Jo Walton’s Reading List: September 2021

I'm right there with you regarding The House in the Cerulean Sea. I'm glad so many people enjoyed it but the worldbuilding and the psychological realism fell flat for me.

Read Chapter Four of Docile by K. M. Szpara

Thanks for the free samples! Looking forward to reading more!

Feature Development for Social Networking

Ben: I just got the "Shirksy" and "Ullman" name references. Nice.

Old Media

“I’ve always wanted to try sleeping."

What a fun reveal!


I've read Autonomous and so I get something special out of this -- so glad to see these characters happier and growing.


Fitting In

Fun and rejuvenating -- thank you. I found this via a link from Julia Rios, who said, "This story (with art by John Picacio!) was perfect to read while I was exhausted and needed a little hope." The ending made me so happy.

All Systems Red

I've now read the entire work and I loved it. I hope people who enjoyed the Imperial Radch series or who have ever felt alienated from their jobs or coworkers pick this up and take a look!

Pull List: The Nutty, Nerdy, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

It's just such a good comic. And the letters section is so joyous.

A Burden Shared

There's a bit from the intro to Ursula K. Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness I really love:

Yes, indeed the people in it are androgynous, but that doesn’t mean that I’m predicting that in a millennium or so we will all be androgynous, or announcing that I think we damned well ought to be androgynous. I’m merely observing, in the peculiar, devious, and thought-experimental manner proper to science fiction, that if you look at us at certain odd times of day in certain weathers, we already are. I am not predicting, or prescribing. I am describing. I am describing certain aspects of psychological reality in the novelist’s way, which is by inventing elaborately circumstantial lies.

Carework is something we piece together, in the US, from our kin networks (and the burden disproportionately falls on women), from friends and communities (including neighbors and religious communities), from bits of safety-net government programs.... I appreciate how Walton demonstrates that in "A Burden Shared" and sketches how it would look if we added an app but didn't change any of those other underlying problems.

2017 Hugo Award Finalists Announced

Big congrats to all the nominees. Thank you to everyone who nominated, and to the people who volunteer to administer this award and keep it going!

New York Public Library and Macmillan to Launch Publishing Partnership

Coloring in the Lions, a coloring book featuring vintage art from the NYPL archive; a yet-to-be-titled picture book starring the stoic lions who stand in front of the Library’s main building, Patience and Fortitude

This is so exciting! So cool! Glad to hear of this initiative.

Everything that Isn’t Winter

What a captivating story. The narrator's voice feels super real -- traumatized and strong and alienated and loyal. I liked the moments where the narrator got surprised -- oh crap he did have a radio, or the General seemingly going off-script -- as a balance to the supercompetence displayed elsewhere. And it's refreshing to see the competence demonstrations, loyalty, sacrifice, tradecraft, and suspense I'd usually see milsf deployed in a story about the defense of an egalitarian commune in the woods.

I believe I noticed that the reader never gets told the narrator's gender -- I appreciated that.

The City Born Great

I love the point of view and the voice in this story. And I'm a New Yorker, and the truth in this story about living in cities and becoming part of them rings so so true.

Some of my favorite bits:

my ancestors’ bones under Wall Street, my predecessors’ blood ground into the benches of Christopher Park

There’s no gap between me and the city anymore.

We got this. Don’t sleep on the city that never sleeps, son, and don’t fucking bring your squamous eldritch bullshit here.

filthy and fierce

Thank you, N.K. Jemisin!

As Good As New

I loved this story when it first came out and I love it perhaps even more now. I love that it's about two people working together to make stuff, that Marisol and Richard become friends, that his crankiness is the crankiness of someone who loves excellence and despises lazy writing and thoughtlessness. I love the comparison of cliches to plaque, and "Anything is better than unearned ambivalence." I love that there is no villain in this story. And I love that it's hopeful, that with creativity and love and working together and systematic thought, we can turn things around.

Something Happened Here, But We’re Not Quite Sure What It Was

I liked the psychological realism and the local politics flavor of this story -- as though Maureen McHugh visited Night Vale. :) And the premise, the epic background story, is thought-provoking.

The Politics of Justice: Identity and Empire in Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Trilogy

The cakes-and-counters demonstration is thorough, isn’t it?

I sometimes sum up the lesson of a liberal arts education as: socially constructed things are real, too. (And, by the way, you are not immune, no matter how smart you are, and it’s not like Rumpelstiltskin, where once you’ve named the thing it has no power over you. And consequently, socially constructed things are worth studying and working on and fixing and spending energy on.)

People who appreciated the critique of class and empire in the Ancillary trilogy might also be interested in the fourth and fifth books in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist series, Valour and Vanity & Of Noble Family, though to get the whole effect I’d recommend reading the whole series in order. Our characters start off, in book one, experiencing artistic aristocratic lives in the quiet heart of the British Empire. And then in books 4 and 5 we get some incisive thoughts about the labour that the empire is based on.

Tor Books Acquires Annalee Newitz’s Novel Autonomous

I'm so excited and looking forward to this! PROPERTY RIGHTS SCIFI YESSSS

The Deepest Rift

Another sweet Ruthanna Emrys story, yay! I particularly liked the growth of honest collegiality between the narrator and the proctor AI. Ohhhh how frustrating and hope-inducing it can be to deeply want to see sentience in The Other. And the research question made me want to reread "Omnilingual", which alerted me to years ago.

I was an inattentive reader and missed, on my first reading, that the narrator was deaf. I noticed the signing, but I assumed that the team members signed to each other because some of them were not native speakers of English or a similar spoken language (because they were from various countries or various planets, and perhaps some of them were aliens) and so a sign language was their best common language. Only when I got to the comments did I notice what other people had noticed, and go back, and see what I'd missed. I am chagrined for missing it and I will have to ensure that I make less ableist assumptions in the future!

Looking back, I see that I had skimmed paragraphs that included pretty clear "the narrator is deaf" cues (e.g., the cochlear implant) because they were in the midst of other description, and I have some kind of mental block that makes it really hard to parse and pay attention to visual descriptions (e.g., "Meanwhile the sky darkens"). My fault! I appreciate reading a story with a deaf protagonist. And I appreciate other commenters, e.g., MadGastronomer, for their commentary that helps me think about this depiction and the context of the rest of the story.

The research is the context of the relationship in the same way that the specific location of a sculpture is the context for that sculpture

Yes! Cooooool!

A New Reality: The Optimism of Zen Cho

the desire to make art marries with the desire to give pleasure to an audience you know really intimately and of which you are a part


What the F*ck, Iago?

I have not yet read or seen Othello and this essay makes me want to, and gives me some language for considering things I love in literature and friends. Thanks.

I Finally Figured Out Why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Isn’t Engaging

I appreciated getting to see this perspective, as a new-ish MCU fan deciding whether to start watching "Agents of SHIELD" -- thanks!

Message Fiction: Politics in Sci-Fi and Fantasy Literature
For fantasy I recommend you check out Alexandra Erin's Tales of MU series. The characters include people with quite different political points of view -- including historians with pretty different historical approaches -- and they get to have arguments. And the author's intersectional feminist approach definitely comes out in the text, in a way I generally find pleasing. In science fiction comics, Kelly Sue DeConnick's and Valentine De Landro's Bitch Planet is so message-y it literally features a feminist essay at the end of each issue. I'm enjoying it so far. Scifi novels: Constellation Games by Leonard Richardson is partially about anarchism and coercion (and about aliens and video games). And Jo Walton's Small Change trilogy has quite a message, about fascism and the limits of our empathy.
As Good As New
I just reread this for maybe the 5th time. So great.
Persona (Excerpt)
Ooooh this was riveting! I saw Kameron Hurley recommend this and I saw Valentine's "The Big Idea" piece on John Scalzi's blog, and came to read the excerpt, and went COOOOOOL and now I want to read this and am buying it. Thanks for the excerpt!
Writing Women Characters as Human Beings
I like this article a lot, and I especially appreciate this articulation:
Be careful of only investing excitement and significance in what I'll call the public theater of (often male-identified) public action.
People interested in reflecting more specifically on the women of Pratchett's Discworld may like to read Tansy Rayner Roberts's series of essays on that topic. One insight that I also think follows from Ms. Elliott's piece is the point that, since doing evil things is part of the human condition, some women characters will do evil things. We gotta make room for unlikeable women protagonists, and for women who do evil things as they climb political ladders, like Claire Underwood and Kai Winn. I'm also curious whether anyone in this discussion has done the Writing The Other workshop, and whether they found it also helped them write characters of genders that they're not.
Swift, Brutal Retaliation
Thank you for writing this. I especially liked:
Brigid was old enough to understand that her house was full of "nice" things, though "nice" to her meant "alienating and not to be touched."
All Alone in the Night: When Babylon 5 Invented 21st Century Fandom
A few years ago my partner and I watched B5 and made copious use of the Lurker's Guide. Such a great resource. I'm grateful to the people who contributed to it for helping other viewers across time and space. :)
Queering SFF: Where’s the Polyamory?
Mary Anne Mohanraj's short story "Jump Space" focuses on a poly family (in space).
Thanks for this story. Dismaying in just the right ways.
Total immersion in 1950s India: Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy
SUCH a great book. And you just made me mist up thinking of Mrs Mahesh Kapoor's death. I think I started it when I was a teenager, and it helped me understand my family better. A white British colleague of mine read the book and couldn't get his head around Lata choosing the suitor she did. It really is a refreshing change.
Firefly Re-watch: “Bushwhacked”
I'd say, write shorter and link to other people's interesting perspectives, and let us know why you agree or disagree.
REPO! vs Repo
I saw an ad for Repo Men last night and instantly thought, "hey, that's the same premise as REPO! The Genetic Opera!" So I'm grateful to the poster and commenters for telling me more about the situation. Sounds similar to the murky story surrounding Babylon 5 & Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (The two movies do sound very distinct, as distinct as The Truman Show is from Ed TV, or Run Lola Run is from The Butterfly Effect, or any other number of pairs I could name. As Roger Ebert notes, a film is not about what it is about, but how it is about it.) But as I read further and further in Falksen's article, I thought, surely you're kidding? Yes, it is a good and proper thing that you can't copyright a premise for a fictional work. Our cultural DNA is shared, and it's perfectly legitimate to pay homage, or pastiche, or independently invent, or borrow some chromosomes. In fact, I have an analogy kicking around in my head -- an analogy between laying claim to a premise or plot device or character type or some other imaginative figment, and repossessing a transplanted organ.
The Great Comics Read-Along: Intro
Anything by Brian K. Vaughan (Ex Machina, Y, etc.), Runaways, She-Hulk, DMZ, Fables.
Michael Whelan, an Appreciation
"I read that book in one day. It wasn't like anything I'd ever tried reading before. (I had never been introduced to fantasy novels.)... I remember a severe bout of disappointment upon finishing the book because I thought surely there couldn't be anything else like it in the entire world." Oh that hurts it feels so familiar.
Mac ‘n’ Cheese: Everybody’s Favorite
My best memories are of wonder or mastery, too, or joy at someone else's mastery.
Oh No, The Mammoth Books of X, No
[email protected], if you don't want to review your *own* ebook conversion, you can choose the pedant ePUB by another reader, Marshall T. Vandergrift. I'm so glad you enjoyed the anthology! I hope you hear about lots of enjoyable sf/f anthologies that feature balanced tables of contents, and share the lists with us.
Oh No, The Mammoth Books of X, No
Arachne, I thank you again for your ebook versions of the anthology I edited, Thoughtcrime Experiments. TE features 9 authors, at least 2 of whom are PoC and 4 of whom are women. I'd love a review, if you've had a chance to read it. Anniversary Giveaway #11: A Bag of Holding
If I win this, and then cast Leomund's Tiny Hut to live in, I'll be set. Anniversary Giveaway #8: From the Earth to the Moon and a Lunar Lander model kit
My household is currently watching Carl Sagan's Cosmos (for free on Hulu) and From The Earth To The Moon would be a great followup.
Characters and cryptography: Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon
I love this book. It's constitutive in my identity -- themes, lines, characters, scenes. In retrospect it shaped my career. Looks like I've mentioned Cryptonomicon in my blog a bunch of times. One observation y'all might find amusing:
I read Midnight's Children. I read Cryptonomicon. And now I've read Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White. And now I say to you that a modern author who dazzles you with his witty, ultra-literate prose in a novel of over 500 pages will, without fail, cop out with a wholly inadequate ending. Argh! Such promising introductions and such jaw-droppingly disappointing conclusions, or absences thereof. It's like they're all Kevin Smith.
“I’m thirteen, I’m a girl, and I like fantasy and some science fiction. What should I be reading?”
A reminder to those seeking out-of-print books: and WorldCat are your friends. They're sort of search aggregators. BookFinder lets you search the holdings of lots of used bookstores throughout the world, and WorldCat lets you search libraries near you (including university libraries). For example, here are four libraries that have any issues of my parents' magazine Amerikannada: the Library of Congress, UC Berkeley's library, and the New York Public Library. And here are 84 places to buy Alan's War by Emmanuel Guibert. masinger can't make much use of either right now, since she doesn't have time to wait for shipping and her household doesn't take library books anywhere but home. But others itching for older stuff mentioned in this thread might find it useful.
India’s superheroes: Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children
@8 - have you read Notes from the Underground? I'm curious about whether the narrator's self-loathing and yelling at himself in that text is bothersome in the same way.
“I’m thirteen, I’m a girl, and I like fantasy and some science fiction. What should I be reading?”
masinger mentioned that (paraphrase) her daughter has less tolerance for sexism in her entertainment than masinger did as a teen. I am honestly curious as to whether US bibliovore teen girls, as a whole, have changed their tastes in the last generation or two with regard to tolerance for sexism. Any editors or other experts in the house want to let me know? Adult women today can use Jezebel's "Fine Lines" feature or GirlyCon to parse out what's squee and what's problematic in Judy Blume, Cherry Ames, Jacob Have I Loved, The Secret Garden, The Girl With The Silver Eyes, Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley Twins/Twins and Friends/Friends/High/University/Grad School/Postdoc/Tenure-Track, The Long Winter, and everything Paula Danziger ever wrote (including her sci-fi teen angst comedy romance set on a moon colony, This Place Has No Atmosphere). It's sad that curricula including The Giver make people think Lowry is like Fisher Price's My First Margaret Atwood or something. The Anastasia books (and their offshoot Sam books) are crazy hilarious and I promise they contain no Messages whatsoever. The women in Phantom Tollbooth are, sadly, pretty minor characters; if I were rebooting it I might switch Milo's gender, or Tock's. By the way, it's not a coincidence that the dichotomy in Tollbooth mirrors that of CP Snow's "two cultures" of science and humanities. Juster had that division in mind. Oh! Recent mimetic YA book I liked a lot: Never Mind The Goldbergs by Matthue Roth. Stars Hava, a punk Orthodox Jewish girl, during a very unusual summer.
“I’m thirteen, I’m a girl, and I like fantasy and some science fiction. What should I be reading?”
masinger, thanks for your responses! How does she feel about Lois Lowry? I'm thinking of the Anastasia books, which I adored. Man, I miss being a text-ravenous teen on summer break... In case she likes what she knows of Indian mythology, I live in NYC and am willing to lend you various versions of the Mahabharata. I have a box set of the comics I grew up with, and I have a prose paperback version by Rajagopalachari.
“I’m thirteen, I’m a girl, and I like fantasy and some science fiction. What should I be reading?”
masinger, my own recommendations include: YA non-SF fiction: Linda Crew's touching Children of the River (about an Asian immigrant teenage girl and her conflicts with family and a suitor. Helped me a lot when I was a young teen), and Gordon Korman's hilarious Son of Interflux, No More Dead Dogs, and The Twinkie Squad. Nonfiction: In Code: A Mathematical Journey by Sarah Flannery. An Irish girl discovers math with the help of her dad, and makes international headlines with a discovery about cryptography. A nice memoir partly because there's nearly nothing depressing in it. Our Bodies, Ourselves. Just essential. The handbook to my body. Every teen girl should have a copy. The bits online are not enough -- she's gotta be able to flip through it and browse. SF/Fantasy: Has she tried any of the comic book or abridged versions of the Mahabharata? Lots of interesting women in an epic tale with elements you often don't see in your standard Western High Fantasy. Also recommended: the YA-centric comic Runaways (available in trade paperback). Allow me to recommend two short fantasy stories from an anthology I just edited: "Goldenseed" (Bradbury-like) and "Daisy" (domestic urban fantasy).
Star Trek Re-watch: “Court Martial”
A comparison of "Court Martial" and the TNG ep "Measure of a Man".
For a television show about humanity finding a better future in the stars, TOS is pretty paranoid and mistrustful of the machines people build to take them there. It's always the insane supercomputer or the malfunctioning space probe or, in this case, the computer whose records have been tampered with and can't be trusted. The centerpiece of "Court Martial" is Kirk's defense attorney, a card-carrying technophobe, giving a speech about how humanity (of whatever species) must always be the master of cold machinery lest we lose our own humanity (of whatever variety). This argument is the direct ancestor of the argument used against Data in "Measure of a Man": that because he's a piece of technology, he does not partake of humanity and must be owned and administered by it. "Measure of a Man" puts one of the underlying themes of TOS on trial and shows that it hasn't held up well.
MoCCA Art Festival 2009
Wait wait wait, maybe Evil Twin will have a trade of Comics About Comics! OK, my future wallet just got lighter.
MoCCA Art Festival 2009
I'm coming today or tomorrow. KATE BEATON KATE BEATON KATE BEATON!!!!! Ahem. Also looking forward to seeing Brian Wood, Sarah Glidden (will probably buy How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less), Raina Telgemeier, and Randall Munroe & Ryan North & Jeph Jacques. Will miss Tyler Page of Nothing Better, Dorothy of Cat And Girl, and RK of Something*Positive, not to mention I wish Ruben Bolling, Keith Knight, Paul Pope, and the Boom! folks would all be in one convenient location. If more Action Philosophers! were on its way, I'd feel more excited about Ryan Dunlavey being there. As it is, I'll just salute Evil Twin and move on.
Pioneer Fantasy: Patricia Wrede’s Thirteenth Child
FoxtrotTango, you can edit a previous post of yours using the "edit" link under the timestamp. You should see three links there: "FLAG | BOOKMARK | EDIT".
Pioneer Fantasy: Patricia Wrede’s Thirteenth Child
I'm finding this thread very educational. Thank you for writing it. It's especially been useful to me in teasing out the reasons we find legitimate, or not, to choose to read or not read a story. Foxessa, thank you so much for sharing that story. Bruec @231, it really makes one's guard go up when one's friend says, "I am going to act differently than you act because my moral code says to do so." I find an analogy here in how meat-eaters treat vegetarians who refuse meat on ethical grounds (instead of health reasons). The meat eater assumes that the vegetarian is implicitly judging her, and preemptively judges back. Some people think the world should follow their example. Some don't. Members of the latter group might be hypocrites or they might be humble. In any case, it does take rather a lot of patience, humility, and empathy to see someone say "My morals tell me to make a different choice than the one you made" and not get defensive. Stargazer @ 204, I hereby plug the book I just edited, Thoughtcrime Experiments, which includes a few short stories by people of color. You can read it for free online.
Last Son of Tomorrow
I enjoyed this story; thanks for writing it, Mr. Van Eekhout, and thanks to for publishing it. It's admirable how epic a feel we get in such a short wordcount.
Save the Date! Spring Meet-up: Thursday, May 14th
I'll probably be there, showing off print-on-demand copies of the new anthology. I may bring Once Upon A Time, a collaborative card-based storytelling game. By the way: Anyone else going to WisCon? Add yourself to the WisCon event page on
Stephen King’s Next Epic: Under the Dome
First The Mist, now this, then something that is basically The Peace War, then Spin?
Out Of This World: SciFi, Sitcoms and the Best Superpower Ever
@18: wasn't that "Click"? @4: Not quite to spec:
Evie stared in horror at the pregnancy test. I wish I could go back in time, not just freeze it, she desperately prayed. "Did I do that?" Urkel squeaked.
Eros, Philia, Agape
This is a moving story. I can tell it'll stay with me.
Out Of This World: SciFi, Sitcoms and the Best Superpower Ever
I remember this show and watched far too much of it as a young'un. Someone should write Evie/Stefan Urquelle slash.
This story crept up on me and made me like it. Thanks,, and thanks, Mr. Sanderson.

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