said to exist. What's a good concrete example of a hegemony in America right now? White privilege. You want another example? Patriarchy before the rise of feminism and the women's liberation movement. Another? White supremacy before the civil rights movement. I admit that I have a special ire for the idea that the West is superior to the Rest (which, conveniently, contains the idea that there is a meaningful distinction between the two).

Obviously all these hegemonies are imperfect in that alternatives to them are thinkable--and, indeed, this shows the success people have had in dragging them into the visible and problematizing them. But, particularly with white privilege, it's imperative that people keep reminding themselves to see what's in front of their faces, because the hegemony is still very much operative, and it works best when people forget that it's there, that white privilege exists.

So I applaud Avalon's Willow and all the other people who have leapt into the breach and said "Hey, wait a minute!" It's a thankless task, as Racefail '09 has amply demonstrated, but if people don't keep pointing out the troubling implications of such stories as these, don't keep making the invisible visible, things are never going to change.

My other thoughts are on the role of Minneapolis-St. Paul as an enabling place in this context. The first time I landed in MSP, coming from PHL, I immediately thought, "Where are all the black people!?" (Then I thought, "Damn this is a nice airport.") I honestly did make an effort to remind myself of that thought every time I flew into the Cities, because, particularly if one, as a white person, doesn't use the transit system and doesn't venture into the areas of both cities where non-white residents are much more visible (I'm thinking Lake Street and downtown Minneapolis, for those who know), the Twin Cities can be a very white-washed place. There are many, many African-Americans, Somali-Americans, Hmong-Americans, First Nations people and people of other races and ethnicities than white and/or Scandinavian in the Cities, but based on my own experiences as a visitor, I'm afraid it could be all too easy to lose a chromatic vision of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

So no matter where you live, I urge you to leave your car at home for a day and hop on a bus or a light rail or a train to get where you're going, if you don't do that already. Mass transit is not always efficient or even pleasant, but it makes a great antidote to the idea that America is, or ever could be, comfortably devoid of non-white peoples.

Still here? Well, my final footnote to this post is just how easy it is to overlook the operations of any given hegemony. Despite considering myself a feminist from the tender age of about six years (when I stopped playing with Barbie because she was damaging to women's self-esteem), it wasn't until my junior year in high school that I finally got a working definition of patriarchy, and by extension why feminism is needful. I didn't get this definition from any of the underpaid teachers at my fancy high school; I got it from the appendix to Samuel R. Delany's Return to Nevèryon: "…it is our habitual insistence on reading all such absent-but-functioning authority as male […] that stabilizes the socio-economic realities of patriarchal society." Ever since I read that sentence, I've been sensitized to the frighteningly common assumption that authority = male. I can't dial back that awareness, even if I wanted to do so.

And just because I found what seems to be a particularly apt quotation from Delany in the back matter of Flight from Nevèryon, in reply to a reader pointing out some of his mathematical errors in a previous volume, I shall include it:

But to claim Nevèryon is fantasy and try to excuse my blunders on such grounds is a kind of fudging I don't think I should even flirt with.

starlady: (justice)
Basically, Amazon.com has decided that homosexual love and/or sex scenes in general (including classic texts such as Lady Chatterley's Lover and Brokeback Mountain) pose a danger to its customer base (while books such as Mein Kampf and how-to guides on dogfighting are A-OK!) and stripped them from its search rankings system.

More info, including a link to an online petition and instructions on how to Google-bomb the phrase "Amazon rank." 

Amazon Rank.

And an open letter that sums the situation up nicely (thanks, @sashafrerejones!). Also, Amazon's CTO is @werner. Go forth and share your opinion with him, ye Twitter-ers! This rant also includes Amazon's customer service number (800-201-7575), as well as the numbers of its board of directors.

ETA: The LA Times' book blog weighs in, pointing out that the ability to disappear books that offend is akin to a Soviet-ization of intellectual life.

ETA2: Here's a theory that it's a Bantown-style meta-trolling...that, as [livejournal.com profile] faunaana points out in the comments, has been going on since February. Meanwhile, Amazon claims it's a glitch rather than policy. Sure.

ETA3: Amazonfail: the lolcat.

Well, I'm going to bed.
starlady: (bibliophile)
My sister says I only use the Moleskine she gave me (all hype aside, it's the best notebook ever) to make lists, and to appease her, I'm trying to put a stop to that habit. But in the meantime, inspired by [livejournal.com profile] yhlee, I wound up putting together a sort of personal top 10 of sf/f books. These are not necessarily the 10 best sf/f books I've ever read, but they are some of my favorites, and books I really wish I could write. In no particular order, then:

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I love a) the footnotes; b) her unsympathetic protagonists; c) how the protagonists do not actually perform the great action of the story; d) her willingness to put Stephen Black front and center. 
  • The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. The theology (or lack thereof) made the biggest impression on me initially, but the love story is the heart of the book, and it makes me cry every time. Bonus points for inspiring me to read Heinrich von Kleist's "On the Marionette Theatre," albeit in translation.
  • The System of the World by Neal Stephenson. This one is hard to choose...is Quicksilver a better novel? In TSotW all the plot-threads of the series are resolved, to great effect. Stephenson is smarter than some professors I've known, and he can write about difficult concepts with rare clarity; bonus points for the character of Dappa, and his (Stephenson's) Whig principles.
  • The Other Wind by Ursula K. LeGuin. LeGuin has written so many awesome novels it's difficult to choose just one, but as this is the one about death, but also about gender and dragons, and it makes me cry, this is the one I chose.
  • Abhorsen by Garth Nix. Another author whose works I find it difficult to choose among, but Abhorsen has the narrative strength of Sabriel and the protagonist of Lirael, so I'd have to say it might be his best book yet.
  • Summerland by Michael Chabon. Two words: American fantasy. And not just fantasy set in America, but fantasy arising out of some of the most uniquely American aspects of this country's cultural experience. More people need to follow in Chabon's footsteps, though I doubt they'll dance the measures half so well.
  • Neveryóna by Samuel R. Delany. The first book I ever read by him, and still possibly my favorite: it's meta-fantasy, it's literary theory made literature, it's brilliant.
  • Terrier by Tamora Pierce. This wouldn't be my list if she wasn't on it; again, it's hard to choose among her books, but they've only gotten better since her publisher started letting her write longer books. Half of Pierce's appeal is in the gusto with which she transforms research into living, breathing fantasy realms, and the other half is her female protagonists of real strength.
  • The Broken Crown by Michelle West. Again, not someone whose works I could in conscience leave off, and another author whose works I find it hard to choose among. This is what I started her great sequence, though the novels could be started at several points. I think the most recent, The Hidden City, may be her best as a single work, but they each have different strengths, and are all excellent.
  • The Wizard's Dilemma by Diane Duane. With eight books in the Young Wizards series, and a ninth appearing this year, this is another of which it is hard to choose just one, and I'm not sure I can recommend starting with this book, but at the moment its plot is quite close to my heart, and Duane's philosophy is very much in line with mine--I think I cited her works for my Philosophical Theology papers more than any other author's, unless it was Pullman. But again, brilliant American fantasy, and fiercely, passionately ethical, which I think is a rarity these days.
Most of these books that aren't standalones aren't the first in their worlds/series/sequence, which I don't think is accidental. Unless things go downhill from there, most authors get better as they continue, and publishers grow more tolerant of fatter manuscripts. All of which is to the good.

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