Tripping Over Gender in Ancillary Justice

I’m just starting in on Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. And, for those of you who don’t know… the main character used to be a troop carrier. (Not exactly a spoiler. That’s the beginning of Chapter 2.) And as a troop carrier, she refers to everybody as “she.” Everybody. Male and female alike. Which does kinda make sense… after all, ships are pretty much referred to as she. (Although I’m not sure how that works with a ship with a male name. You know… the Jeremiah O’Brien… she…)

A fairly good chunk of the first chapter is her–the troop carrier–debating whether people are male or female, and considering the implications of guessing wrong. (Her first language does not mark gender.) And how, exactly does a troop carrier figure out if humans are male or female? Yeah. Not easy.

And she spends a lot of time referring to the wounded (male) soldier she finds as “she.”

Let’s be quite honest, and say that I like her “remembering life as a troop carrier” voice a lot better at this point. It’s easier.

But that’s not really the point.

I could play with pronouns a long time before I got bored, but in some weird way–maybe because you’re just dropped into the middle of it–it’s a little confusing at this point in this book.

The change to pronouns that I’d make? Well, shoot. There are just so many options.

I could actually see one set of pronouns for people the speaker is sexually interested in, or whose gender makes a difference in some way. (Your surrogate is she, for instance.)

And a different set–or for that matter a different pronoun, singular–for people where gender does not matter to the speaker.

A lot of clarity in relationships, if your boyfriend is he, but your English teacher (technically male) or your gymnastics coach (technically female) are both just “os”–people whose gender is none of your business. And that guy you’re just not interested in? Os, os, os…

Clearly, there’d be a level of formality involved… That “os” is vous, and “he” is tu.

But I could see teenagers stressing out over whether their love interest would freak out over gendered address, or parents figuring out something was wrong, when they switch back to non-gendered.

Obviously, these are not real-world examples, or at least, they are not the current issue with real world pronoun issues. They both have more to do with the way the speaker perceives the other person’s gender (and its impact on their life) than with how the person they’re talking about wants to be perceived.

Which is, of course, also a marker of the society’s values. Who gets to choose? Who decides whether that guy is tu or vous? (I believe the story I heard in high school was that the girl is the person who can informalize the relationship, and as a lazy person, I always choose formal, because I can keep the verbs the same. Also, you get a higher quality of trouble by choosing a greater social distance.)

I might play with that in a short story, sometime.

Marching Down the List

I finished American Gods, and that brings my total count of Hugo and Nebula winning books to four(17% of the list!). I also managed to do it before any spoilers from the TV show found me. This one gets added bonus points for mentioning places that I have actually been. I’m not going to go all out and say I worship roadside attractions, but you can stretch your legs, and many of them have clean restrooms.

Yup. Been There.

So, this is one of those incredibly rare, wildly-popular, made into a television series books that is actually as good as 40 million screaming fans think it is.

And I’m kinda fascinated by the structure, which is sorta… well, novel that starts and stops for a few short stories along the way. Similar to Sandman. No pictures.

No, I have no idea why I didn’t read it when it first came out.

And if you haven’t already, you should read it, now.

If you have read it, and if you have seen the television show… what do you think of both or either?

 

Revising While Reading

I just printed out the next chapter for my revision.

It is forty pages long, and in at least three different viewpoints. And the actual purpose of the scene didn’t come to me until well and truly after it was written. (They? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just one scene when I started.)

I’m going to read through it–pen in hand–and decide whether it’s worth revising  any of it, or if I should just sit down and re-write it.

Did I mention I’m reading American Gods while I do this? Because, well, when you’re playing search-and-destroy with your own shortcomings, stupidities, and holy-shit-where’s-the-rest-of-this-es, you should definitely be doing so in the shadow of giants.

Well, you can’t help but compare.

My book is down in every category, including penis descriptions. ONE to kinda lost track along the way.

What I should be doing is something like this: The day he was scheduled for execution was gray and overcast, and also his penis was in an indecisive state of half-rigidity. OR The birds were singing before he woke on Tuesday, and not being content with an exuberant erection, his penis had also decided to wear a festive hat.

Yes, I’ve really lost track. And yes, I really am comparing.

This may actually be why I stopped reading American Gods the last time: Tendency to compare my pile of gray Legos to someone else’s fully constructed death star.

I’ll be finished reading in a couple of days, and then I can go back to objectively nitpicking.

Refrigerators, Packages, and Books.

Today has been a day of deliveries. The refrigerator arrived, all dark and shiny, and is now in place and–deep sigh of relief–I now have ice again. Ice, people!  Let the replacement of food commence!

I also wound up with an assortment of packages I had ordered, and I now have clothing of a non-holey variety, and a very, very skinny postman, who has apparently been here twice in one day. (I’m still waiting on one more, which may mean that he’ll vanish entirely on the next trip through.) (Technically, it may be a post-woman. I haven’t been home at mail time recently enough to know.)

Today is also the day that Tor sends out the announcement of its Book Club book of the month (Free books for people who subscribe to their mailing list.) So, I wound up with a copy of Kushiel’s Dart. It’s the first book in the series, and I’ll forewarn you… Tor is taking a page from less-savory drug dealers everywhere: The first one’s free, the next one’s gonna cost you. The book club selections tend to be the first book in a very addictive series.

Note to self: Write a very addictive series.

As it happens, I’m just about to finish up my last addictive series (one book left!) so I’ll be looking for a new distraction to keep me from reading the books on my list of Hugo AND Nebula winners. I think the priority there is probably finishing American Gods before information starts oozing out of the TV show and into my head. I don’t know why I never finished it, before. I suppose life happened.

Also, I’m a little over-teenager-ed with Dune, although I might have loved it if I read it when I was fifteen. Or I might start loving it at some point in the future.

There’s also a paperback of Ringworld floating around somewhere. I figured I’d better get out there and buy it right after I narrowly escaped buying an e-graphic novel based off the original, so I won’t wind up getting the wrong thing in the end.

Sorry, That Bookstore’s Not for Me; They’re Selling ARCs

So, there’s good news and bad news from a town nearish me.

The good news is–and I found this out via one of those 50 whatevers in 50 states lists on the internet–that there’s a new bookstore.

The bad news is… I couldn’t go in. I can’t go in. I won’t go in. I certainly can’t actually… spend money there.

They’re selling ARCs.

For those of you who don’t know–and maybe that’s a pretty small crowd around here–an Advance Review Copy is a copy of a book sent out before publication to reviewers and booksellers to get the buzz going. You’re likely to see them as prizes on the internet, where they get thousands of people to sign up for a drawing for three books. That kind of thing.

The whole point is to get it into the hands of people who make recommendations, and into the public consciousness.

The Author does not get paid for that copy of the book.

And I happen to believe that the author–you know, the human who’s maybe going to make the next book–should get paid. The more I like the book, the more I think the author should get paid, which is why you’ll occasionally find me bouncing up and down on your chest asking whether you bought my favorite book, yet.

So, when I got to the bookstore (note the lowercase, there.) I found a sign out front that said “We DON’T think Authors should Get Paid.”

“We DON’T pay our Authors.”

The exact wording was “Buy one BOOK, get an ARC for FREE.” One of those easel boards you find on sidewalks.

BOGO? Sounds more like a sleazy discount sale than a giveaway. And what do you wanna bet those ARCs are in “new” condition, meaning that the very people who are supposed to be reading them–Booksellers--aren’t. It sure as hell isn’t giving the ARCs to charity. Now, that’s tippy-toeing pretty close to the line. Or, you know… pole vaulting over it, if the goal is to PAY YOUR AUTHORS.

Now, apart from the fact that people like me are going to keep walking, when they see a sign like that, there are a few other people who will be pissed off.

You know.

The Authors, for one. If you’re a Bookstore, you’ll want to be on good terms with the Authors so they’ll come and do signings and events. Probably not going to manage that with a big sign that says “We Don’t Pay You.”

The Publishers… Because they don’t get paid for ARC’s either. And there aren’t all that many of them. Ever wonder what happens to a bookstore when the Publishers stop sending it books to sell? It becomes an Empty Shelf-Space Store. Yup. That can happen. And risking it for a BOGO sale?

Bookstores aren’t selling discount sports equipment. They aren’t an in-and-out proposition, the way getting your tires rotated or your oil change is. They’re a community, and tendrils of an intellectual culture that need to be nurtured.

The people who shop in Bookstores–your customers–work to build that community, and that culture. They invest in their Bookstores in time and money, and in a devotion that not many businesses ever see.

And they expect you to invest in that culture, and that community, too.

Selling ARCs is leeching off that culture. Taking without giving.

You’re saying “Here… I stole this from your friend. Now give me your loyalty.”

Reading From The List

I’ve made it to part 9/10 of the Sandman Comics. Progress is slow, at least in part because everybody is naked, so I can’t take the thing to work to read. (I want to quit, not get fired.)  I’m also squeezing in little chunks of my read all the Hugo AND Nebula–the ones who won both prizes– winners project, which you’d think would go a little faster.

There’s something about choosing reading materials off a list that more or less guarantees that 1.) You will broaden your horizons and 2.) You will have to force yourself through at least some of the material.

It’s not necessarily that I dislike the stuff I’m reading. Maybe it’s more a matter of my enthusiasm wearing off before I ever pick up the book. That initial… that sounds cool… is long gone from having been waiting around on a list for so long, and it’s replaced with something more like… well, what next?

And in some cases, Oh, look! A comic book!

I don’t remember that sense of trudging through a list when I as in school. Maybe the introduction to the book, and the actual reading of the book were too close together for that effect. Enough–hey, that does sound cool–excitement to carry you through.

So, I ordered Ringworld in paperback. It’s one of the ones that isn’t available on my e-reader, yet. Not in it’s original form, at any rate. There is a graphic novel version, which… well, I almost did buy a copy of. I mean… that counts, right?

And then, I wound up finding an e-book bargain for Dune. $1.99, and it’s even on the list.

And this month’s free book from the Tor book club is Old Man’s War (which isn’t on the list, but I am finishing up my last distraction book.) It’s available HERE until the 21st of June. if you want to read it, too.

In related project news, I’m pretty behind on my 52 stories in 52 weeks project. I’ll have to get a move on there.

Grumpy Saturday Morning

It’s early in the morning on a Saturday, and I am awake. I mean, it’s early, even for me. I’m being punished for letting my schedule go to hell on my days off, and for crashing yesterday. Somehow… no matter how hard I try, or how long it’s been, I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that sleeping to seven is sleeping in. And sleeping in more than I ever would have, when I was on a more normal schedule.

I mean, three and a half extra hours!

And no… Not good enough. I wind up sleeping until all kinds of times I wouldn’t ordinarily.

**pops a series of happy morning type vitamins**

**and an acetaminophen**

I’m having one of those mornings where I woke up to my “daily reminder” on Twitter of how evil a particular book is. The general goal of the “reminder” is to talk it’s (traditional) publisher into cancelling it.

Let’s be honest, though… if I didn’t catch on that there was a publisher until after I’d read the tweet, and read the review it linked to, and went on Goodreads to figure out what the heck the story is about… the campaign’s not all that effective.

I’m creeping slowly toward free-speech absolutism in my old age, and by the time I’m eighty, I’ll probably think you should be able to shout FIRE in a crowded theater.

I was a little shocked to find out that this did have a mainstream publisher. My first thought–as soon as I read the main character’s name–was actually that the reviewer had accidentally picked up something written and published by the white power movement, and was doing nothing but signal boosting by railing against it.

(There will be no signal boosting here.)

So, here’s this book. And by the time I was finished reading the review, I was thoroughly convinced that the reviewer was an idiot. After all, who picks up a book where the hero’s name is Hitler McHitlerson and is then surprised when it turns out to be racist?

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t quite that obvious. I’m grumpy early in the morning, and I probably need to be reminded that not everybody was actually paying attention in that particular dusty corner of the library stacks.

Still. Direct line.

I was surprised when I found out we weren’t talking about some guy with a garage full of vanity press copies.

If there’s an idea out there that’s so dangerous I need to be protected from it… well, this isn’t it.

Distracted by Comic Books

A month and a half ago, I set out to read all of the books that have won both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award. There are twenty-two of them, and when I started, I had read about two and a third of them.

I think things are going fairly well.

Now, I’ve read two and a third and a half of them, and also the first four volumes of Sandman comics/graphic novels/whatever. No, Sandman is not on the list.

I’d like to pretend I don’t know how I missed reading Sandman all this time, but the truth is, I know exactly how it happened. There are pictures (not diagrams) and also… it’s a comic book. Did I mention it’s a comic book?

Well, that would pretty well guarantee that a library near me was not stocking it. Not when it first came out, anyway. And it also guarantees that my parents were not wasting their money on it, even if I did happen to escape and find it while I was being shepherded toward  the “real” books.

Don’t waste your eyes! wails the ghost of my great-grandfather from beyond the grave.

Nope. The only comic books I ever saw as a kid were Classic Comics versions of Dickens and Shakespeare. And even those didn’t come home with me. Why would they? I was smart enough to read the real thing.

It’s taken me a long, long time, and a whole lot of really smart people and a whole lot of “bumping into” references to Sandman to get me past that. Well, eventually, I broke down. And besides, they’re on my e-reader, so I can pretend I’m reading War and Peace, if anybody asks.

And, now, I’m going through them like water. A few select comic books, that is. I’m never going to have shelves and shelves of them.

But I was surprised.

I’ve actually been crying over comic books.

I’ve actually been thinking about comic books.

Oh, dear.

Choosing A Book

I spent most of the night up reading a couple of nights ago. I haven’t done that in a long, long time. You know how it is. Grown-up responsibilities, and the need for a job mean that most of the time, I have to actually wake up. At a predictable hour. And function.

Being quite honest, I’m not sure I’m on my “ideal” creative schedule, either. Given a choice, I’d probably be up all night reading or writing or something on a regular basis, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten into the Zone as easily in say the mid-afternoon or evening. Even when I was a kid, it’s into bed… one more chapter… and then, seven or eight hours later… I’m blinking at the sunlight.

Writing can work the same way, too… maybe it’s supposed to, and maybe it’s not. Maybe that’s my excuse for lack of discipline. Maybe I really do focus better at some times of the day or night than at others.

Let me start by confessing… the book I was reading wasn’t on the list of Hugo/Nebula winning books that I intend to be reading. I got caught up in a sample of an e-book, and then, I bought the e-book, and after that, I read the e-book.

All of it.

In one sitting.

And now, I’ve purchased the next part of the series, and I’m probably going to wind up reading that, too.

I was up all night reading, and by the end of it, I was crying my eyes out. It’s been a while since the last time, there, too. Partly the book, and partly my own losses… I have no idea the size of the parts.

So, now… I am reading All of the Books That Have Won Both The Hugo and the Nebula And also Sandman. The weird part of it is that I don’t really feel as though the list has grown… not that much, anyway.

If I’m very, very good, and if I don’t wander off into the omni-present internet bookstore too many more times, I might be able to get through the list in a year. The list is growing. I’m assured, for instance, that Blackout and All Clear will only make sense as a pair, and only if read in that order. So one more book to the list. And there are a couple of others that are not the first ones in their series.

I’ll make it through, eventually. After all, what are the odds that they’ll hand those awards out to the same book again, this year?

The Doomsday Book Has Arrived

A couple days ago, my current selection from the reading list of things that have won both the Nebula and the Hugo arrived. It’s a mass market paperback, and it’s been a while since I read something that way instead of on an e-reader.  Oh, wow, it’s been a while.

The e-reader files show up pre-adjusted to my preferred font, and my preferred size, and they’re always purse-ready on my Kindle or my Nexus. I have gotten used to this. Ordering a paperback is…. at least in part… a political statement. A social statement, maybe. I ordered a book, because I want a book sitting on my bookshelf. I don’t always. My more recreational reading doesn’t have to sit anywhere in particular, but this… well, I want children to live in a world where they walk into peoples’ houses, and see good books. Where they’re allowed to pick up and read books, and not just realize in some hazy way that there are books on that device their family friend keeps in her purse.

Call me idealistic.

So, here I am, looking at a book in book form. It’s nearly six hundred pages of book, and it looks like nearly six hundred pages of book. The paper isn’t the greatest quality, sorta news print gray… and the print is small. Not insanely small, but if I were on my e-reader, I’d be bumping it up.

I might be having e-reader withdrawal.

So, anyway… I’m about to delve into Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. It smells like paper and ink, and I’m probably going to wind up breaking the spine at some point, but I’m getting started on that list.

If anyone wants to join me on the great quest to read all of the books that have won both the Hugo and the Nebula, the list is here.