Tag Archives: geekery

Reading Recap: 2017

blog-Kindred-coverHere I am to return this blog to its non-marketing roots! My most popular posts are the ones where I geek out about books and movies, with occasional appearances by travel posts. Luckily for you, that’s exactly what I have planned. To kick things off, here’s Part 1 of my annual reading recap (read my 2016 reading recap).

I read 21 books last year, one more than the previous year. That’s a little lower than past years, but it seems to be my new normal.

Genre breakdown is as follows:

  • 6 adult fantasy (same as the last 3 years!)
  • 4 adult SF (same as last year)
  • 3 unclassifiable/other adult speculative fiction* (2 last year)
  • 2 YA fantasy (same as last year)
  • 1 YA SF (same as last year)
  • 2 non-SFF adult fiction (same as last year)
  • 2 non-fiction (1 last year)
  • 1 anthology (same as last year)

Ever Touched final cover 3-30-17* This includes genre mashups like Justin Cronin’s The Twelve (near-future vampire apocalypse) and Erin Zarro’s Ever Touched (futuristic world with fey), as well as stories where something inexplicable happens but it’s not clearly treated as either SF or fantasy, like Octavia Butler’s Kindred. I usually put magic realism and other literary stories into this category as well.

13 of the books were parts of series – about three-quarters of my genre reading. In last year’s post, I declared my intention to focus on series I was already in the middle of. That had middling success – I started 7 new series. (Some of them I won’t be continuing.) I didn’t actually finish any series, but I read 4 middle books of series with defined ends (trilogies or tetralogies). So 2018 will be the year of finishing. …And starting more new series, because who am I kidding?

Author Breakdown

14 of 20 books were by women (the 21st was an anthology), a slightly higher ratio than my reading in most years. I attribute that to the political climate.

blog-Profession-of-Hope-Butler4 of the authors were people of colour, one more than last year – Tobias Buckell (Crystal Rain), Jenna Butler (A Profession of Hope: Farming on the Edge of the Grizzly Trail), Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner) and Octavia Butler (Kindred).

Only 2 of the books were by fellow Canadians. That wasn’t a metric I was particularly paying attention to this past year.

6 of the books had strong LGBTQIA+ representation – my new metric to track.

11 of the authors were new to me, same as last year. I love discovering new favourites, but it does explain why I’m not getting through the backlists of authors I already know and love! This year will require more Lois McMaster Bujold, Naomi Novik, and Elizabeth Bear.

Publishing Years and Formats

Of the 21 books I read, only 7 were published in the last 5 years (and 17 were published in the last 15 years). That’s slightly better than last year (5 and 11 respectively), but still not good for a writer like me, who needs to keep up with the market. I’m pretty good at hearing about new books, but not so good at reading them in a timely fashion!

blog-Twelve-Cronin15/21 were ebooks, or 71% – the highest ratio of ebooks to paper books ever (I’ve had a Kobo ereader since 2012).

This is for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest is that a lot of books in my genre are no longer coming out in mass market paperback size, and I find the larger sizes uncomfortable to hold, especially since I do a lot of my reading on public transit, when I may be standing up. I have started buying the occasional trade paperback (mainly in an effort to support my local indie SFF bookstore, Bakka-Phoenix Books), but only the lighter ones – anything that’s bigger or heavier gets bought as an ebook. I’m looking at you, Cixin Liu’s and Justin Cronin’s publishers!

 

If you can’t get enough of book stats geekery, check out 2017 Books in Review by my City of Hope and Ruin co-author (and fellow Turtleduck Press author), Kit Campbell. And stay tuned for Part 2, wherein I discuss my favourite reads from 2017…

 

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Chappie: Gender Influences At Play

blog-Chappie-Movie-PosterThis weekend I saw two films about the performance of masculinity, coming-of-age stories about struggling with machismo, as well as surrogate fatherhood and flawed role models.

One was the critically acclaimed, multi-award-winning Moonlight.

The other was the critically panned Chappie, Neill Blomkamp’s answer to Robocop.

I don’t feel qualified to talk about Moonlight (though there’s a great discussion here: “Masculinity and ‘Moonlight’: Eight black men dissect Barry Jenkins’ momentous film”), and besides, this blog is mostly about science fiction and fantasy. So I’ll just say that the accidental juxtaposition of the two films gave me a different lens for Chappie, and one that I think improved the viewing.

In Chappie, an escaped police robot is taught how to behave, how to think, how to be by two very different influences: the cultured but amoral engineer Deon and the countercultural trio Ninja, Yolandi, and Amerika. (I’d call them punks, but the Internet tells me they’re “Zefs”, the South African equivalent.)

A good chunk of the film revolves around Chappie’s education: Deon brings him paints and books, going for a well-rounded education of the mind, while Ninja teaches him how to swagger, swear, and shoot (and Yolandi provides an unconventional yet feminine, nurturing touch). Chappie veers into feminine pastimes and Ninja tries to “man him up”. Simplistic and played for laughs? Yes, but also poignant, as Chappie tries to navigate these competing influences, please everyone who matters to him, and understand what makes a man.

Deon’s rival at work, Vincent, is yet another representation of masculinity: an ex-soldier full of repressed rage, trying to get approval for his military-grade killer robot, whose ambitions are being held down by his female boss (the fabulous Sigourney Weaver–capable but sadly underused in the role). Deon, slim, bespectacled, and feminized or perhaps asexualized, is everything that Vincent hates.

Chappie’s level of success at integrating these influences determines the outcome of the film…but I won’t spoil it.

If you’re looking for an accurate and nuanced depiction of AI learning, you won’t find it here, but as a more metaphorical exploration of what it means to be a man, Chappie is worth seeing.

 

 

Convention Report: FanExpo 2014

Fair warning: I’ll start with some explanations, but I can’t explain every reference. This post will get geekier as it goes on…

What Is FanExpo?

Yes, that's a person in the Stormtrooper suit. Photo by Louise Kiner.

Yes, that’s a person in the Stormtrooper suit. Photo by Louise Kiner.

Labo(u)r Day weekend saw Toronto’s biggest fan convention — FanExpo. It’s a comic-con for people who like comics, anime, gaming, anything to do with science fiction and fantasy and horror (mostly TV and movies), and related activities such as steampunk and LARPing. Actors show up and sign autographs and do photo ops. (This year’s celebrity guests included Elijah Wood, several actors from Doctor Who, William Shatner, and Patrick Stewart.) Hundreds of thousands of people flood the convention centre. It’s crazy and geeky and overwhelming and exciting all at once.

This year I didn’t go to any of the panels or Q&As. My geekery tends to revolve around books, and although I do watch genre movies and TV, I’m not terribly interested in seeing the actors involved. (I tend to be disappointed when they’re less articulate than their characters — probably the fault of the sharp dialogue that’s in vogue these days. Plus you have to pay extra for autographs and photo ops, and it’s not cheap.) However…

The Cosplay

Star Wars cosplayers

Star Wars cosplayers. Photo by me.

One of the biggest parts of FanExpo is cosplay — people dressing up as their favourite characters. Part of the fun is watching the effort that people put into their costumes, either replicating the originals with as much attention to detail as they possibly can, or putting a twist on them (like genderswapping). For more on cosplay, see Kit Campbell’s Introductory Guide to Cosplay and my own post from last year’s FanExpo.

Many years ago, I used to cosplay as Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I haven’t done it in a long time. But this year, my two partners in FanExpo crime decided to dress up as two of the Doctors from Doctor Who. So I pulled together a last-minute Amy Pond costume (based on this outfit).

Me, Ninth Doctor, and Fifth Doctor. Photo by a kind Doctor Who Society of Canada volunteer.

Me (left) and my partners in crime, Ninth Doctor (kneeling) and Fifth Doctor. (Why yes, that is celery in his lapel.) Photo by a kind Doctor Who Society of Canada volunteer.

It wasn’t a total success — for one thing, my hair isn’t red enough to be noticeable anymore — but it was fun. I don’t think I’m going to be hooked into cosplaying again (I have too many hobbies already) but I did enjoy taking pictures with — and of — all the Doctor Who paraphernalia and the other Whovian cosplayers.

(And then I bought a T-shirt with some Game of Thrones snark, but I digress.)

Even more fun was drooling at all the other cosplay. I saw:

  • lots and lots of Doctors (mostly Eleven since Matt Smith was there — saw an excellent Ten and several Nines, and one of my companions went as Five, but no Twelves), Amy Ponds, and River Songs
  • also lots and lots of anime cosplay that went over my head (since that’s not my preferred style of geekery), and video game cosplay ditto
  • a fair number of superheroes and other comics characters, though fewer than last year (I guess because it’s been a few years since the last really major superhero movie)
  • lots of Stormtroopers (but not much else from Star Wars)
  • several great steampunk outfits
  • genderswapped Mal Reynolds and several Jayne hats (but not much else from Firefly)
  • one Ms. Marvel / Kamala Khan in hijab — didn’t get a picture, but more power to you, lady!

(Warning: more large photos after the jump.)

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Blogiversary the Second

This week marks the second anniversary of this blog. I know, I know, I’m a toddler in the world of blogging, but I’m still excited. So here are some things I’ve learned from being a toddler:

Blogging regularly is good discipline. I’ve managed a regular schedule for pretty much two years now. Given how my fiction writing schedule goes (or doesn’t), that’s not peanuts.

I can’t think short. Blogging is time-consuming, and depending on who you listen to, it might be time better spent working on fiction. I’ve tried to write shorter posts to decrease the time commitment while maintaining the same schedule, and it just doesn’t work. I think long, and that’s all there is to it.

Comments make all the difference. Blogging can sometimes feel like shouting into the ether. It’s a relief when someone steps up to say “Hey, I hear you!” — either in so many words, or with a simple “like”. Thank you all for being here!

This blog is all over the place. Travel blog? Geekery, feminism, and the intersection of the two? Personal journey and mental health? Writing? Yes! (And more.) It may not be the best for platform or building a coherent audience, but it does keep me entertained.

Just to reinforce that last point, here are the ten most popular posts from the last two years:

10. Book Nostalgia: Trixie Belden. Trixie was one of my favourite characters growing up, but I worried when I wrote this post that she would be too niche to garner any interest. Guess I was wrong!

9. Into the Jungle at Taman Negara. A travel post about Malaysia. In this case, I think the popularity stems from the relative lack of other posts on the topic…but I hope the enthusiasm of the writing (it was my first time in a jungle!) and photography encourage readers to look around a bit while they’re here.

8. If You Liked…A Game of Thrones. TV series + bestselling fantasy author + algorithm from online retail giant = win! But more than that, I put a lot of thought into not just “if you liked…” but “if you liked X aspect of…”, and I think it shows. I’ve also done “If You Liked…Temeraire.”

7. Book Nostalgia: The Time Quartet by Madeleine L’Engle. Here’s another “book nostalgia” post about a series that was one of my very favourites growing up.

6. Book Nostalgia: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. And another one! I haven’t done any Nostalgia posts lately because I haven’t been rereading, and it’s difficult to blog coherently about books I haven’t read in years. But their popularity has me thinking maybe I should revisit the topic….

5. Pacific Rim Analysis: Is Mako a Strong Female Character? Like I said, feminism and geekery are topics that fascinate me, and clearly I’m far from the only one. This is the most recent post on the Top 10 list, from August 2013.

4. Exploring the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. This is my only other travel post to have hit the Top 10 so far (though “Guide to Train Travel in India” is sitting at #11), which is funny because I feel like the travel posts are often my strongest. If you liked this one and/or #9, have a peek at some of the others!

3. Defining Steampunk. Clearly a lot of people are not sure what steampunk is all about. Or at least, they weren’t when this was written two years ago — it doesn’t get a lot of hits these days. Regardless, I love steampunk, so I’m happy to be a resource. (I’ve written more about it here.)

2. Book vs. Movie: The Hunger Games. Again, super-popular film and super-popular book made for a lot of hits…which made me happy because I really enjoyed unleashing my (not-so-inner) geek to write this. I wrote one for Catching Fire too, but for whatever reason, not as many people are Googling that.

And the number one blog post, with over twice as many hits as #2…

1. 7 Writing Lessons from George R.R. Martin. To be fair, this one gets a fair number of false positives — hits from people looking for writing advice from GRRM, or writing lessons given by GRRM. Be that as it may, I’m still pretty proud of how it turned out.

The first two years have been a journey for sure. Hope you’ll join me as we enter the Terrible Twos and beyond!

Your turn! If you track your blog stats, what have you learned from them? Or do you deliberately avoid looking at them?

Convention Report: Fan Expo 2013

A model of an AT-AT from Star Wars. Photo by Louise Kiner.

A model of an AT-AT from Star Wars. Photo by Louise Kiner.

This weekend I took in my second Fan Expo — for those of you not in Toronto, think a smaller version of San Diego Comic-Con.

(If you’re still confused, there’s a primer here. Short version: it’s a convention for science fiction fans, with a lot of TV and film actors doing talks and signing autographs. And so much more than that — read on…)

I went only on Sunday, so I missed the biggest day (Saturday) but also got to skip the worst of the crowds, and there was still plenty to see.

(Warning: lots more photos behind the jump!)

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Convention Report: Fan Expo 2012

Usually Mondays on this blog are devoted to books, sometimes movies. But in my head, the theme is “Media Mondays”, so today I’m going to write about something media-related that hasn’t been featured on this blog before.

You Must Be Over 18

Photo by Louise K. (link at bottom of post)

I’m talking about a con — a science fiction/fantasy convention.

First, a brief primer on cons. There are two main types. The first is literature-oriented, focusing on books and book-related discussions. Guests tend to be authors and editors. The second is all about visual media — movies, TV, comics, anime/manga, gaming. Guests tend to be TV stars and comic book artists. This is the kind of con where people dress up in costume (cosplay). It’s much larger than the first kind.

I’ve been to both kinds over the years. The con I’m writing about today is of the second type — Fan Expo, an annual convention held in Toronto.

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Friday Link: Who Gets to Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants to Be

Who gets to claim the term “geek” (or “nerd”, depending on your definition)? Am I geeky enough? If I don’t watch anime or read comics/manga or do any kind of gaming or know much about computers or keep up with the latest SF/F TV shows (all true of me), am I still a geek?

Being an individual with a strong dose of self-criticism, I’ve sometimes asked myself these questions. So I was thrilled to read this piece by writer (and SFWA president) John Scalzi:

Geekdom is a nation with open borders. There are many affiliations and many doors into it. There are lit geeks, media geeks, comics geeks, anime and manga geeks. There are LARPers, cosplayers, furries, filkers, crafters, gamers and tabletoppers. There are goths and horror geeks and steampunkers and academics. There are nerd rockers and writers and artists and actors and fans. Some people love only one thing. Some people flit between fandoms. Some people are positively poly in their geek enthusiasms. Some people have been in geekdom since before they knew they were geeks. Some people are n00bs, trying out an aspect of geekdom to see if it fits. If it does, great. If it doesn’t then at least they tried it.

He’s writing in the context of criticizing another blog piece, which focuses on pretty girls coming into a con and parading around in outfits featuring characters they’re not familiar with. Or something. But the quotation above, and the rest of what he says in that vein, is the part that really resonates with me.

Go read the rest. You won’t regret it. (Unless you’re unusually sensitive to snark, and even then, bear with him, because it’s worth it. His posts where he’s arguing about something are so well constructed, they’re things of beauty.)

That’s it for this week. See you on Monday!