Monday Morning Stepback: Trustworthy authors, asexuality in speculative fiction, and a place to sound off on ebook restrictions

The weekly links, opinion, and personal updates post

1. Links of Interest

An interesting interview with KATHERINE A. POWERS, literary columnist for The Sunday Boston Globe, at Eric Forbes’ Book Addict Guide to Good Books (via @mathitak):

But, while I’m on the subject, I’ll just say that reading, or rather the idea of reading, has become a fetish or commodity of sorts in the U.S. Reading here carries a baggage of worthiness that is a real turnoff for the hedonist. It seems to be going the way of walking, people do it for a cause, to raise money and/or show solidarity. It demonstrates high civic purpose, responsibility, and deep-down goodness and that’s why you do it, not because you really want to. I think a better approach to encouraging people to read would be to ban more books. Look at the way the Irish used to read when they had to smuggle in the good stuff from England: people getting off the boat hardly able to bend their legs for all the books and contraceptives squirreled away about their persons. I am joking, of course, but only up to a point! …

… I don’t know what the essentials of good fiction are. When I think of the novels I really like, I can think of only one thing that unites them: their authors proved trustworthy, that is, my suspension of disbelief was not betrayed.

The first quote makes me wonder if this view of fiction is why people compare reading genre fiction to eating potato chips, i.e. not really reading. The second I love.


From Beth Carswell at Abe Books, No Place For a Woman: Women’s Fiction, a kind of time line of the books that nurtured the author over the course of her life.


Audiobooks are 75 years old (From The Independent):

They started as an aid for battle casualties and elderly people with failing eyesight. Now talking books are a publishing sensation, enjoyed by millions as an alternative to the printed word.

According to the most recent sales figures from the Publishers Association, downloads of audio books grew by 72 per cent between 2008 and 2009. Sales of talking books on CD, cassette and DVD also grew to an annual £22.4m, according to the sales monitoring company Nielsen BookScan.

It all began very differently. Exactly 75 years ago today, audio books were first produced as a public service for soldiers blinded in the First World War. The Talking Books Service, an audio library run by the Royal National Institute of Blind People, was launched in 1935, when Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was recorded on to LPs and distributed to users, along with a large record player. Modern technology – particularly MP3 players – and a growing roster of high-profile narrators, have given the format a dramatic boost.


Via the F-Word, A post at Shakesville with a long list of reasons a woman might take her husband’s name when she marries. Several apply to me.


The New Yorker‘s blog has a short discussion of books about Harry Potter and Religion. (This week’s print version also has a full page Nora Roberts ad. I don’t recall ever seeing one in the New Yorker, but I could easily have missed it.)


A while back, someone started a blog to identify and shame book pirates and author Courtney Milan is having none of it.


From Inside Higher Ed, a Call to Defend the Humanities.


A wonderful personal reflection on A Generation of Erotic Romance by author Pam Rosenthal at History Hoydens.


In case you missed last week’s Cook’s Source scandal — which was truly jawdropping — and only have time to read one report on it, check out this summary at EdRants.


The results of last week’s elections sucked donkey balls IMO. I am now stuck with a tea bag governor. Here’s a post by Ronald Dworkin on Why American Vote Against Their Own Best Interests at the NYTRB. I deny much of what he asserts but it is still interesting reading.


A post by author Daniel Abraham, MLN on UF: Why Jayne Heller Won’t Get Raped

Urban fantasy is a genre sitting on top of a great big huge cultural discomfort about women and power. The typical UF heroine (as I’ve come to understand her) is a kick-ass woman with a variety of possible lovers. She’s been forced into power which she often doesn’t understand, and can face down any danger while at the same time captivating the romantic attention of the dangerous, edgy men around her. She’s been forced into power — either through accident of birth or by being transformed without her permission — and is therefore innocent of one of the central feminine cultural sins: ambition. She is in relationships primarily with men rather than in community with women. “Bad boys” want her, and they won’t be bad to her. Etc, etc, etc.

The thing that sets almost (and there are exceptions I’ll talk about in a minute here) all the urban fantasy heroines apart from real women as found in the real world is this: they don’t fear rape.

Huh. I’m not seeing that. What do you think?


From iO9, Where did Science fiction come From? A Primer on the Pulps (via @thegalaxyexpress):

Pulp historian Jess Nevins, author of Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana, takes you deep into the weird history of the scifi pulps, 1900-1950. Get ready for amazing science and astounding adventure! This is the first in a series on the pulps.


love the color scheme!

Springing from a long thread at Dear author, a new website, allows you to submit information about digital books you did not buy due to geo-restrictions, price, or format. I recently faced geographical restrictions for the first time, when Amazon would not let me purchase a Kindle edition of The Human Factor by Graham Greene I simply switched my address temporarily to a UK address, and bought it. Obviously, that’s not any kind of solution. Since the restrictions seem to be the result of a complex nonrational Borgesian labyrinth, which benefits no one, and which no one player has the power or motivation to make disappear, I don’t know what will do the trick.

It may just be a matter of an industry catching up to technology. As this post at the Idea Logical Company put it (via @booksquare),

I am one who believes that digital change will lead us to a world where there is one global publisher for most books depending on a network of alliances to execute some aspects of marketing and to maximize distribution everywhere. But I also think our wait for that change to be widespread is going to be a long one; it is many years away. In the meantime, consumers of books will find — as music consumers did in the 60s and sports fans still do today — that what appear to be nonsensical barriers block them from purchasing and consuming content that technology could easily deliver to them and for which they’d be happy to pay a fair price.


Via @jonathanaallan, What Fictional Asexuals Say About Us from the X Factor, a blog written by a person who identifies as asexual:

The fact that many, many portrayals of asexual characters are found in speculative fiction is not, I feel, a coincidence.

Again, the message: You are, to us, unable to connect with us. You are without emotion, without love. You are, in short, inhuman. This is a stereotype. It reflects mainstream society’s belief that experiencing sexual and romantic attraction is central to emotional connection. More, it claims that because of who we are, we wouldn’t have any interest in connecting with other people anyway–and I think the discussions currently happening in the asexosphere put the lie to that.

Why is this important? After all, they’re only stories, and stories written by people who have almost certainly never heard of the asexual community at that. They’re not written for us, after all. They’re written for sexual people.

2. November is National Hospice Month

November is National Hospice Month. Geri-Pal (a blog devoted to geriatric and palliative care) has a good post. I am a hospice volunteer, and am very committed to the organization and its philosophy of end of life care. I am sorry to get preachy, but this excerpt from President Obama’s proclamation explains both why Hospice is so important, and why we must fight to keep — and expand if at all possible — the Affordable Care Act:

“During National Hospice Month, we recognize the dignity hospice care can provide to patients who need it most, and the professionals, volunteers, and family members who bring peace to individuals in their final days.

Hospice care gives medical services, emotional support, and spiritual resources to people facing life-limiting illnesses. It can also help families and caregivers manage the details and emotional challenges of caring for a dying loved one. The decision to place someone into a hospice program can be difficult, but Americans can have peace of mind knowing the doctors and professionals involved with these services are trained to administer high-quality and comprehensive care for terminally ill individuals. As many of our Nation’s veterans age and cope with illness, hospice and palliative care can also provide tailored support to meet the needs of these heroes.

The Affordable Care Act signed into law this year protects and expands hospice services covered under Federal health care programs. Prior to its enactment, the prohibition on concurrent care for Federal health care programs meant patients could not receive hospice care before first discontinuing treatments to cure their disease. The Affordable Care Act permanently eliminates this prohibition … As a result, fewer children, seniors, and families will have to make the heart-rending choice between coverage that fights an illness and coverage that provides needed comfort.

3. Personal

the father and son in question

Our house was in turmoil last week as my U11 soccer player was asked to “play up” (and if you know instantly what I am talking about, you must read My Kid Plays Up, a dead on satire of overzealous soccer parents, from When Falls the Coliseum). I find it remarkable how non-relationship and non-family centered the organizers of club soccer can be. Nary a thought is given to how playing with older kids will affect established peer relationships. How about the fact that said child’s U11 assistant coach is his father? Letting the child know at the same time as the parents prevents the parents from discussing it first and then presenting the option — if it is one, and this is for parents to decide — to their child. Perhaps this sort of thing is appropriate for older kids, but my son is ten years old, for Pete’s sakes! and a 10 year old cannot be expected to know how to balance the (greater)  importance of peer relationships and friendships and family time against enticements like “We can win the state cup!”. Grrrrrrr.

Otherwise, all is well here. No idea what I will post this week. Stay tuned!


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