Thursday, May 14, 2020

In Case You Missed It, So You Don't: Virtual Edition!

Hey readers! Hope you are holding up okay. Some things to have on your radar:

  • If you somehow missed my shouting and muppetlike waving of arms about it, I just completed a big report on reading patterns in the Chicago SF club scene. Charts and graphs galore!
  • The bookstores page has also been updated a bit. A lot of of indie bookstores are doing delivery or curbside pick-up, and it's a great time to support them.
  • Upcoming Events are still being updated--definitely check with the club/organization if you're interested in attending, but a lot of them are shifting to online meetings.
Some noteworthy online things coming up:
  • Flights of Foundry: May 15-17. A virtual con hosted by Dream Foundry, a nonprofit that supports speculative artists in a variety of media. They have a great roster of talks, panels, and readings.
  • Tolkien Symposium on Fantasy Literature: May 16. Really great list of speakers, including Kij Johnson, V.E. Schwabb, and Rebecca F. Kuang.
  • Michael Zapata is doing two virtual talks for Chicago bookstores on May 21: one for Bookends & Beginnings, and another for City Lit. The Lost Book of Adana Moreau is a seriously great read, one of my favorites so far this year--worth checking out.
  • Wiscon is online this year, still waiting on details! May 22-25.
  • The Cyberpunk Culture Conference is online (with a really global approach) this year: July 9-10.
  • There are LOADS of virtual author talks going on, I have not yet really started trying to list them.
Finally, a couple fun links:

Monday, May 11, 2020

Reporting!

I've put together a report on the Chicagoland SF/F clubs, using Positron's calendar data. This wound up being a bit more extensive of a project than I anticipated!

The report looks at things like race and gender balance in the book club selections, preferences for older or newer works, trends in science fiction vs. fantasy, and the overlap between groups. It also includes lists of most-read authors and books.

Due to some limitations in my ability to make the data visualizations respond to different devices, I recommend checking out the desktop report if you're on a computer or tablet, and the mobile report if you're on a phone.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

"Japan Sinks" by Sakyo Komatsu

When the film Twister came out, I heard that some of my family members from Kansas found it genuinely frightening. Being familiar with a plausible disaster, and to some extent repressing it daily to function--I can imagine how seeing that in fiction could be cathartic and affecting, while for a general audience, we're mostly going to laugh about the flying cow.

I feel like this might be in a similar category: having never lived under the shadow of earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, merely reading about extreme versions of them felt a little distant and unreal for me. But I can imagine this book being shocking to someone more familiar with those disasters.

This is totally readable, though it feels more like a listing of disasters than any actual plot-based novel. The cast and scope is surprisingly large, with the result that only the events themselves do much developing.

What's the word for when something is both "dated", and "of a place/culture"? I can't quite place a lot about this novel, just because I don't know much about Japan generally, and specifically not about in the late '60s. It's odd to me how little the legacy of WWII was visible in here--possible it was just invisible but present throughout.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Covid-19 Updates

Hey all! As you no doubt know by now, public gatherings are a no-go right now, so all events on the calendar should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Safe to assume that most are cancelled. At least some groups are trying online formats for club meetings, though, so worth checking out the individual event pages.

Also, this is a fantastic time to support your local bookstore--many of them are offering free or reduced shipping. You've likely got more time to read on your hands than usual, and they could really use the business.

Check out our recently updated list of Chicago indie & used booksellers.



Thursday, February 27, 2020

In Case You Missed It, So You Don't

Hey all! Day-job and other responsibilities have put a dent in my reviewing/writing time of late. But! Still keeping the calendar updated, and there is some great stuff coming up! I've also updated/streamlined the Book Group Page a bit, planning on adding a few more stable resources on here.

Two events to particularly put on your metaphorical radar:

  • Deep Dish is March 14th @ Volumes. Chicago's premier science-fiction reading event, featuring a slew of great authors!
  • Bucket O'Blood in Avondale is once again celebrating, not Lovecraft's birth, but rather his death. The Lovecraft Funeral Procession is March 15th, and is a good chance to celebrate Things About Weird Fiction You Like, while also acknowledging that HPL Is Super Problematic So Pretty Okay He's Dead, Actually. Also to drink some beer with fun folks!
Cons and other gatherings, upcoming:
  • C2E2 is this weekend! It is a lot! They've got a good roster of literary guests this year.
  • April 17-19 is the Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention (mostly for collectors, I gather), out in Lombard.
  • May 2nd is the illustrious DePaul Pop Culture Conference; this year it's on supeheroes. Can't recommend these enough! Fun, intimate, one-day conference, great mix of academic and fannish energy.
  • It's already time to start thinking about Wiscon, May 22-25 up in Madison. Wonderful con, this year featuring Rebecca Roanhorse and Yoon Ha Lee.
Author events! There are so many! I'm sure I'm missing some!
Looking for something to read?

Saturday, January 4, 2020

"The Empress of Salt and Fortune" by Nghi Vo

A lovely and well-constructed novella, The Empress of Salt and Fortune follows a kind of archivist monk as they catalog the contents of the former residence of the titular empress. The surface story is very gentle and quiet, with Cleric Chih and their assistant, a magical bird, recording objects and learning more about them from Rabbit, an elderly servant.

The story they learn along the way, though—a deeper history of how the empress In-yo orchestrated a coup from her exile, and the secrets from that struggle that Rabbit has kept for decades—is an empire-spanning story of intrigue, deception, and violence, so it's fascinating to see it filtered in this very anthropological way. Each chapter starts with Chih describing objects of a different room, and then recording the oral history that they evoke from Rabbit.