Reading more women authors

In 2014 I am actively seeking out more queer, trans*, disabled, indigenous, mixed race, and women of colour authors, and shying away from my favored genre of SFF.

This is not actually something I need help with, in the most general of terms. I tend to read women authors by default, and often have to work to seek out male authors.

I consider myself lucky — in this one, small way, my brain has escaped patriarchal programming.

Well, perhaps. I think I still read a disproportionate amount of cisgender, white, able-bodied, women authors, and I often only read the speculative fiction/SFF genres. My defaulting to women authors still does not yield much diversity in what I read.

So I am taking a page from Lilit Marcus’ book, here in 2014, and actively seeking out more women authors — but more specifically, queer and trans* women (including genderqueer folk who are socially classed as women/assumed to be women), women of colour, indigenous women, mixed race women, and women with disabilities. Also, I’m going to attempt to branch away from SFF and read other genres.

I won’t be reading women exclusively — as I said, I already default to reading women authors, so I actually have to actively seek out male authors most of the time. However, if I read a book by a man, I will then read 2 by women.

And I’m not sure how many books I’ll get read. I don’t do much reading these days; I think university killed my joy in it. But I will try; I will work very hard to read several books this year, and to seek out different types of books by more queer, trans*, indigenous, mixed race, WOC, and disabled [women] authors.

Are you participating in #readwomen2014?

(Worth noting: the hashtag was created by Joanna Walsh, and most of the credit for the idea is given to her — but Lilit Marcus deserves credit for the idea, and I’m giving her her due.)

And if you have any recommendations for books by queer, trans*, indigenous, mixed race, disabled, and/or women of colour authors that are not SFF, please let me know in the comments!

 

Thomas King, Vancouver Poetry Slam, and my health

The past four or five days have been interesting. I had an adverse reaction to some belladonna applied topically on Thursday night, and since then the ache in my left shoulder has intensified to the point of my arm being pretty much out of commission. Advil helps, but there’s still pain. I plan on seeing a doctor this week — I may have wrenched the shoulder out of alignment during Galactica’s bid to murder me.

Despite all this sturm und drang surrounding my physical health, I’m alive, and was feeling well enough on Monday to leave the house for an opportunity to see Thomas King speak.

If you don’t know who Thomas King is, then get the fuck out you are missing out on part of life.

Seriously, though, Thomas King is brilliant, and funny, and an amazing writer, and incredibly patient with babbling star-struck First Nations Studies graduates.

Continue reading “Thomas King, Vancouver Poetry Slam, and my health”

A Brief Wondrous Talk from Junot Diaz

Slight trigger warning: mention of rape, colonialism

Wednesday night my volunteer shift was during Junot Diaz‘s reading and Q&A session (followed by signing). I’d never heard of him before then — apparently a lot of Canada hasn’t, even though he’s fairly well known in the States. For me, I think it’s just because I tend to know authors within a certain genre — speculative fiction — and I don’t really pay attention to what’s called ‘mainstream’ fiction.

But I fell in love with him during his talk.

He talked about how science fiction and comic books are the genres he read, because things that were unrealistic were the only way to explain his life as a Dominican immigrant living in New Jersey. How the life of oppressed people is spoken to not through ‘mainstream’ fiction, but through the fantastic, the strange, because when you live with society’s great boot on your neck life doesn’t add up according to the master narrative. His book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has a quote from The Fantastic Four on the epigraph page.

He talked about white privilege and said ‘motherfucker’ so many times I lost count. He talked about how he’s fascinated with how we privilege masculinity and the invisible power that goes with growing up a man, yet how that gets diluted if you’re not masculine enough; he talked about the history of colonialism and rape within the Caribbean — how do you form loving intimate relationships when your ancestral line was raped into existence? — and how the “exoticism” and “unbridled sexuality” of Caribbean and African-American women as viewed by mainstream society is directly linked to that. How do you admit centuries of rape and conquest without actually admitting it? Well, just say they’re naturally very sexual people. (See: the sexualizing of Native Women.)

I was writing down some of the things he said because they were so true, I wanted to get as exact quotes as I could. (I’m not a fast writer, however, so some errors will occur.)

On his political views and how they blend into his work:

Anyone who’s a reader knows no book is not a political act.

On the exclusivity of literature:

The biggest strength of any work is its stupendous particularity.

On the difference between religious works and literary ones:

The Bible and the Koran make universal claims that freeze people out. Literature, in its stupendous particularity, invites […] people in.

He spoke about how, as writers, we must work hard at the parts we’re really shit at — which is why he wrote a story entirely in second-person viewpoint. He says it took him 11 years to write his first book and 16 to write his second, and that’s because writing is really difficult for him — and that there needs to be space for people for whom things that they’re good at take a long time. We have this idea that if someone is good at something, it should come quickly and easily to them — but that’s not always true.

I got to meet him afterwards, when I went to get his book [that I’d picked up as soon as the reading was over] signed. He was incredibly sweet; he gave me a hug and a kiss on each cheek, and was totally unassuming. I told him I’d never heard of him before that night — “It’s ok, sweetie, no one has” — but that I loved him already — “Aw, thank you.” He thanked me personally for volunteering, and he’d said thank you to all the volunteers during his talk.

I’m now the very proud owner of a copy of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, signed to me.

I’m glad I got to see him speak, because he confirmed what I’d thought for a while: you can still be a successful writer and be political on your social media accounts, your blog, in public. We get told, as indie authors, to leave politics and religion out of it, that it has nothing to do with our books.

My book is about political turmoil and revolution. It’s about warring goddesses and the mortal chess pieces they move across the board. It’s a feminist writing experiment with using female-centric language in a matriarchal society.  How can religion and politics not have anything to do with my book? And if writing about politics on my blog or my Facebook or my Twitter turns people off from me as an author, then that’s their loss. I do not apologize.

My politics are an intrinsic part of who I am, and you will find just as many posts about them here as you will find posts about what I ate for breakfast or my hilarious conversations with my boyfriend. You will find fewer posts about my religion, because I have an entire blog for that elsewhere — but I will never shy away from admitting that yes, I am a deeply religious person, and no, that’s not incompatible with paganism, nor is it incompatible with supporting science or rational thought or evolution or anything else that tends to get held up as mutually exclusive with religion. And my religion does deeply inform my writing, so no — I will not hide it. Not here.

Junot Diaz reminded me that what’s important to me is never not relevant to my writing career. He re-sparked my desire to be political on this blog and my social media accounts. He helped me remember why I write in the first place: because a book can change the world, one person at a time.

Blog Tour: Gabriel Fitzpatrick’s “These Days” Post

Today I’m hosting Gabriel Fitzpatrick, one of the Literary+ writers, on a blog tour for his new book Rmnce!

These Days

‘These days’ was the first expression which ever came to turn my stomach. Never before the moment
when I first came into the full realization of its implications can I recall feeling disgusted by a linguistic
concept. Since then a few others have crept in, but that one has always stood above all as a foreboding
bastion of ignorance, arrogance, and conceit.

You see, these days and other expressions like it are used, almost exclusively, to draw a spurious
distinction between past and present, usually to the great deteriment of the latter. It is a phrase which
is characterized by the cherry-picking of half-baked facts, the use of unapologetically fallacious logic
to support conclusions drawn in advance, and above all else by an emotional approach to reality not
grounded in the concrete.

In short, these days requires something which is not true: It requires that human experience, being a
function of human nature, must change fundamentally over time. I have, in some ways, made it my
life’s work to combat these days, having written a string of stories demonstrating the universality of
human experience across not just time but also space and culture, and yet when one writes something
like a “Romance for the Digital Age” the question one is expected to answer is, “what’s going on these
days?”

Continue reading “Blog Tour: Gabriel Fitzpatrick’s “These Days” Post”

Fiction Friday Reads: Aristeia: A Little Rebellion, by Wayne Basta

For Fiction Friday Reads I talk a bit about the Aristeia series by Wayne Basta. Revolution, rebellion, military sci-fi, and the Bechdel test.

Some of you may remember I hosted Wayne Basta several months ago for his blog tour in honor of the release of the second book in the Aristeia series. I bought Kindle copies of both Revolutionary Right and A Little Rebellion back then, and then I also won the contest he was holding and I got a hardcover, signed copy of each book delivered to my door (along with two other hardcover books from his publisher, Grey Gecko PressA Fancy Dinner Party, edited by Hilary Comfort, and The Dying of the Light: End by Jason Kristopher).

I started reading the first Aristeia book, Revolutionary Right, on July 1st, but I didn’t finish it till September 11. This isn’t a reflection on Basta’s writing; it’s a reflection on my very slow reading rate. I’m terrible at finishing books quickly. Especially when I’m moving.

I thoroughly enjoyed Revolutionary Right and dove right into the next one, A Little Rebellion. Life has unfortunately been ridiculously busy this month (I’ve spent all of six nights in my new place), so I haven’t had much time to sit down and read. I’ve been reading the Kindle edition while traveling on the ferries, if I haven’t been napping in my car, and when I’m home I read the hardcopy.

Mild spoilers ahead.

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Guest Post from Len Barry: Themes Hidden and Visible

Today, as part of the Literary+ Initiative, I’m hosting Len Barry on his blog tour in honor of the release of his book, Vitamin F! Be sure to check out the links for the book at the end of the post.

About the Literary+ Initiative: Literary+ is a writer based project brought together and lead by Shen Hart. It brings together passionate, quality self-published writers to help each other promote their work, bringing more readers to every member. It was sparked by the simple fact that there are many top quality self-published authors being over-looked because they do not have the time and resources to efficiently and effectively market and promote themselves. With ambition and passion, Literary+ will take its members to the heights they deserve through a tight-knit community of like-minded writers.

Next week, back to your regularly scheduled Katje.

Themes Hidden and Visible

Years ago, I was talking with a close friend about the ideas that writers put themes in their writing. My friend said that there are themes in every piece of writing, even if the author wasn’t consciously aware of them.

Luckily, I figured out the themes of Vitamin F some time ago. The major elements are the social forces that drove me to come up with the story in the first place.

The first of these elements is Acceptance.

Continue reading “Guest Post from Len Barry: Themes Hidden and Visible”

Blog Tour: An interview with Aristeia author Wayne Basta!

Wayne Basta

Today I’ll be interviewing Wayne Basta, author of Aristeia: Revolutionary Right and Aristeia: A Little Rebellion, which just got released on June 1st. Wayne is on a blog tour in honor of his latest novel release and Gossip Diet is one of his stops. I’m excited about this, and I hope you are too.

Has someone been instrumental in inspiring you as a writer?

Inspiring me as a writer? Aside from the writer of every good book I’ve read not really. There are a lot of people who have instrumental in me becoming a writer. First, my Dad for introducing me to science fiction. And then my wife for backing me in this endeavour despite the loss of one income. There’s also many people on the internet, particularly some webcomics, who took that plunge to pursue their dream careers.

If you could select one book that you could rewrite and add your own unique twist on, which book would that be and why?

None. Any book I’ve liked there’s nothing about them that I would change. They may have some flaws, but everything does. If I were to mess with them, I know I’d ultimately ruin their greatness. There are plenty of books I haven’t liked that could stand to be rewritten, but if I didn’t like a book I tend to forget about it.  

Now, there are quite a few movies and tv shows I’d love to redo.

Do you have any special routines or rituals?

Depends on what you mean by special :-). For my writing, I don’t like big outlines, they just don’t work for me. The story needs to be able to evolve naturally. But I do find it helpful to do a daily outline for what I’m going to write during a particular day.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

I’ve watched, and enjoyed the entire series of the Sopranos but I’ve never seen the Godfather.

Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go?

Caribbean.  One idea for my next series is a fantasy pirate adventure. So naturally I would need to visit a lot of tropical beaches. For research.

Does your significant other read your stuff?

Sometimes. She read my first novel and critiqued it. But when I was ready for her to read the second one she was 8 months pregnant and a little distracted.

Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?

Depends on my mood and the scene I’m working on. Sometimes I just want some good classic rock or some 80’s/90’s music that I grew up with in the back ground, other times I want a good exciting film score to help move an action scene along. But I often write in silence to help myself stay focused.

What are the most important attributes for remaining sane as a writer?

Accept the fact that you’re going to have to throw a lot of your work away. It can be tough to do, especially if it’s something you’ve put a lot of time and effort in. But if it’s not working, it’s not working and sometimes the only way to fix it is to start from scratch.

 About Aristeia: A Little Rebellion

Unlike her brother, Saracasi Ocaitchi has always known that her loyalties belong to the ideals of freedom and democracy, not the government of the Alliance, and that protecting those ideals would require a fight. But now that the rebellion she has dreamed about has finally begun, she must come to terms with what that truly means: for herself, for her brother, and for all of the people who will die in the coming war.

Purchase Aristeia

Aristeia: Revolutionary Right: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Aristeia: A Little Rebellion: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

New treasures can be found everyday if you’re willing to take the time to look

As you may or may not know, I am always on the lookout for other writers of fantasy, especially of either the feminist or woman-identified variety (or both).

When I was voting on NPR Book’s Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Titles (which is a flawed list but that’s beside the point), I saw “The Inheritance Trilogy” by an N. K. Jemisin.

Now, the only Inheritance anything I’d ever heard of was that abomination by Paolini, so I was intrigued enough to do a Google search. I found her blog almost immediately, and after reading through a few posts and the first chapter of her book, my vote was sold.

Nora’s writing is so incredible I have to wonder why I’ve never heard of her till now. I hope it’s only her relative newness that’s caused this — she definitely deserves to be talked about well and often.

If you’re so inclined, I recommend taking a look at the first few chapters of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I have, and I’ll be searching for it at the library when I next have a chance.

Incredible and exciting and wonderful and thrilling

My mom got two free tickets to go see Ursula K. Le Guin present at the Vancouver Writers’ Festival. She’s taking me. It’s on Saturday.

On Saturday, I get to see one of the premiere female fantasy writers present. I get to see Ursula K. Le Guin — one of my favorite authors — in person.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Katje van Loon has officially said SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

And will say it again.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Ursula K. Le Guin! Oh my Gods!

-Katje