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Today I’m planning on finishing Kim Westwood’s The Courier’s New Bicycle so I can talk about it on Galactic Suburbia this week.

I’m loving this book so much – it seems I’ve been starving for excellent Australian science fiction and this book is just absolutely satisfying the craving. I know I’m going to be sorry when it finishes – I’ve been carrying it around with me everywhere to grab a quick chapter whenever I have a moment. I can’t even remember the last novel I did that with.

Here’s a sneak para I just read:

… you soon come to realise that every culture has its own version of untouchable.”

She looks away, suddenly embarrassed, and belatedly I realise she’s referring to people like me. Braheem shifts uncomfortably in his seat.

I think back to my teens and early adulthood, and all the confusion I’d felt over who I was. Those who present as androgynously as I do are a walking, talking question mark for the community to feel confused about. Some even seem to think we’ve been designed deliberately to mock them.

This book is so so good! It’s a brilliant dystopian Melbourne after a hideously gone wrong vaccine program to combat a bird flu pandemic. I know Tansy already mentioned on GS how uncomfortable she is with that in relation to the current day issue of misinformation and hysteria over vaccinating children etc. But I am reminded of the stockpiling that happened in Australia of Tamiflu for the supposed impending of bird flu outbreak here several years ago – and questions over whether Tamiflu would work, if people were administering it to colds and not even flu and if in fact the stockpiling would result in tonnes of out of date product etc.

In Westwood’s post apocalypse, of sorts, Australians have lost their virility. And the religious zealot right wing has come into power to police how people live and think. Scientific engineering of nature is outlawed and there is a crack down on “perversion” ie not conforming to the gender norms.

This book is a gorgeous melding of the exploration of potential impacts of engineering nature, political reactionism and gender identity and acceptance (or lack of) in society. Whilst grim in content, this book is exquisitely written and uplifting to read gritty, in depth examination of current day issues. You know, what science fiction is supposed to be.

I want more Westwood!



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June 8   It’s not all bad

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After my whinge yesterday, I should add that solutions do seem to keep presenting themselves. I realised yesterday morning that if I took the train (and bus) to work, I would find 2 new hours in my day for reading. So yesterday I did just that. I had thought that the paid parking at the train station was hourly but when I actually had the will and interest to investigate it, discovered it was $2 for the day. And realised how silly I was to not have looked before – what was the price of two extra hours of reading a day? I happily read a goodly chunk of Connie Willis’ The Passage yesterday. I don’t love public transport. But I think a couple of times a week would really be great and help me find a way to start eating into the huge pile of books to read.

I didn’t train it in today, though :P

And in all the sorting through craft projects, I found a cross stitch I had been avidly working on like two years ago that I had, for reasons now forgotten, abandoned. I picked it up over the weekend and have been working on it – got my crafting mojo back! It’s not any of the projects I had been working on earlier this year but, I think I’ll take what I can get. It’s a WIP that with a bit of concentration could be easily finished soon. And I think I’m not really into the rest just yet because my craft space hasn’t been set up – still kinda trying to work out where it should be and how I should do it. And I need a tonne of storage which I’m going to think about *later*. I did discover a couple of things about the cross stitch that I think are interesting to observe – I never ever mark up the grid when I sew. Because why? I think because “in case I want to do it again” – as if you ever would!! So. Me two years on is all, “right, let’s get a highlighter and get right in here and see what’s what”. Issue 2, I think I discovered as being maybe a few stray crosses stitched in the wrong place in the background texture. Me two years on is all “it can be finished, or it can be perfect, wing it”. So I’ve been being a bit liberal with which stitches go where and it’s all good. It’s totally fine. And then issue 3 was, I think, that I ran out of one, maybe two of the threads, and/or I used pale grey for pale silver and didn’t know what to do about it. So this one was tricky, for all of an hour or two. Then I remembered I bought in a catalogue on sale once, like 300 different colours of thread. Cause they were cheap. And I’ve been looking at all those shades and rainbow of colours and wondering what in the hell I was going to use them for. Because all my projects (probably 15 years worth) are kits that come with their own colours. Yup. Stashing in the finest of forms. So I wondered if I might be able to match the colour I’d run out of in this 300 options. And you know? Maybe it works, maybe it’s so slightly off you can only tell under brilliant lighting but … it helped me move on from the problem and get the job done.

So at least in two years, I have managed to learn how to maneouver myself out of previous points of project perfection paralysis. And the question now arises – what are the stalling points on the other WIPs? Are they as easily solved? Is it a matter of taking each one and working on it one by one to discover and solve? I guess stay tuned.

As for the book pile. I decided to catalogue in a spreadsheet before they got moved around. And this process highlighted 6 books that didn’t need to be there and so they were removed. Win. And then a few more of the graphic novels that I think I have read (and were there because C was reading them) but I can’t remember,  so they might be quick to get out of the to read pile eventually. And then I sorted the books into variuos categories. Not quite sure what I am going to do with them but I think I’d benefit from mixing up what I read a bit. So I’m reading before bed one short story a night from The Locus Awards Anthology. I’ve been wanting to read it for a while. I also want to work through some great collections I have there. Maybe if I read novels on the train, one punch out short a night before bed might be the right balance (assuming I find time for Last Short Story elsewhere). I’m trying to get into a new bed time routine and this has been good so far – I had to take a break from Joanna Russ for a bit. So last night I read Octavia Butler and the night before Connie Willis. Can’t much complain about the standard :)



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So, I’m moving house and complaining about how much stuff I have and asking why I have so much stuff. I didn’t think I had that many books (been feeling down about how many books I have) and yet, in moving them – I have a lot of books. So we spent the morning working on culling, packing and moving and then headed past the Planet Books sale. We needed some books on puppy training.

My haul (for a mere $37 – ridiculous!)

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones

Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Passage by Connie Willis

Wizard Squared by K E Mills

The Margarets by Sheri S Tepper

 

Now, I’d been starting to think, since I HAVE been reading, that I could justify some book accumulation. Probably not 5 new books though. So am blogging here to remind myself to either finish 5 books and/or remove 5 books from my current collection/to read shelves.

 

 



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A couple of days ago, Charles Tan was asking for suggestions and then he pulled together a Short Story Collection Meme for those of us who read or want to read a lot of great short stories!

I’m going to post it here not because I can bold a lot as read, but because I can italicise a lot being in my to read shelves and because by the end of this year, I want to reflect and see how I’ve done!

He says:

I love the short story format and the problem with a lot of the book memes circulating is that they exclusively focus on novels. I’ve done some crowd sourcing (and some personal recommendations of course–this list isn’t meant to be objective) and I’ve come up with a list of 166 short story collections.

The usual rules apply: bold those that you’ve read and italicize those that you own but haven’t read.

(more…)



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From Chapter 5 The Double Standard of Content:

Critics who are too sensible to succumb to some version of She didn’t write it and too decent to resort to the (always rather snide) She did, but she shouldn’t have can often find other ways to dismiss the tuneful yodelling and graceful ice-sliding of those wrongly shaped – or wrongly tinted – Glotolog who somehow persist in producing art despite the obstacles arrayed against them. Motives for the dismissal differ: habit, laziness, reliance on history or criticism that is already corrupt, ignorance (the most excusable of all, surely), the desire not to disturb the comfort based on that ignorance (much less excusable), the dim (or not-so-dim) perception that one’s self-esteem or sex-based interests are at stake, the desire to stay within an all-male, all-white club that is, whatever its drawbacks, familiar and comfortable, and sometimes the clear perception that letting outsiders into the club, economically or otherwise, will disturb the structure of quid pro quo that keeps the club going.

- How to Suppress Women’s Writing, Joanna Russ, University of Texas Press, 1983



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May 15   At Weekend’s end

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And I don’t have much to say. Isn’t that utterly fantastic? I actually have a smile on my face. And I’ve been laughing a lot this evening. How utterly divine to start to feel like me again.

Friday night we were supposed to meet at my place and then head down to C’s. We ended up procrastinating such that we decided to go out for dinner with my parents’ first. They were going Italian (and not Chinese – I know!) and it was some place that they couldn’t give directions to meet them, we had to go with. I was almost expecting a secret knock or password on arrival. Dinner was lovely and it was nice to catch up with my parents. C has been sick all week so he was a bit quiet. We went back to their place for coffee and then just decided to sleep at my place and be done.

That meant heading down to C’s in two cars the next day. And getting up earlier than I would like on the weekend. But I grabbed me a lovely cup of coffee from my fave place and turned on the RTR Saturday jazz and totally enjoyed the drive down. I’ve been getting into RTR Radio finally. Just like how it took me lots of tries to like Triple J in the beginning, I’ve really struggled to connect with RTR. And then a couple of weekends ago, C had it on in his car and it was the Saturday morning Jazz and I loved it and have been pretty much tuned into them since.

And then I did this weird thing whilst C was out most of the mid day at rugby. I read. A lot. Of short stories. And I enjoyed it. I’ve actually done this for most of the weekend in preference to anything else, including television. It’s really really weird. And I’ve really enjoyed it. I found my first 5 story for the year – it made me cry. Mondy has already blogged it but the F&SF issue for March/April features a story called “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu is one of my picks for the year. LOVED IT. Yay! I love loving reading shorts again. I’m also enjoying reading Engineering Infinity and an anthology with a climate change theme called Welcome to the Glasshouse.

Saturday night we hung out with C’s parents and tried a new place down in R’ham called Mash. I think it’s trying to be like Little Creatures.

Today we headed up to the Barrack St Jetty to have brunch with some old workmates of mine at a place called Sassy’s on the Swan. The breakfast was very good. And it was so so so good to hang out with G and A and their partners. I miss not working with them anymore. They help make the world make sense. Sooooo good to see them. And to have time to sit and idly eat breakfast on a Sunday morning.

And you’ll never guess what I spent the afternoon doing. Yup. Reading.

Very happy.

 



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It’s been a very surreal space having worked so hard and so intensely with so many others for some time and then … it’s all done. We have some wrapping up and some reflection and all that jazz but that’s not for now. Now is for recovery. And not doing things.

So it’s not really surprising that I have no idea what one does when one does not do things. I’ve had to actively remind myself that I am not doing things now. Often. And that I should not have a daily to do list or a daily quota of any kind that needs meeting. And that it’s ok, mandatory, in fact, to actively NOT do things on whole days. Because, this will make me feel better (soon I hope! I’m still having Swancon nightmares).

So, what DO you do under such cirmcumstances.

Well. I’ve reorganised the TPP stock. Seriously. I am someone who constantly sets random milestones or goals or triggers for action, places along the way for marking progress and personal reward. And one of the things I like to see is a decline in the number of stock TPP holds (duh). And so, I’m forever rearranging and reorganising all the books in their boxes. If two boxes are each half full, why, combining them would remove an empty box from the house = progress! That kind of thing. But what with shuffling books in and out of boxes and also taking stock to Worldcon and Swancon and back, everything was kind of all over the place and I no longer knew what was in each box or what books were where.

So, reorganisation was in order! Also a labelling system. And sure,  I admit, this (see Exhibit A, to the left) could have been overkill but it’s pretty glorious to be able to figure out what books are where.  And the shuffling of books between boxes can continue.

 

I’ve also been reading. I can hardly believe it –  I thought it would be so much harder to get myself back there. It turns out that 1) I love reading and 2) when I have the time, I love to, and can, read. I’ve nearly read another book in a week – so two in the last fortnight after possibly none in the whole year beforehand. And I’ve gotten back onto the Last Short Story saddle. Today I read an issue of Asimovs, the most recent issue of Electric Velocipede and half of a SF anthology. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to be reading again. And enjoying reading again. It might be that I don’t get to do it every day when things ramp back up again (they will ramp up again, I spose, much as I’ve promised myself a year of no additional commitments at all – a promise far more strict than The Bet) but even a couple of days a week would keep me happy.

 

 

 



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I’ve been trying to post here everyday, like I mentioned before. But it’s a struggle mostly because of the things I cannot say. I’m struggling too with the postcon crash. Today was the first day where I felt like things started to come back on track. Slowly slowly. I had a productive day at work and then I came home and had a productive day at TPP.

I have sat down now to read The Female Man and decided to start back at the beginning since I hadn’t gotten that far in when I started it before and I read the quote at the beginning of the book – by R.D. Laing in The Politics of Experience (Penguin 1967) and I *had* to repeat some of it here. After the goings on of about the last week, it made me laugh.

If Jack succeeds in forgetting something, this is of little use if Jill continues to remind him of it. He must induce her not to do so. The safest way would be not just to make her keep quiet about it, but to induce her to forget it also.

Jack may act upon Jill in many ways. He may make her feel guilty for keeping on “bringing it up”. He may invalidate her experience. This can be done-more or less radically. He can indicate merely that it is unimportant or trivial, whereas it is important and significant to her. Going further, he can shift the modality of her experience from memory to imagination: “It”s all in your imagination.” Further still, he can invalidate the content. “It never happened that way.” Finally, he can invalidate not only the significance, modality and content, but her very capacity to remember at all, and make her feel guilty for doing so into the bargain.

This is not unusual. People are doing such things to each other all the time. In order for such transpersonal invalidation to work, however, it is advisable to overlay it with a thick patina of mystification. For instance, by denying that this is what one is doing, and further invalidating any perception that it is being done, by ascriptions such as “How can you think such a thing 1″ “You must be paranoid.” And so on.

 

 



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April 29   Post Swancon

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Last weekend, Swancon finally happened. After being chair and convenor for two years, Easter 2011 finally came. Much happened. Maybe with time I’ll be ready to record some of it. I’m still trying to recover – I worked 100 hour weeks in the lead up which it turns out, hurt.  A lot. And the weekend itself was pretty full on. Here then, to sum it up is the booty from the weekend:

Mine is the smaller pile and the tall one to the right is C’s. He will no doubt get through his quicker than I will mine. Still, I really am looking forward to having time to read and focus to read again. And I’m looking forward to all the books in my pile – Bold as Love by Gwenyth Jones, Dervish House by Ian McDonald, Shattered City by Tansy Rayner Roberts, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N K Jemisin.

The Madigan Mine was my con reading. Funnily enough, one of the things on my After Swancon To Do List was to relearn to read. I really have lost the attention span or skillset to read a full novel. And I’m sad and miss it. I hate not being able to join in or contribute to that section of Galactic Suburbia. I had teed up an interview with the author of Madigan Mine – Kirstyn McDermott – for Galactic Chat and was intent on reading the book as research.

I failed to finish the book in time for the interview but I got something else instead. I got hooked on reading a novel. I took it with me to the hotel and found that I needed some reading in bed before being able to fall asleep each night. I was so hyped with adrenalin (and so constantly AWAKE!) that I hadn’t been sleeping for weeks and was not finding watching TV before bed helpful. I had intended to be strict with myself once the con was over in terms of finding time to read by taking the last hour before sleep for just that and so figured no time like the present to begin. And it worked! I found a way to wind down for sleeping but I also found Madigan Mine gripping and engaging such that I forgot I was *reading a book* and just read the book. Dipping into it whenever I’ve had a free moment since, I’ve almost read a whole book, in one period of time, over one week.

I’m very excited to possibly have my reading groove back. And I must recommend Madigan Mine for being such a good book as to be able to do that without having had to work at it. (It is of the darker end of the genre spectrum though, for those not really into horror.)



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