Tag: pirates

Review: Empress of Forever

This review contains spoilers.

The protagonist of Max Gladstone’s Empress of Forever is Vivian Liao, a queer tech billionaire with the unstated aim of tearing it all down from the inside – “it” being global capitalism and the uneven distribution of power that’s associated with it. Her radicalism’s attracting the wrong kind of attention from the wrong kind of people, though, and so she goes underground, working on a plan to exploit third-party systems her own company built in order to create the world’s first true AI. Mid-implementation, though, something…happens, and she wakes up in a posthuman far future ruled by the titular Empress, a titanic figure revered and hated in equal measure by the citizens of a galaxy who have long since achieved functional immortality by having their souls, in effect, backed up to the cloud.

In order to return to twenty-first century Earth, she reasons, she needs to find the Empress. Her companions in this adventure are Hong, a monk of the Mirrorfaith, who study the Empress’ works with an almost fanatical devotion; Zanj, a legendary pirate queen who’s been imprisoned in the heart of a star for the last three thousand years, at the Empress’ behest; and Xiara, pilot extraordinaire, Viv’s love interest and daughter of a society destroyed by, yes, the Empress.

As a novel about the posthuman, Empress of Forever is centrally concerned with the borders of the self and the edges of the human. In a universe where you can teleport to anywhere through the cloud, your body reassembled from whatever materials are handy upon arrival; where the bodies of people like Hong are filled with circuitry; where people like Xiara can bond with the mind of a ship until they forget the way back to their organic bodies; what does “human”, as a concept, actually mean? More pertinent, though, is the replicability of the self in such a universe. The novel makes extensive use of doppelgangers and doubles: it turns out, for instance, that Viv herself is the result of one of the Empress’ experiments, which involved running thousands of simulations of herself in order to find the solution to the Bleed, a phenomenon that consumes any civilisation that grows too technologically advanced. In a very real sense, then, Viv is the Empress – a realisation that forces her to grapple with her own capacity for authoritarianism. Similar doublings in the novel likewise ask the characters to reconsider their sense of self and identity in a universe that troubles the boundaries of subjectivity.

This is not especially groundbreaking stuff thematically speaking, but it works well because of Gladstone’s finely developed characterisation: Zanj and Viv in particular are nuanced and complex people who go well beyond generic stereotypes, and Empress of Forever is one of those rare genre novels that I’d say is actually more interested in its character arcs than it is in its genre trappings or plot – which, while there is a plot it’s quite episodic and, as I remarked to the Bandersnatch at the time, distinctly reminiscent of an RPG tabletop game.

Where it does fall down is that, like much of the SFF work I’ve read that deals with the posthuman (Hannu Rajaniemi’s Quantum Thief series, Gladstone’s own novella co-written with Amal El-Mohtar This Is How You Lose the Time War, Dempow Torishima’s Sisyphean), it fails to think – communally. What I mean by that is that although there are communities in the novel (Xiara’s clan, the Mirrorfaith, etc.), they are all predatory or threatening communities that our heroes must escape in order to continue their quest narrative. Perhaps that’s part of the point: the Empress works to restrict individual communities’ technological development in order to keep the Bleed away, and in doing so creates the kind of atomisation and mutual mistrust that also pertains under late capitalism. And there’s an argument to be made that Viv, Zanj, Hong and Xiara form a kind of found family, bringing together their different strengths and experiences to achieve their goals – a new community, an alliance against the dark. But, hmm. Ultimately the story is centred on Viv’s self-actualisation, and although it feels weird to complain about a novel doing what novels do (viz., focus on the self-actualisation of a bourgeois subject), I have this sense that literature of the posthuman has the potential to be vastly more radical than it actually is? It would be nice if these stories which are about the boundaries of the self could move away a little from their capitalistic focus on individual fulfilment. The posthuman self always seems so isolated, despite the fact that it inhabits a universe where reaching and working with others should be easier than ever.

I do want to stress that I enjoyed Empress of Forever immensely. I loved the strange, baroque universe Gladstone creates; the sharp wit of his prose, at a sentence level; its interest in deep, nuanced characterisation; its refreshing lack of a male gaze. (Viv hardly ever goes a chapter without remembering an old flame, usually one we haven’t encountered before, which some might find a bit much but which I actually kind of appreciated as an acknowledgement that queer people can have busy romantic pasts too.) It is a really strong example of its genre, and it’s an absolute pleasure to read. I just don’t think it ever manages to transcend its genre and fulfil its radical potential.

Top Ten Queer Characters

  1. Innon – The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin. A bi, poly pirate who’s also really hot. *mic drop*
  2. Sissix – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers. Sissix and Rosemary’s relationship is one of my favourite things about this book. They actually TALK about things instead of trying to guess at what the other person’s feeling. And visibly support each other. Also! I think this was the first queer SF book I read, and I read it when I was just starting to come out (to myself as much as anyone), and I was so grateful that Sissix/Rosemary could exist.
  3. Nyx – God’s War, Kameron Hurley. “Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert.” Boom! Nyx is bi – as are most of the characters in the novel, actually – and defiantly, violently female, and lord knows she’d be a terrible person to have dinner with but she’s a great character to read about.
  4. Lila – A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E. Schwab. Lila is a cross-dressing, genderfluid steampunk pirate who (at least in the first book) shows no interest in romance, and it’s great.
  5. November – Palimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente. I mean. Everyone in Palimpsest is queer. I like November most, though: I’m drawn to lonely, unassuming characters trying to fill the spaces left by their hopes.
  6. Alma – The Real-Town Murders, Adam Roberts. So Alma is here because she’s incredibly unusual in fiction: she’s in a long-term relationship with another woman, who she cares for 24/7. And they’ve been together so long (and Marguerite is so ill) that it’s not even particularly romantic any more. It’s a couple dynamic we see very rarely in fiction – although Roberts presents it so matter-of-factly it’s easy to miss how radical it is.
  7. Pencil Khan – The Glass Republic, Tom Pollock. Pen’s another really unusual character: a teenage girl, practising Muslim and trauma survivor who gets a queer romance that’s believable and adorable without getting in the way of the very real dangers she faces. All this is brilliant in a YA novel.
  8. Ingray Aughskold – Provenance, Ann Leckie. This is another novel where Everyone is Queer (the best kind of novel), and Ingray’s developing crush on a female police captain is just adorable. And one of those romances that make you want to shout “JUST KISS ALREADY!”
  9. Avice Benner Cho – Embassytown, China Mieville. I just remembered this one! Avice is in an asexual relationship with her husband Scile, because they don’t enjoy sex together but still want to be partners. Which is another unusual, and welcome, dynamic.
  10. Fevvers – Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter. OK, so it’s never confirmed that Fevvers is in a relationship with her chaperone? agent? friend? Lizzie, but my word this book is definitely queer. And Fevvers is brilliant: larger than life, subversively feminine, altogether wonderful.

(The prompt for this post comes from the weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten Books for Steampunks

A Brief Definition of Steampunk as it lives in my head, because some of these are maybe stretching the definition of “steampunk”: steampunk is alt-history for the marginalised. The “-punk” part is important. Steampunk – good steampunk – punches our historical prejudices in the face. It lets women fly dragons for the Aerial Corps. It lets spinsters roll around with hot werewolves while solving murders in gorgeous dresses. It has artificial intelligences that run on programme cards and wheels made so pi is exactly three and cities that eat each other. It lets conmen take down corporate bastards and apprentices watch their decadent cities burn and petty thieves live with their rich lesbian lovers. It’s fun. It’s subversive (maybe only to a limited extent, but). It lives in capitalism and finds ways to resist it.

I’ll shut up now.

  1. Soulless – Gail Carriger. This is just so much fun. It’s the first novel in Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, and it follows a spinster who, yeah, rolls around with hot werewolves while solving a murder. It is brilliantly camp (seriously, there’s a gay vampire who wears outrageously colourful Victorian outfits and it’s amazing) and somehow ridiculously British despite being written by an American, and all that semi-repressed Victorian sexuality? Is. Steamy.
  2. Mortal Engines – Philip Reeve. This is young young adult (say, early Harry Potter age), but when I read it last year I was seriously impressed by how it manages to do working-class post-apocalyptic steampunk. By which I mean: one of steampunk’s big flaws is that it tends to be interested in bourgeois middle-class characters who, if they’re not exactly rich, at least have enough to get by comfortably. But the young protagonists of Mortal Engines are very much considered second-class citizens by their rapaciously capitalist/Darwinistic society, and so the novel becomes a critique of capitalism and colonialism and privilege. And it’s still definitely steampunk: it has airships and cities on caterpillar tracks and neo-Victorian social structures. It’s very cool.
  3. Steampunk Fashion – Spurgeon Vaughn Ratcliffe. This is essentially a coffee-table book showcasing various steampunk costume designers. I flick through it reasonably regularly when I feel like doing steampunk for the day. Like a lot of steampunk fashion, it is inordinately interested in women wearing outfits that supposedly say “sexy airship pirate!” or “sexy explorer!” but actually say “sexy accident waiting to happen!” (JEEZ, PEOPLE, WHAT KIND OF OUTFIT IS THIS TO WEAR IN AN APOCALYPSE?) But it does also have plenty of steampunk fashion that actually looks like something someone would reasonably wear in an alternative neo-Victorian timeline. And is also sexy. (If I ever have a spare £500 floating around, I will seriously consider a jacket like this. Till then, I must content myself with slightly less-than-excellent-quality steampunk items from Camden Market.)
  4. Perdido Street Station – China Mieville. This is steampunk, but…weird. It’s got an artificial intelligence that’s assembled itself from scrap metal and corpses, and little half-intelligent machines that run on programme cards, and a huge sprawling city threaded by a web of train lines with a huge hulk of a station at its heart, and a mad inventor trying to solve the mysteries of flight. But. You know. It also has human-alien sex scenes, and an embassy from hell, and monsters that make your mind dribble out of your ears, and a stewing revolution. This book, you guys. It’s steampunk and then some.
  5. The Scar – China Mieville. It’s in the same series as Perdido Street Station, and it still feels steampunk to me, but it has a slightly different flavour of steampunk. In other words, it has steampunk pirates. It’s set on a socialist floating city that trundles around the sea living off what it can steal. If Armada isn’t quite my favourite fictional city, it’s very close.
  6. Everfair – Nisi Shawl. Everfair‘s not exactly steampunk to me – it’s alt-history without the playful -punk suffix. But it’s at least marketed as steampunk, and it feels important enough to deserve a place on this list. Like Mortal Engines, it deals with the colonialist, bourgeois prejudices of traditional steampunk head-on. Its characters build a new society in which people who are usually excluded from mainstream accounts of history can find a home – the victims of colonialism, the queer people, the Christian missionaries who assimilate into local religions, the women, the socialists, the exiles. There are difficulties and conflicts. Utopia recedes constantly out of reach. But there’s also compromise that allows people to live together – things aren’t perfect for anyone, but they’re as good for everyone as they can possibly be.
  7. Going Postal – Terry Pratchett. I…am totally not including this here because of Adora Belle Dearheart. Nope. Not at all. Seriously, though, is there anything more steampunk than the clacks: like the internet, but with semaphore? Than a story about a man who invents stamps and hires golems and generally cons everyone into supporting the Post Office? It’s so adorably Dickensian, but without Dickens’ shitty gender politics. (Did I mention Adora Belle Dearheart?)
  8. Retribution Falls – Chris Wooding. Talking of shitty gender politics…well, things could be worse, but Retribution Falls isn’t quite the model of equality I’d like it to be. It’s here because, like Soulless, it’s riotous fun, and because, like The Scar, it has pirates. Maybe it tips a little closer to dieselpunk than steampunk – but it still has that anti-authoritarian alt-history streak I associate with steampunk.
  9. Fingersmith – Sarah Waters. This is probably the least steampunk of any of the books on this list: it’s actually just Victorian pastiche, but I’m including it here because its central couple consists of a rich heiress and the thief girl who’s sent to pose as her servant and rob her. AND THEN THEY FALL IN LOVE, and it’s a novel about how they both navigate the gender constraints of Victorian society to try and find each other again; to try and create a space where they can be together. It’s every bit as tense and heartwarming as it sounds.
  10. Palimpsest – Catherynne Valente. This…is steampunk in almost no traditional sense. It’s quite obsessed with trains, and that’s the main reason why it’s here – or, rather, the main excuse for its being here. Really it’s here because its fictional city Palimpsest feels very Victorian: it’s symbolic and meaningful and layered in a way that modern cities in fiction rarely are. It carries a weight of meaning. Crucially, it’s also a queer city: a city where real things are queered, and a city that only the queer can really reach.

(The prompt for this post comes from the Broke and the Bookish’s recently retired meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Review: A Universal History of Iniquity

I suspect A Universal History of Iniquity was the wrong place to start with Borges, which is what happens when you pick up books on a random whim at the library. It was shelved under “Short Stories”; this was a lie. It’s actually a collection of short, pulpy biographical pieces about renowned criminals and con artists from history, including such colourful and varied individuals as Billy the Kid, Arthur Orton (the claimant in the Tichborne case) and female Chinese pirate captain Ching Shih.

They were first published in a newspaper called Critica, which seems to have been the 1930s Argentinian equivalent of The Sun. Which gives you a good idea of what these pieces are like, tonally.

Probably the most interesting thing about them is their truth-value, which, as you’d expect from a writer of Borges’ reputation, is very dubious. As translator Andrew Hurley helpfully explains, Borges plays merry hell with his sources, quoting them extensively in some passages without mentioning it, while fabricating direct quotes elsewhere. (Which is, come to think of it, not unlike the kind of journalism employed in The Sun. YES, I WENT THERE.)

I’m not sure, though, exactly what the point of this is. The pieces themselves feel slight, unstriking, forgettable, if reasonably nicely written; Borges describes them in an introduction as “baroque”,

that style that deliberately exhausts (or tries to exhaust) its own possibilities, and that borders on self-caricature…the final stage in all art, when art flaunts and squanders its resources.

I’d be interested in thinking with this quotation about Gothic texts like Gormenghast or House of Leaves, but I have no idea how to engage with it in the context of A Universal History of Iniquity. The pieces are too insubstantial to claim that they exhaust their own possibilities.

It’s possible that this is all an elaborate joke about the ephemerality of authorship, the flimsiness of authority, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’d enjoy that joke more if I’d actually read any of Borges’ major works. Which I will! A Universal History of Iniquity hasn’t put me off, but it hasn’t exactly whetted my curiosity either.

Top Ten Sequels I’d Like to Read

  1. The Obelisk Gate – N.K. Jemisin. This is on my TBR pile! I will read it soon! I promise! (Not least because The Fifth Season was one of my top 10 books of 2017 – seriously, if you haven’t read it, you should get on that soon.)
  2. Infidel – Kameron Hurley. I have been wanting to read this for ever (since I read God’s War, in fact), but it suffers severely from the First Law of Libraries, which is that if a library has the first book in the series it will never, ever have the second, and vice versa.
  3. Record of a Spaceborn Few – Becky Chambers. Apparently this is due out in July. I. AM. EXCITED.
  4. Changeless – Gail Carriger. This is the second Parasol Protectorate novel; the first, Soulless, is probably the best self-consciously steampunk novel I’ve read in terms of pure fun.
  5. Minority Council – Kate Griffin. My faith in the Matthew Swift series has been shaken a little, but it has not yet fallen! Plus, I have definitely seen it in my local library. It exists. I shall read it.
  6. The Black Lung Captain – Chris Wooding. Retribution Falls had its problems, but it was fun to read, and sometimes you do just need a world to curl up in.
  7. The Secret Commonwealth – Philip Pullman. This is the sequel to The Book of Dust; the title implies that it will focus on the more fantastical elements of that first novel, which were the bits I thought didn’t work so well, but we also get to meet grown-up Lyra, so it might be worth it.
  8. Raven Strategem – Yoon Ha Lee. There were things I liked about Ninefox Gambit – it was certainly different, and not afraid to plunge readers in at the deep end. I’d probably get the sequel from the library rather than buying it, though.
  9. The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home – Catherynne M. Valente. I have my doubts about this one: the later Fairyland books are all a little less magical than the rest of her work. But I have to read this at some point, just for the sake of completeness.
  10. The Long Cosmos – Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. I have to admit, I kind of lost interest in the Long Earth series: all the books essentially tell the same story. But at least this last Pratchett will almost certainly be better than the later Discworld novels.

(The prompt for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Ten Characters Who Should Have Their Own Novel

  1. November – Palimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente. November is admittedly one of the protagonists of Palimpsest, but there are also four of them, so we don’t get to spend that much time with her. I’d love to know more about her past, or even her future in Palimpsest.
  2. Balthamos – The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman. It could be called THE ADVENTURES OF A SARCASTIC GAY ANGEL. (Except it couldn’t, because that’s a terrible title.)
  3. Adora Belle Dearheart – Going Postal, Terry Pratchett. THE ADVENTURES OF A STEAMPUNK BUSINESSWOMAN WHO AIN’T TAKING YOUR SHIT.
  4. Innon – The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin. I couldn’t remember his name when I was brainstorming this list, so I called him “that bisexual pirate from The Fifth Season“. Which just about covers it all, really.
  5. Belladonna Took – The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien. Because there’s a point when Gandalf refers to her as “poor Belladonna”, and as far as I know nobody ever explains why. Also, The Hobbit uses the word “she” once. Once.
  6. Lieutenant Tisarwat – Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie. What’s it like being half-tyrant? Not really knowing who you are any more? Tisarwat is a fascinating character who deserves more screentime.
  7. Foaly – Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer. Foaly is hands-down the best supporting character in Colfer’s series: sarcastic and paranoid and clever and brave in his own way. How did he end up as LEPrecon’s version of Q?
  8. Catherine Harcourt – Temeraire, Naomi Novik. What’s it like being a woman in the Aviator Corps? Does she experience sexism from her fellow officers? Her crew? How does she feel about being completely and irrevocably cut off from genteel society? Does she want to get married? Did she always know she was going to be an aviator? SO MANY QUESTIONS.
  9. Mogget – Sabriel, Garth Nix. We know that Mogget gets up to all kinds of mischief between his appearances in the books. How does he manage that? And why? There’s also an opportunity here to explore the morality of enslaving Mogget: on the one hand he’s a highly dangerous Free Magic creature; on the other hand, he’s a sentient being, and definitely unhappy with his situation. The books don’t really go into this, but there could be a rich seam of storytelling here.
  10. Miranda Carroll – Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel. Miranda gets one of my favourite lines ever: “You don’t have to understand it. It’s mine.” I’d like to know more about the comic she’s writing about Station Eleven, about her marriage to Arthur Leander, about her life before the flu comes.

(The prompt for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

50-Word Review: Retribution Falls

Retribution Falls, Chris Wooding

Retribution Falls is a steam/dieselpunk romp with an ensemble cast of sky pirates. As many reviewers have noted, it’s not dissimilar to Firefly – except it’s less interested in undercutting our narrative expectations. Unsurprisingly, the women get short shrift here (TW for sexual violence), and the ending’s consolatory. Fun, though.

50-Word Review: Master and Commander

Master and Commander, Patrick O’Brian

Set during the Napoleonic Wars, Master and Commander follows hot-headed Captain Aubrey as he hunts enemy ships. A meticulously-researched comedy of manners, the novel’s interested in the social structures of the time. Published in 1969, it’s essentially conservative, centring a white man, but does feature a gay man and POCs.

Word count: 50

Top Ten Films

Have I really never done this post before? OK, then…

  1. Les Miserables, dir. Tom Hooper. This is the one with Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman and (mmm) Eddie Redmayne. The first time I saw it I was so wonderstruck I nearly walked in front of a taxi. The music is a cut above that of most musicals, the story is an acknowledged heart-breaker, and I will never see a better Marius than Eddie Remayne, though I admit he is not really a singer.
  2. The Return of the King, dir. Peter Jackson. This film has a gazillion endings, and they are all perfect, and then comes that most wonderful of songs, Annie Lennox’s “Into the West”. There are things Jackson gets wrong (*side-eyes Faramir’s truncated character arc), but in essence the film captures the heart of the books in a way that’s sadly rare for book-to-film adaptations.
  3. The Fellowship of the Ring, dir. Peter Jackson. You can see how this list is going to go down, can’t you? (Though the Hobbit films are an abomination against all that is good and holy.) I love the lightness of Fellowship, our introduction to hobbits who are still (relatively) carefree, the character dynamics of the Fellowship which we don’t see in later films. Fellowship is still an adventure. They’ve yet to slog through the battlefields of the second film in the trilogy…
  4. The Two Towers, dir. Peter Jackson. This is really only here for completeness’ sake: Towers is my least favourite book in the trilogy just as it’s my least favourite film of the three. Helm’s Deep bores me. Frodo and Sam walk through the same carbon-fibre set of rocks about a zillion times. Andy Serkis’ Gollum, though, is a masterpiece.
  5. Stardust, dir. Matthew Vaughn. Stardust is based on Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, so naturally it is secretly sexist. (It’s totally OK to kidnap an injured woman if she turns out to be your True Love.) But, oh, how delightfully fluffy this film is! Its Fairyland is wild and dangerous and strange but not too strange, and it’s full of everything you want to find in Fairyland: princes and witches and weird bloody necklaces and desperate horseback rides and magical markets and epic landscapes, unscrupulous merchants and captive princesses and sky pirates and Babylon candles. It’s funny and magical and I love it with all my fannish heart.
  6. The Matrix, dir. the Wachowski sisters. I like The Matrix because it is cool. That is all. I love the cyberpunk aesthetic. I think bullet time looks awesome. I like the way the hackers’ handles all have deeper meanings. The soundtrack is perfect. Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss both look very attractive in their badass cyberpunk outfits. And the film manages to pull off “and the World was Saved by Love” with style.
  7. Cloud Atlas, dir. the Wachowski sisters. Cloud Atlas was controversial among the critics, but I was already a fan of the novel, so I was halfway there. I came out of the cinema after watching Cloud Atlas feeling like I did when I finished the book: like I’d glimpsed some overarching structure to the universe, that there was some ambitious and elusive truth amid the disconnected flashes of experience that make up all our histories.
  8. The Social Network, dir. David Fincher. The Social Network is carried by Jesse Eisenberg, an astonishingly high-energy actor who specialises in making arseholes supremely watchable. Plus, the screenwriter is Aaron Sorkin, he of The West Wing, and the film zings with his swift, intelligent, witty dialogue.
  9. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, dir. Russell T. Davies. This is my favourite Shakespeare adaptation: gloriously camp and colourful, diverse and carnivalesque, a flash of bright left-wing hope against the thunderclouds of Trump and Brexit and irreversible climate change. I cried at the end, so defiantly triumphant was it.
  10. The Muppet Christmas Carol, dir. Brian Henson. YES, I am a grown English student and I still watch this every Christmas (much to the disgruntlement of my sister, who is naturally much cooler than I am). It’s so Christmassy and delightful! And is surprisingly faithful, in story and in spirit (no pun intended), to Dickens’ original.

(The prompt for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten Things on My Reading Wishlist

  1. More books by Marisha Pessl. I think I’m just in that kind of reading mood at the moment: I want twisty, Gothicky, sparky novels about people who think too much about things.
  2. More New Crobuzon novels. I just love China Mieville’s steampunky, politically fraught city: like all real cities, it’s hypnotic, oppressive, dirty and alive.
  3. A book about a supernatural detective in a real city. I appreciate this probably already exists, but I haven’t found it yet. I think the detective story is a great way of exploring a new world; and I’m fascinated by urban stories that channel the energies of the city.
  4. Space pirates. I think I actually want a novel about The Mechanisms. Because that would be awesome.
  5. A book set on a ship. Ships are just fascinating, aren’t they? Like little worlds of their own, warring against the elements. And ship crew dynamics tend to be really interesting too.
  6. A grown-up fairytale. Something perfectly formed and resonant and gorgeous like Catherynne Valente’s writing, and something a bit like The Hobbit too: “So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending.” Something that keeps Fairyland mysterious and strange and wonderful and dangerous.
  7. Decopunk. Like Valente’s Radiance: the rage and social revolution of steampunk combined with the aesthetics of the 1920s.
  8. Books about unconventional relationships. Because I think it’s important to tell stories that resist our cultural norms and create new paradigms; because our relationship norms are based so much in old-fashioned misogyny and power imbalances.
  9. More books about science and society. What I loved about Greg Egan’s The Clockwork Rocket was that science and culture aren’t opposed, they’re inextricably intertwined. That’s how science works, or how it should work, anyway: it’s important that we remember that science isn’t some obscure process carried out by people in white rooms, it’s something that affects all of our lives, all the time.
  10. Steampunk books! I’m building up a collection of steampunk coffee-table books, basically, for writing inspiration and just because I like looking at the pictures.

(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)