I’m starting this at the beginning of the month, but I can already tell this will be a spare version of the list. I’m reading 1.3 million words of fiction this month, since I didn’t have time to start last month for the Anthology workshop which starts (started) on March 1. So the bulk of my reading time is reading manuscripts, some of which you will see (thanks to an upcoming Kickstarter) in December, and into 2020.
I should have a regular reading month in March. Unless something else derails me.
I should also let regular readers know that I canceled my Esquire subscription over their dodgy editorial content the past several months. The cover story for the issue that arrived mid-February sealed the magazine’s fate for me. I had a feeling that the magazine had become anti-women and quietly racist, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what made me feel that way. This cover took all of my doubts and made them real. The racism in the magazine went from subtle to extremely overt, and I quietly kicked myself for not trusting my own unease. So you won’t see me recommend anything from them again. I’m tossing the unread issues.
One thing I did learn this month is that when it takes me weeks to read a novel, no matter how much other reading I have to do, the novel is flawed. I was reading about 10 pages at a time, and when I finally finished the 1.3 million words, I thought, Yay! I can finish reading that novel. And that’s when I realized (about page 200) that our heroine was never going to tell the hero her secret. She spends the entire stupid book thinking about telling him and not doing it. This is a favorite author of mine, and wow, did she blow it. The confrontation that happened on page 330 of a 367 page novel should have happened on page 100, and then there should have been twists. But no…
Anyway, here are the things I liked in February that weren’t in the stack of manuscripts. (I liked quite a bit of what was in there!) Please note that I use Amazon links because I’m lazy, not because I’m endorsing anything.
Bernardin, Marc, “Oscar, Met T’Challa,” Entertainment Weekly, February 1-8/19. I did not expect to find a really sweet essay in the middle of my Oscar prep issue of Entertainment Weekly, but there it was on one of the best picture nominees. Marc Bernardin wrote a really personal essay on what Black Panther meant to him (and many others). He writes, for instance, that Danai Gurira’s Okoye says three simple words when she pilots the royal shuttle into Wakanda—”We are home.” When she utters those words, he was shattered.
“Because,” he writes, “‘home’ is a concept that’s difficult for the average African-American to wrap their mind around. Too few of us know where home is…the displacement that came with hundreds of years of slavery has stripped bare the memory of where I’m from.” He talks about the meaning of that, plus the way that Black Panther depicted a powerful nation untouched by the horror of history, and what it means to a part of our culture that never has seen something like this. Oh, hell. He says it so much better than I do. Read this.
Cole, Alyssa, Once Ghosted, Twice Shy, Avon, 2019. A novella in Cole’s excellent Reluctant Royals series, which focuses in part on some events that happened during the story in her first novel in the series. This novella stands alone though. It’s a delightful read.
Cole does something truly fascinating in a romance. The first chapter is from Likotsi’s POV and it’s set “now.” The second chapter is from her love interest Fabiola’s point of view, and it’s set during their very first meeting. Essentially, the novella explains the ghosting of the title, in an empathetic and powerful way. I read this after the disaster I mentioned in the introduction, and devoured the book in a single hour. Enjoy!
Mehlman, Jon, “My Wife And I Didn’t Tell Our Children She Was Dying,” The Atlantic, February 14, 2019. The Atlantic published this on Valentine’s Day. I can see why. It’s a heck of a family love story, about a remarkable woman and the choice she made for her family. Read this, and see if you don’t tear up.
Patterson, Irette Y., “On Resistance: The Chosen One,” Strange Horizons, January 28, 2019. Wonderful essay about the whole “chosen one” in sf/f. Irette takes the trope and examines it from the perspective of community. Truly insightful.
Schmidt, Preston,“Hard Truth,”, On Wisconsin, Winter 2018. The subtitle on this article is: “It’s essentially heresy to walk away from football in America.” Yeah, but Chris Borland did. He walked away from the NFL after he realized what the game was doing to his brain. The article focuses on his decision and how he and Ann McKee, the foremost researcher on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in football and other contact sports, are trying to communicate the dangers of the sport to the fans of the game, maybe with the hope of changing the game somehow (or at minimum getting rid of full body tackles in grade school, middle school, high school, and maybe college). Fascinating and difficult, it’s worth reading for every football fan (and nonfan).
Spoon, Marianne English“Mind Games,”, On Wisconsin, Winter, 2018. A very short completely fascinating article on a game being developed at the University of Wisconsin Madison to help adolescents learn empathy. Read this. It’s nifty.