Category: General


Something a little different

Posted 2 November, 2013 by Nikki in General / 11 Comments

Here’s something a bit different from the rest of the content on the blog… I’ve been using Coursera.org to do several MOOCs, and one of those was on comics and graphic novels. The final project was to create your own four page comic. The point isn’t to judge the art, but to think about the use of the grid and comic conventions, think about adding colour, etc. I’ve decided I’d like to share mine here as well as on the forums there — I make no great claims about my art, but I really enjoyed the process.

Click on the cover to view the PDF, and feel free to ask questions, etc!

Cover of a comic by me, reboot

Creative Commons License
reboot by Nikki Walters is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Reading resolutions

Posted 1 November, 2013 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

It’s a new month and a new start and a new chance to make some resolutions about What I Will Get Done, which I probably won’t get done. It’s always worth setting out some goals, though, because I never know when I’m going to be pigheaded and insist on following through. My main problems at the moment are overflowing shelves, a backlog of books I’ve started and not finished, a backlog of ARCs, and the fact that I’m butterfly minded somet

Joking aside, here we go. I read about a book a day usually, maybe more depending on my mood and how busy I am, so I’m going to give myself a goal of twenty-five books. Normally I’d probably pick specific books, but that tends to arouse my mood of rebellion more than anything else, so I’m going to go for five categories, instead. Why five? Because I like it, that’s why.

  • Read five ARCs
  • Read five books that were in progress before 31st October
  • Read five books bought in 2o12
  • Read five books bought in 2013
  • Read five books from the library
  • BONUS: Give away five books, either on Bookmooch or as some kind of contest on here

I can do that, right?

Right?

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What Are You Reading Wednesday

Posted 30 October, 2013 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
Reza Aslan’s Zealot was the last thing I finished, and before that it was Fables vol. 3: Storybook Love, by Bill Willingham et al. I’m really ambivalent about the Fables series, somehow: I’m interested and I want to see where it goes, but when I read other people’s criticism, I can’t help but agree. It uses some tired old tropes, and the stories often feel banal. Still, there’s something in the sheer interest of watching characters from fables navigate the “real” world, and in recognising them and guessing ahead how their unique properties will affect the story.

What are you currently reading?
I’m mostly trying to work on ARCs that I still owe reviews for, so I’m currently reading David Hoffman’s Seven Markets. The structure is a little awkward, but it remains to be seen whether that ends up working for the story or not. I still have my “book prescription” to read, too, Christine Ingham’s Panic Attacks; I think I’ve barely started it. There’s a lot of other books I’m technically partway through… Oh, I did start The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax, by Dorothy Gilman, which is fun enough but not really keeping my attention.

What do you think you’ll read next?
I think I’ll be trying to finish Seven Forges (James A. Moore), from my ARCs list. Although I just got a couple of new ones, and I’m very tempted by Strange Chemistry’s The Almost Girl (Amalie Howard)…

Books acquired:
I think it might be none. I got the latest issue of Young Avengers in the last week, I’m sure, but other than that, I really think it might be none. My most recent ARCs were The Almost Girl, The Cormorant (Chuck Wendig), Iron Wolves (Andy Remic), and Shadowplay (Laura Lam).

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The genetics of bookworms

Posted 28 October, 2013 by Nikki in General / 9 Comments

Earlier I was joking with a friend that my sister can’t really be related to me, because she’s not a voracious reader and she was actually complaining about having a long reading list. Then because said friend and I are both doing an online genetics class, they joked to me that perhaps my sister just didn’t get the gene for bookwormishness. This wouldn’t actually work, as my sister is a reader (hard SF, paranormal romance, fantasy, crime — not too dissimilar to me, in fact), just less voracious than me.

So I set out to work it out properly. I took sickle-cell anaemia as my model: it’s one of those genes which is not dominant or recessive, but is partially expressed even when there’s only one copy of it (i.e. in an heterozygous individual). With the allele for sickle-cell anaemia, if you have both all of your red blood cells will be formed wrongly (in a sickle shape); if you have one, then some of your blood cells will be formed correctly and some will not (coincidentally somehow giving you an advantage when infected with malaria).

In my model, Bm and NR are the two variants of the allele. Bm = bookworm, NR = non-reader. So someone with two Bm alleles will be a complete and total bookworm… perhaps even a bibliophibian. Someone who is less interested in books but is still a reader to some degree has one copy of each, BmNR. And someone who is not interested in reading at all is NRNR. Some of the work on this family tree is guesswork, and not all BmNRs are created alike, but this is what my family looks like…

A family tree showing the "bookworm" genes throughout three generations of my familyIn putting this together, I was amazed to learn that my Grampy was a BmBm; he died when I was very young, and my only memory of him involves playing with Lego. I wonder what he’d have made of me and my taste in books!

It may be conjectured that Loserface (my cousins’ father) is a loserface in my eyes because he was NRNR. This isn’t so, but it’s gratifying to know that he had no redeeming qualities. Of my cousins, I am only sure of C.; I made my guess on AM. based on the fact that I know she secreted books all over her room and consequently nearly killed her mother, and on F. based on the fact that he asked for books for Christmas once. S. and K. I guessed based on the fact that I’ve seen their house and they do have books, but they don’t ask for books for Christmas, therefore leaving me to conclude they cannot be BmBm.

Caveat: I know this is all ridiculous and environment probably has a lot more to do with this than genes. This is just fun and mostly meant to prove that I really am a geek in many ways. Though not geeky enough to care about the differences between geeks, dorks and nerds: we’re all enthusiasts, okay?

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Book prescription

Posted 24 October, 2013 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

I’ve been planning to be fairly up front about all aspects of my identity here — yes, I’m sure that means that if some potential employers found my blog, that might be a mark against me. But I want to be a whole person, and not compartmentalise stuff where I can’t see it myself half the time. Which, hey, potential employers? That takes bravery, and self-knowledge. Just sayin’.

I started with a new counsellor today. Now, despite all I said above, this blog isn’t about my mental health issues, I promise. What is relevant, though, is that my new counsellor wrote out a book prescription for me. That sounds like a really weird concept, but I promise you, it’s a real thing. You can get more information about the scheme in Wales here. Basically, though, it means that counsellors all over Wales have a pool of books that they can recommend to their clients about various different disorders and emotional problems, and those books are easy to access because each branch of each library has at least one copy.

I’ll review the book I was given here in time — it’s Panic Attacks, by Christine Ingham — but I just wanted to say a word or two about the process, to begin with. I don’t know how helpful this is going to be for me in particular, but I think it’s a valuable service that might help people access books that teach coping mechanisms and show them, most of all, that they’re not alone.

So what happened was that my counsellor wrote out the “prescription” for me. It’s a pretty simple form, just stating your name and address and a code for the book (not the title of it). You then go to a local library and present that. In my case, I had to present it a couple of times while they figured out where in the library I was meant to go! But it’s not so bad, and they didn’t make any comments about the fact that I had a book prescription, or when they found the book for me, what book had been chosen for me. When you get a book out on this scheme, the person prescribing it will suggest a length of time you can have the book. In the Cardiff area, at least, it goes on your library card as one of your total, and you can return it to any branch, but you can’t renew it yourself.

And that’s it. You go home with your prescribed book and… hopefully read it and get something out of it. I think it’s an interesting initiative: if I have any more to say on it, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, here are some of the books on the subject I’ve read in the past that are worth a look:

Loving What Is and I Need Your Love: Is that True? by Byron Katie
Introducing Mindfulness by Tessa Watt
(A Very Short Introduction to) Anxiety by Daniel Freeman

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What Are You Reading Wednesday

Posted 23 October, 2013 by Nikki in General, Reviews / 0 Comments

In the circle of friends I have on some other sites, Wednesday is the day to talk about what you’re reading, and someone came up with a little format for that — just to get people talking about books more, thinking about books more, sharing books more. And lo, obviously this idea appealed to me, and I took it up as well. Now it seems to make sense to start posting that here as well, with links to my reviews on goodreads.

What did you recently finish reading?
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It’s horrifying stuff, slightly mitigated by being presented in fictional form — when I read Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, I think I went around for several days in a state of horror. Perhaps even more horrifying is that amidst the horrors of the gulag, Solzhenitsyn’s character finds a way to go on, even to be cheerful, while the highlights of his day involve smuggling a broken hacksaw blade into the camp which he can use for a tool, getting to do some good hard work on building a wall, a single mouthful of sausage, and an extra helping of skilly.

What are you currently reading?
In the Garden of Iden, by Kage Baker, which is more of a romance than I’d hoped — what I’m really hoping now is that the plot comes together and gives me some greater meaning and context for this adolescent immortal’s love affair than “she’s on a training mission”. I did enjoy the opening part, where she’s found by the Inquisition, and where she becomes an immortal, but I am losing patience with people having sex like rabbits. I’ve got some other books on the go, like James A. Moore’s Seven Forges and Ian C. Esslemont’s Night of Knives — I’m really trying to cut down on how many books I’m reading in one go, but at the moment the count is probably around fifteen.

What do you think you’ll read next?
I’ve got Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall from the library, which I think might be the next thing I read that I’m not already partway through. I have some course books to read, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but I’m already halfway through that. I think I’ll go for some Wodehouse next, and then my first taste of John le Carré.

Books acquired:
Too many. One of them is Scott Lynch’s Republic of Thieves; I’ve actually had the e-ARC for a long time, but I always intended to get my own copy once it was out. I didn’t expect that I still wouldn’t have got round to reading it by then, though…

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Bookaholics Anonymous

Posted 23 October, 2013 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have it, or something like that, right? Well. I have a problem.

A photo of all the books I bought today

I think I have a problem: an illustration

Altogether, that’s twelve books (one of them is an omnibus). Plus two ebooks because I had an amazon voucher. Admittedly I also had the help of £10 on a Waterstones card, and my sister being a terrible influence, but really. I have a problem.* And I love it.

So let’s see, what did I get today…?

-Ngaio Marsh omnibus containing A Man Lay Dead, Enter a Murderer and The Nursing Home Murder (Waterstones card)
-Rose Tremain, Restoration (Oxfam)
-John le Carré, Call for the Dead (Waterstones)
-Donald Sturrock’s biography of Roald Dahl (The Works)
-A biography of Amelia Earhart (The Works)
-Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives (The Works)
-Gail Carriger’s Etiquette & Espionage (The Works)
-Matt Forbeck’s Vegas Knights (Waterstones)
-Michael Wood’s non-fiction The Conquistadors (Waterstones)
-Chuck Wendig’s Unclean Spirits (Waterstones)
-Scott Tracey’s Witch Eyes (Kindle store, with voucher)
-emily m. danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Kindle store, with voucher)

Someone asked me to make a post someday about my eclectic approach to reading: this isn’t it, but it certainly prepares the way for it. Crime fiction, biography, history, urban fantasy, classic horror, YA, LGBTQ fiction, fantasy, historical fiction… And I was reading the SF(ish) In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker on the train.

If it comes between two covers (and ha, yes, my ereaders do; they have leather covers) then I’ll probably read it, if it stays still long enough. Which is not a problem. The problem is that I read so awfully fast.**

*Joking aside, I do actually have a problem in that I have an anxiety disorder that is probably GAD but damn well looks like OCD sometimes. Books are all tied up in comfort for me. Don’t let that make this less amusing for you, though. I get through it by laughing at my overflowing shelves.

**Yes, I have calculated my rate of expenditure on books, and it is roughly equal to the worth of the books I’m reading. Seriously.

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RIP print?

Posted 22 October, 2013 by Nikki in General / 13 Comments

Last year, there was a lot of noise around the Hay literary festival about a particular bookseller, Derek Addyman, deciding to go on a crusade of sorts against ereaders. You can read all about that here (warning: link goes to the Daily Fail website); suffice it to say that this is a guy who declares Kindles his “enemy”, talks about people who have ereaders having “no soul”, etc, etc. He actually banned people with ereading devices from his shops.

Display of books with a tombstone and a "bleeding" Kindle

RIP Kindle

I’m pro-ereader, I’d better say this up front. And back when that article was published, I sent an email to Derek Addyman, suggesting the need for some tolerance and understanding. I never received any acknowledgement or reply, so I’d like to post a modified version here. There’s plenty of other anti-ereader rhetoric about, like Franzen’s diatribe or Sherman Alexie’s comment about ereading being like “masturbating with a condom”, so I think this isn’t just a thing Derek Addyman needs to hear.

My name is Nikki; I’m a twenty-four year old English Literature postgrad. I live and breathe books, and was raised in a house where I was daily surrounded by books and encouraged to read them, with supervision if they might be disturbing to me. These days I read an average of two books per day, and currently have around thirty books out of the library. My mother and father are similarly voracious readers, and my mother has even said that she couldn’t live without books.

The fact is, in your world, she would have to. She has macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of visual impairment in the UK. Books with small print are already very difficult for her to read, and her condition is only going to deteriorate more. A couple of years ago she bought her first ereader, which of course allows her to adjust the size of the font to a comfortable size for her to read without difficulty or straining her eyes. As a result, we can still share the experience of reading and talking about reading. This “soulless” invention allows my mother to continue her lifelong hobby of reading, to read the same books as me, to keep up with popular books that people are talking about, even to read literature related to her job. Without it, she would not be able to do so anymore.

She still loves bookshops, of course. Just last week, the two of us went into a local bookshop and she helped me pick some new books. She buys books for me all the time, and continues to support the publishing industry through buying ebooks as well. She’s even bought some of the books she’s excited about in hardback, just to have them. I don’t think she’s your enemy.

I also own an ereader. Right now, just beside me, I have my Kindle loaded with several hundred books, my tablet which I read advance e-galleys on, and twelve paperback books in my ‘to read soon’ pile. My bookshelves are loaded high with books. I can guarantee you that Kindle users like me are not contributing to bookshops going out of business! Many polls I have seen online show that a lot of people buy both “dead tree” and electronic books.

“Books are sociable and people stop and talk to each other about them. Kindles are just a phase and they won’t last. They are our enemy.” That is what you are quoted as saying in the Daily Mail. In your desire to promote the paper books, you would want people like my mother and me to be unable to talk about books — without ereaders, they would become a painful subject, because she could not read them.

I’m sure you didn’t intend to be rude to people with disabilities, but my mother was very upset by your article and its heartless accusations of people who use ereaders being “robots” or “soulless” or perhaps even the “enemy”, to extend your rhetoric. I am not currently a customer of yours, and nor do I intend to become one while you continue this campaign against ereaders.

There are, I will note, legitimate concerns about ereaders. The problems of DRM and censorship, for example; the digital divide (post by Seanan McGuire); even concerns about how environmentally friendly they are considering people’s tendency to indulge in fads. And yes, ebooks are changing (though not killing) the publishing industry.

But seriously. I love ebooks, and I love dead tree books. Sometimes I’ll end up carrying two ereaders and two dead tree books in my handbag. The two really aren’t mutually exclusive — and while I understand Franzen’s fears about the impermanence of ebooks and how that might affect society, I also see positive effects as well. I’m a volunteer for the RNIB and the Macular Society: so many people I come across are frightened of losing their ability to read, and so grateful for everything that helps them carry on reading. And it’s not just people with visual impairment, but people who physically can’t hold and manipulate a book. Heck, my Kobo even has a font option for dyslexic people. Ereaders offer a way to bridge some of the gaps in society, to level things out and make life better for everyone.

And hey, here’s a picture of a selection of my bookshelves, just to prove that I really mean what I say about loving both formats…

RIP print?

RIP print?

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Reading and rereading

Posted 19 October, 2013 by Nikki in General, Reviews / 5 Comments

I was thinking about the sort of content I can post here, and how to make sure there’s always some content going up at least once a week. I’ve pretty much decided that all reviews of ARCs will go up here, and any reviews of books I found particularly interesting. There’ll also be some giveaways, I’ll have my readathon progress posts here, and then there’ll be posts like this one: random topics related to books.

And what is this post about? Well, I was thinking today that I couldn’t actually pick my ten favourite books ever. But I could tell you the ten books/series I reread most. I am a rereader: it never actually occurred to me that was an odd thing until someone on Goodreads treated the idea with scorn. But while there’s so many books out there for me to get round to reading, there’s always more to find in the books I’ve already read — at least the good ones. So without further ado, and in no particular order because it already pains me to come up with a top ten in the first place…

(Well, okay, a bit extra ado — I’m adding links to reviews of these on Goodreads. If you have an account, I would super appreciate you clicking the like button there, if you do like them. It helps me get more ARCs, etc.)

#1 – The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

As a kid, I loved The Hobbit, and agitated for the day when my mother would let me read LotR. When she finally did, I was hooked. I probably read it at least once a year ’til I was about sixteen, and then I sort of caught the general bug going round about the various things wrong with Tolkien and lost interest. For a while. It was Ursula Le Guin’s essays in The Wave in the Mind that got me thinking about Tolkien again, and rediscovering his work; it was my MA that really got me digging into it. And god, guys, there’s so much there. I can actually understand people who find it boring, people who are troubled by his (lack of) portrayals of women, of non-white people, etc. But the sheer scale of the world he created, the seriousness he treated it with, I can’t help but love. I’ve reread LotR twice this year, I think — and I’m partway through a third time.

Reviews (from when I read the three books in twenty-four hours!): The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King.

#2 – Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay

Or probably just about anything by GGK. I actually usually have a problem getting into his books in the first place: his style takes some getting used to, for me, and some aspects of it annoy me (especially in his early novels). I love the world of Tigana, though, the characters and their intense feelings, the criticisms of colonialism that’re going on, and the way that he makes no promises of a happy ending. He walks a line of moral ambiguity quite well, allowing you to sympathise with both sides of the fight (at least in most cases; there is one unequivocal villain, but he isn’t really at the emotional heart of the story anyway).

Review.

#3 – The Dark is Rising Sequence, Susan Cooper

I suspect people who know me well are probably surprised this wasn’t the first one that came into my mind. I’m kind of surprised, too. I first experience The Dark is Rising through the BBC radio adaptation of the second book of the sequence — the cast was excellent, just perfect, and it gave me chills. I didn’t actually read the series until I was older, maybe about fifteen. And then I fell in love. It helps that the last two books are set in Wales. People who claim it’s morally black and white aren’t reading closely enough: there’s an absolutely lovely scene between John Rowlands and Will Stanton where they talk about that very issue, and conclude that while the Light and the Dark are like that, humanity is all shades in between.

The Arthurian elements help, too.

Reviews: Over Sea, Under Stone, The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King, Silver on the Tree.

#4 – Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, Dorothy L. Sayers

Particularly Strong Poison and Gaudy Night, where Peter and Harriet first meet and where Harriet finally agrees to marry Peter, respectively. I have a huge soft spot for all forms of this: the books, the tv series, the radio adaptations… Edward Petherbridge and Ian Carmichael were both such perfect Peters in different ways. When I was in hospital recovering from having my gallbladder removed, and I was having serious panic attacks (my blood oxygenation % was in the low 80s, I believe), they wouldn’t let my mother stay with me, so she put a Peter Wimsey audiobook on and left it by my pillow. I have no idea which book it was or even which narrator, though I think it was Edward Petherbridge, but I closed my eyes and focused on that and up came my blood oxygenation levels. Like magic. I love that Peter is mentally ill (PTSD), I love that he’s such an ass but he cares so much, I love his relationship with Harriet… the mysteries are second for me to the characters.

Selected reviews: Clouds of Witness, Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night.

#5 – Sunshine, Robin McKinley

If you can read this and not end up craving cinnamon rolls and all such things, I don’t think you’re human. I love that here we have a vampire who is a good guy and is still unsettling as anything. It’s not easy for him and Sunshine to get along — and Sunshine is a strong heroine and a real person who is scared and unsure and doesn’t know what the heck is going on, and doesn’t want to. Sometimes, she even does really stupid stuff. But you’re with her all the way, anyway.

Review.

#6 – Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, anonymous

My partner refuses to read this on the grounds that if she didn’t like this, I’d probably break up with her. It’s not quite true, but I would be pretty upset. I didn’t think that much of it… and then I did a module devoted to it during my BA. We focused closely on the language, picking apart all of it for the rich tapestry of allusions and influence and… It’s just genius, and it’s awfully fun to read aloud, too. My favourite translation is probably the least accurate one, by Simon Armitage, but there are several other good ones. I own at least seven different translations, plus one with the original Middle English.

Selected reviews: Simon Armitage’s verse translation, J.R.R. Tolkien’s verse translation, W.R.J. Barron’s prose translation.

#7 – The Inheritance Trilogy, N.K. Jemisin

The first time I started reading this, I finished the first book that evening and pounced on the next book as soon as I could. I love the diversity in these books — race, gender, ability, sexuality, class… I just fell in love with the world right away, and never looked back. I’m less of a fan of her Dreamblood duology, but The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and its sequels are wonderful. She has a real knack with creating interesting narrators, and with telling a story that’s gripping and involving even if you don’t 100% like the characters. I would happily buy any of Jemisin’s work without even stopping to check the blurb, in future.

Reviews: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, The Kingdom of Gods.

#8 – The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, John Steinbeck

It actually starts out fairly weak, but as Steinbeck found his voice, he began to make the stories really live for me. They’re amusing and tender and fresh all at once — and yes, freshness is kind of hard when you’re working in the Arthurian tradition, especially when you’re retelling a specific version (in this case, Malory). This is one of the few versions of the story where I sympathise with Guinevere and Lancelot. Steinbeck never finished or properly edited this, and yet it’s still so powerful… I’d be almost scared to read it if he’d finished it. I’d definitely cry.

Review.

#9 – FAKE, Sanami Matoh

This was one of the first series of manga I ever read, and one of the first LGBT stories I ever came across outside of fandom. I loved Dee and Ryo and the development of their relationship, and when I’m feeling down, I often feel tempted to grab the first volume and dive right back in. What I really liked is that it isn’t just about how much Dee wants to bone Ryo: they take care of each other, they have personal crises and work crises, and they fight crime. And they fall in love. And it’s funny.

(I don’t have a good review to link to, for this series.)

#10 – Sword at Sunset, Rosemary Sutcliff

Technically, I’d be happy to read the whole series over and over again, but the arc from The Eagle of the Ninth is pretty tangential in this book — I wouldn’t be surprised if most people don’t notice it. I love the relationships in this book, the way that Gwenhwyfar and Arthur so honestly try to love one another, the way that Bedwyr and Arthur (and most of Arthur’s men, in fact), so palpably love one another. The intensity of that friendship… well, it can definitely be read as bordering on homoerotic. It’s also heart-wrenching, and just… the whole thing is beautiful.

Review.

And I could go on… I won’t, though. I will add two books that I suspect will make this list in future, though.

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern: I thought it was just gorgeous, the language and the ideas and the imagery and the relationships and the magic and, and, and…
A Face Like Glass, Frances Hardinge: It actually reminded me of The Night Circus, for a younger audience, in some undefinable way, that same sense of magic and wonder. I loved every scrap of it. I bought it on a whim and read it all in one go, and then started buying copies for everyone else — and asked for Hardinge’s other books for Christmas without even checking the blurbs, which is pretty rare for me. They’re still sat on my shelf, waiting for when I really deserve a treat…

The minute I post this, I will realise I’ve left someone off and agonise about who I could strike out to add them in. In fact, make that before I’ve even posted it — obviously Ursula Le Guin deserves to be in the list, probably more than a few of the others. The Earthsea Quartet is another of those series I could read over and over. My favourite thing about it is probably the way that throughout the stories, Le Guin recognises what she’s lacking (female characters, female power) and begins to critique her own work through adding to it.

You see what I did there? I snuck in thirteen books/series in all. Hah.

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Robot for a Day

Posted 18 October, 2013 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

Once upon a time, or back in July anyway, Angry Robot posted a competition they were holding, in celebration of the company’s fourth birthday. Entering was simple: come up with three words to describe the company, and email them in. The prize was amazing (or I’m easily pleased): twelve books, either dead tree or on a Nook, and for the UK winner, a day at the Angry Robot office, learning about everything they do and getting some input into an acquisitions meeting, etc — all expenses paid. I sent in my three words (daring / quality / addictive) and forgot about it, expecting nothing.

You have probably already guessed that the UK winner was me, although I seem to have been the last to know. I actually found out from Dan of Shelf Inflicted, who sent me a GR message after seeing the post announcing the winners. I won’t give you a play by play of all the emails exchanged to get me there, but on 15th October, I made my way to Nottingham to meet the Angry Robot crew (guided by Lee Harris’ excellent directions, without which I would probably have taken one look at Nottingham and turned tail to run away).

If you don’t know much about the company, suffice it to say that they’re a mostly UK-based company who have a reputation for publishing different, daring, interesting stories in SF/F. They’ve also expanded with the Strange Chemistry (YA) and Exhibit A (crime) imprints. They put out an amazing number of books, and give the impression of being willing to take chances, even on debut authors. I am always willing to pick up something Angry Robot have put out: it may not be my cup of tea, in the end, but nonetheless they’re usually good stories, professionally edited, and an important factor for me, available DRM-free as ebooks.

Having found the place, I was introduced to everyone who was there — Marc Gascoigne, founder of Angry Robot; Lee Harris, senior editor; Amanda Rutter, editor of the Strange Chemistry books; and Leah Woods, intern. I proceeded to make an excellent impression by announcing, when asked if the office was as I expected, that it was quite like the pest control office I worked in once, only there were fewer pests and more books.

But really, it’s an ordinary office, except that it’s piled high with books, and decorated by print-outs of the cover art of upcoming books. Naturally, I felt right at home. They’d even set up an email account for me for the day, which I used to exchange mostly silly emails with various other members of the company (hi Emlyn! I had no trouble rebooting them all in the end…). And my partner, just so that I got the opportunity to email from a “work” address for once…

Anyway, I did actually do work, I promise. It isn’t all fun, games, and weird gifs of giraffes (thanks Leah).

Bizarre GIF of a two-legged giraffeAhem.

The morning mostly consisted of me updating the website with quotes from reviews, while everyone else did what I presume was work. I did also get to play around with writing a blurb for Adam Christopher’s new book, Hang Wire. After that was the promised pub lunch, where I once more distinguished myself by ordering nachos and ending up with sour cream, salsa and guacamole all over my face. Everyone else was much more refined, though Amanda did nearly dip her sausage butty into her gin and tonic…

The most exciting part was, of course, still to come: the acquisitions meeting, attended by most of the Angry Robot staff (some in the room with us, some on the phone). There were three books under discussion, about which I can’t really say too much: what I found most interesting was seeing the pros and cons for each book being weighed up. I think a lot of people have ideas about how this process goes — a bunch of white males around a table deciding people’s future based on what will “sell”. Well, of course there was discussion of that, and whether it fit with the company’s existing books, but it really honestly did focus on the merits of the book in question. Stop being so cynical, everyone!

The lovely thing was when the book I most favoured was agreed upon by most of us and the decision to acquire it made. I don’t know if everyone else at the table (metaphorically) had this in mind as strongly as I did, but I couldn’t help but think of how the author would feel when their agent let them know. And I can’t wait to see their book come out. I think I can at least say that it looks to be very fun, with strong female characters. I will definitely talk more about it here when I can.

After that, Lee had to go and Leah started loading me up with books. I’d been pondering for days what twelve I’d pick, given the choice. Well, here’s some idea…

Photo of the Bibliophibian surrounded by books

Loaded up with books

I ended up with a round fifty, plus an audiobook (Chris F. Holm’s The Wrong Goodbye, as I am an enormous fan — the copies you see in the image above are my dead tree copies, but I already had ebook copies!) and a bookmark, along with several Angry Robot carrier bags in which to carry them. With those and my backpack, I made it back to the station and travelled on home, where my dad met me on the platform with a long-suffering look…

My family, by the way, are now convinced that Angry Robot books should both employ and publish me. On learning that I don’t currently have any decent manuscript, my grandmother informed me I should just write one then.

Workin’ on it, Grandma. Working on it.

(This post was written for Shelf Inflicted at Dan’s request — thanks for the offer of hosting it, Dan! It will be posted there as well as right here.)

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