This seems to be the year of the reading challenge.
In February, parts of the Internet exploded over K. Tempest Bradford’s suggestion that people try to stop reading straight, white, cis, male writers for a year.
I got involved in this dust-up because I really don’t think it should be hard to read science fiction and fantasy books by women for year. Even though I feel that the message is a bit inflammatory, I’d consider doing this. However, I’d already set a reading challenge for myself.
As a published science fiction author, I often get asked about what I’m reading. I’ll tell you a secret: I’m woefully underread in my genre. It gets embarrassing to always mumble the title of a book written in 1978. So, this year, I determined to change all that. But, as you probably know, just asking for recommendations from friends (or, god forbid, social media) is…fraught. I wanted something that would give me a broad scope, introduce me to new names, and, with any luck, have some guarantee of, well, quality. I wanted a bunch of good books.
Good books win awards, right? That’s the assumption, anyway, so I set myself the goal of reading all the books nominated for speculative fictions awards for 2015. “Speculative fiction” is really just a fancy way of saying science fiction and fantasy (but also allowing for horror as well as harder to define genres like ‘steampunk’ and ‘slipstream.’)
What I didn’t know going into to this was just how many awards there are in any given year.
It’s only March, and I’m already wondering what I’ve gotten myself in for. So far this year the award nominees that have been announced are: Philip K. Dick (for best original paperback), Nebula (an insider award nominated and voted on by member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, SFWA), the Locus List (a list compiled by the science fiction/fantasy trade magazine, Locus, and voted on by its readers), the Aurealis (for best Australian science fiction), and the Lambda Award (an award for all GLBT books, but which has a science fiction category—which I simply had to include because there’s a book up this year with the best title ever: FutureDyke.)
To give you the scope of some of these awards (and perhaps science fiction/fantasy, in general), let me give you a quickie review of two books that are both up for the Philip K. Dick this year: Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches by Cherie Priest and Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta.
Maplecroft is a historical science-y, fantasy novel that follows the infamous axe-murderer Lizzy Borden as she and her real-life, sister Emma fight mysterious, Cthulhu-like sea-creatures that begin to possess the people in their town, including Lizzy’s lover (also a real historical figure) Nance O’Neal. If that description didn’t sell you, you’re not the target audience for this book. Me? I ate it up. What’s not to love about an axe-wielding Lizzy Borden?
Memory of Water Emmi Itäranta is a far future post-apocalyptic novel that takes place in a dry, hot Scandinavian Union. Inexplicably, the heroine, Noria, is a tea master’s daughter. She lives in a small village and her father gives her the burden of a terrible secret. Despite the fact that water is scarce and the government controls what exists fiercely, their family has been entrusted with the location to an underground, hidden spring. This book is as artsy and poetic and full of quiet terror as Maplecroft is of axe-slashes.
Starting out like that, I have to continue!
[Illustration via Shutterstock]