Category: General

On being Welsh

Posted May 8, 2014 by Nikki in General / 9 Comments

I went looking for reviews of a book I picked up from the library yesterday, and boy, do I regret it. The book in question is The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley, and the problem was the protagonist’s name. See, the protagonist’s name is Welsh: Myfanwy Thomas. I don’t think you could get much more Welsh unless you had a guy called Evan Evans or something. Now, the author screwed up to begin with, because he decided he didn’t like the way ‘Myfanwy’ is actually pronounced. He wanted it to rhyme with ‘Tiffany’. So that’s what he has his character say, on the first page. That’s… actually annoying enough to me that I’m considering dropping the book without even opening it, but that’s not really the thing.

The thing was, going to look at reviews and finding a whole bunch where the reviewers are just so amused by this weird name. One of them said they constantly read it as ‘my fanny’. Some of them couldn’t spell it, even with it right there in front of them on the book or, even without the book, on the blurb on the very page they were reviewing on.

I remember as a kid asking my mum or dad why I didn’t have a Welsh name, since my mother’s all about being Welsh and proud. The answer I got was, “We thought other kids would make fun of you.” But there I was growing up with a strong Welsh identity in England, so although I’m assured by English people that this doesn’t happen, I was nonetheless bullied for that anyway. And the school sucked at dealing with it: a boy said ‘nigger’ to a friend in the playground, and the whole school got a half hour lecture about cultural sensitivity; I was bullied to tears, called Taffy and thief, on and on, and it was ignored. Inappropriate suggestions about me and sheep were also made, very graphically, from when I was eleven on up, but that wasn’t harassment of any kind.

I didn’t read a book by an author people recognised as Welsh until I was twenty-one (it was Margiad Evans’ Country Dance). In the introduction, Caitrin Collier wrote this:

I grew up in Wales in the 1950s and 60s, yet [Margiad Evans’] work was never mentioned at my school or local library. Whenever I asked the eternal question ‘What should I read next?’ I was directed towards Russian, English, American, German and French novelists. I discovered a few — a precious few — Welsh authors for myself, which only added weight to my teachers’s pronouncement that ‘people like you (translate as South Wales valley born) don’t write’.

That was my experience, too, though granted in England in the 90s and 00s. It mirrors stuff I’ve read about the experience of many more widely recognised minorities — people of colour, the queer community, women, people of non-dominant religions… Some of the discussions I’ve had about figuring out identity, about language — specifically, not speaking your ‘own’ language, or being encouraged not to — and fitting in all chimed with this issue for me.

I pointed out to a couple of these reviewers what kind of cultural issues they were trampling on. But nobody gives a shit, it’s ‘only’ Wales, it’s just a personal sob story about a name that isn’t even mine. (The fact that I don’t have a Welsh name because of exactly these issues doesn’t seem to mean anything.)

“Go and find your own place to tell these stories,” someone said to me, when I brought up that issue of identifying with those issues of other minority groups. “People will listen to you because you’re privileged, and they won’t listen to us. By talking about it here, you’re taking away the attention we need for our issues.”

I can understand why they wanted to keep the boundaries of their space clear, but I wonder why on earth they thought anyone would listen to me? I’m still looking for that mythical place where people will. Half the time, I find myself wondering if I’ve got anything interesting to say at all, but every now and then, someone else reaches back and says, yeah, I felt this too. So I’m not quite alone.

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What are you reading Wednesday: the sleepiest edition

Posted May 8, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker. I was riveted in a way I haven’t been for a while, in that rare enchanting way that makes you want to grab everything written by the author. I still need to write up my review, but I think that’ll have to wait for tomorrow. I enjoyed it, though: he comes up with really cool ideas, and creates fantasy worlds that don’t feel in any way typical.

What are you currently reading?
I’ve rescued Elantris (Brandon Sanderson) from the stack of books languishing on my currently-reading pile, on the strength of Warbreaker and a memory of enjoying what I did read of it. I’ve started over to make sure I remember all the details, so I’m not very far into it.

The other two books are The Buried Life (Carrie Patel), which I still need to finish, and My Real Children (Jo Walton), because now I have an ARC. I’m only two chapters into that, which is only really enough to whet my curiosity. Must try and turn down work tomorrow, and just curl up in my nest of teddies, pillows and blankets to read.

What will you read next?
It’s pretty much been established that if I claim to have any real idea, I’m telling lies, but I think it’ll be a library book. My library today had a fun discussion with me on the somewhat baffling subject of how many books the machine will let me have at once: it started at twelve, spiked to fifteen, and then dropped again to twelve — only for me to find out that it’s only meant to let me have ten! Quite bemusing, but they checked out the books I wanted anyway, which made me a happy bunny. So I think The Rook (Daniel O’ Malley) or Attachments (Rainbow Rowell) might be next — though The Rook annoys me by, in the very first page, announcing that Myfanwy is pronounced like Tiffany. Granted, it notes that it isn’t the traditional pronunciation, but still. Arrghh.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted May 3, 2014 by Nikki in General / 17 Comments

Yep, you guessed it, it’s Saturday, time for Tynga’s Reviews‘ Stacking the Shelves. I haven’t bought anything this week, either, but for some reason the library has increased my borrowing limit so I indulged a little there, and I have one ARC.

ARC/review copy

Cover of Shield and Crocus by Michael R. Underwood

Library books

Cover of The Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein Cover of Mindstar Rising by Peter F. Hamilton Cover of Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews Cover of Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews Cover of Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson

I’ve already started on Warbreaker, since I enjoyed The Rithmatist earlier this week. I wasn’t quite ready to dive into the Mistborn books…

What’s everyone been reading?

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On the Hugos

Posted May 1, 2014 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

I’m sure nobody was desperate to know what I think about the Hugos and the controversy about Theodore Beale/Vox Day, etc, but I do have thoughts and a supporting membership to Loncon. I’ve been following the various commentaries: Kameron Hurley’s On Writing the Good Fight, Scalzi’s views on reading everything that’s on the ballot and the criticisms thereof, posts explicitly talking about Vox Day’s track record… and yes, I even revisited some of Vox Day’s greatest hits, like that one where he calls N.K. Jemisin “an educated, but ignorant half-savage”.

So here’s my thoughts. A lot of great writers are on the ballot this year, like Catherynne M. Valente, Aliette de Bodard, Rachel Swirsky, Kameron Hurley, Brian K. Vaughan, Max Gladstone, Brandon Sanderson… not to mention at least one great editor, Angry Robot’s Lee Harris. And other authors I haven’t read yet, but really must. I think there’s probably more diversity than ever before, and certainly I’m really excited to see how this all pans out.

My personal approach is going to be to give everyone a fair shake. I suspect me and Vox Day are never going to get on: I’ve never read anything of his, but nor have I ever heard anything good, and I do believe that we can’t entirely separate the writer from the writing when we’re talking about an award that gives such real clout like the Hugos. I’ll read his novella, though, when I get my voter packet, and do my level best to be honest and fair in voting. The Hugos is to some extent a popularity contest, but given the stature of the award, I’m not gonna half-ass it or base it solely on my experience of the writers on Twitter or whatever.

However, I wouldn’t presume to advise that approach for others or suggest it’s unfair not to do it that way. Vox Day’s words are poisonous and upsetting, and refusing to give him time or space in your life is a valid response. This isn’t some kind of freedom of speech issue: the idea is freedom of speech, not freedom to make people listen. Go with your gut: it’s as fair an assessment as any, and however fair you try to be, that gut reaction is going to creep in anyway. He pretty readily admits that they were gaming the system (allegedly to “test” it): I suspect people that nominated according to that slate are equally likely to have gone on gut reactions based on politics.

Let’s be at least as honest as them, and more. The Hugos recognise achievement in science fiction fandom. As Teresa Nielsen Hayden said, ultimately, ‘The awards we give out are are a giant signal saying “This is what we love, this is what we value, this is what we think is important.”‘

Let’s do that.

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What I’m reading Wednesday

Posted April 30, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
White Cat (Holly Black). Which was completely disappointing for me — I was intrigued at first, and then I figured out the entire plot, and felt that people were being stupid just for the sake of the plot.

What are you currently reading?
The Buried Life (Carrie Patel), which I think I’ve talked about enough that people get I was excited to get it. I’m about halfway through; I really need to sit down and get on with it.

And then I also randomly picked up The Rithmatist (Brandon Sanderson). Other people complained about the amount of stress laid on the magic system here, but I kinda like it. I started it at the beginning of my volunteer library shift earlier, and I’m already halfway through. I sort of hope I’m going to be able to finish this tonight.

What do you think you’ll read next?
I think the plan is to read That Way Lies Camelot (Janny Wurts), mostly. Obviously I still have a bunch of books that are stranded somewhere half-read, and I’m partway through a few series. But I’m feeling a bit unblocked about reading after the readathon and all, so I’m hoping that just letting myself roam about my shelves a bit will have good results. I may well finally get on with Elantris (Brandon Sanderson), since I know I was enjoying that — I only stopped because the ereader I was using at the time went phut and I lost my place.

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Readathon Progress Post

Posted April 26, 2014 by Nikki in General / 28 Comments

The 24 Hour Readathon starts in an hour, and the opening meme is already up, so it seems like a good time to do my first post. I’m still working for now, up until the readathon actually starts, but once it begins I’ll be diving straight in. Read More

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted April 26, 2014 by Nikki in General / 24 Comments

I haven’t bought anything this week! But I have been to the library and been approved on Netgalley for a book I’m particularly excited about, so there’s that. So, as usual, here’s my post for Tynga’s Reviews‘ Stacking the Shelves. Do go and check that out and see what other people have been up to — it’s fun just to browse people’s acquisitions.

Library

Cover of Uncanny X-force: Let It Bleed Cover of Green Lantern Corps: Fearsome Cover of Half Past Human by TJ Bass Cover of The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb Cover of A Kingdom by James Hanley

Review copies

Cover of The Buried Life by Carrie Patel Cover of Defending the City of God by Sharan Newman Cover of The Shadow Master by Craig Cormick Cover of The Blasted Lands by James A. Moore

I’m particularly excited about The Buried Life because I was in the acquisitions meeting for it, way back when I won the Robot for a Day competition. I’m really excited to read all of it, and to see how the finished product has turned out.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted April 24, 2014 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
I reread Among Others (Jo Walton) on the train today, which was fun because when I got to the bits about reading on trains it felt terribly meta. It ended too soon, and I still feel completely gushy about this book, and I love the way it’s put together and, and, and. You get the general gist. Also nice being sat on a train into Wales at the same point as I’m reading about the main character being on a train into Wales.

When I got back, I just read a Superman comic I need to return to the library, uh, today. By which I mean I shall have a tiny fine to pay in the morning. It’s okay, but I don’t think I’m really ever going to be much of a DC fan. Gail Simone’s Batgirl is the only one I get really enthusiastic about.

What are you currently reading?
The Broken Land (Ian McDonald). I thought I’d be able to finish it today, on the train, but people on the last leg of the trip were very loud. I am wondering why I was so hesitant to start on Ian McDonald, and why people keep saying his work is ‘difficult’, but while it’s different in some ways (the narrative style isn’t always straightforward, there’s more reported than direct speech, he’s representing non-verbal communication a lot), I don’t find that challenging. Just interesting!

What do you think you’ll read next?
Do you guys believe a word I say here? I can tell you that what I’ll dip into before I go to bed tonight is Gulp (Mary Roach), but beyond that, you may even have a better idea than I do. Half a King (Joe Abercrombie) is definitely coming up soon, after I read a review from someone I trust about it being very enthusiastic, but otherwise, it beats me.

(It strikes me that I could make a sort of lottery out of guessing what book I’ll actually read next. Or a raffle. It really would be very random.)

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Readathon stack

Posted April 22, 2014 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

So it’s about time I did my readathon stack post, since Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon is this weekend, and I’ll be hosting a challenge here (look out for it in hour 16 of the ‘thon). As always, I think most people on this blog are used to this, but for newcomers, there’s very little chance of me sticking very closely to this, but it’s a good jumping off point for me.

Because I like organising things and then ignoring my carefully put together lists, I’m gonna set up some categories and pick five books for each. The idea is to read at least one from each category.

Library:
-Diana Wynne Jones, The Islands of Chaldea.
-Clive Finlayson, The Humans Who Went Extinct.
-Ilona Andrews, Magic Burns.
-Rosemary Sutcliff, Knight’s Fee.
-Lisa Tuttle, The Silver Bough.

Netgalley/review copies:
-James A. Moore, Seven Forges.
-Danielle L. Jensen, Stolen Songbird.
-Cassandra Rose Clarke, The Wizard’s Promise.
-Jason M. Hough, The Darwin Elevator.
-Malinda Lo, Adaptation.

2011-2013 unread:
-Gillian Bradshaw, Magic’s Poison.
-Jennifer Pelland, Machine.
-Frances Hardinge, Fly By Night.
-Janny Wurts, That Way Lies Camelot.
-Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice.

2014 unread:
-Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl.
-Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale.
-Lisa Shearin, The Grendel Affair.
-Rachel Bach, Fortune’s Pawn.
-Jo Walton, Farthing.

Comics:
-Marvel, Young Avengers: Dark Reign.
-Marvel, Ultimate Spider-man: vol. 20.
-Marvel, Ultimate Spider-man: vol. 21.
-Marvel, Ultimate Spider-man: vol. 22.
-DC, Stormwatch: vol. 1.

Subject to some editing over the next few days as I sprawl all over the place reading.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted April 19, 2014 by Nikki in General / 49 Comments

Aaaas usual for a Saturday, here’s my Stacking the Shelves post, a meme as hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. It’s been a busy week!

Library

Cover of Astonishing X-men: Torn by Joss Whedon Cover of House of M by Brian Michael Bendis. Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction by Paul Bahn Cover of And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou Cover of There and Back Again: J.R.R. Tolkien and the Origins of the Hobbit by Mark Atherton

Books I Love So Much I Got Them Again For A Reread

Cover of The Steerswoman, by Rosemary Kirstein Cover of Farthing, by Jo Walton Cover of Ha'penny by Jo Walton Cover of Half a Crown by Jo Walton Cover of Among Others by Jo Walton

New

Cover of The Outskirter's Secret by Rosemary Kirstein Cover of The Lost Steersman by Rosemary Kirstein Cover of Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor Cover of Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan Cover of The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon Cover of The Disestablishment of Paradise by Phillip Mann

Review copies

Cover of A Kingdom Lost by Barbara Ann Wright Cover of The Very Best of Tad Williams Cover of Fool's Assassin, by Robin Hobb Cover of Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Comics (issues)

Cover of Ms Marvel Issue #3 Captain Marvel issue #2

Pre-order

Cover of My Real Children by Jo Walton

You can maybe sense a Jo Walton shaped theme going on here. I can’t wait for My Real Children, and decided to do some rereading while I’m waiting. Among Others should be especially interesting, as the first read had me very emotional and wrapped up in it, and my friends claim that they see me in it a lot.

Obviously, I’ve been excited about Dreams of Gods and Monsters for a while and I am so glad I finally have it. I’ve been looking for ARCs of Tropic of Serpents, too, and I haven’t read much Robin Hobb lately, but you better believe I’m excited about Fool’s Assassin. I’m surprised I got approved for it. I’m pretty excited by Half a King, too. In short, I’ve had a really lucky week.

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