Things I’m looking forward to, Part I

I mentioned on Twitter a week or so ago that I was really excited about a couple of upcoming movie/TV adaptations of books that are supposed to be either in production, have been announced, or are coming out this year. A friend of mine asked that I create a list and I thought the blog would be a good medium for it, so here goes! This is part one of two, since I plan to do a second blog post about upcoming books and novellas that I am excited about.

Annihilation – This first book in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy is ridiculously good and in the process of being made into a movie! The team includes the director from Ex Machina and one of the main leads, Oscar Isaac (who I may sometimes call Oscarito because he is adorable).

I do have some reservations about this movie adaptation, though. Annihilation has minimum of six main female characters (all currently cast according to IMDB, though I’m not sure who is what yet). There are two male characters that I can think of that might be construed to have lines in a screen adaptation of the book – the Biologist’s husband and the lighthouse keeper. So far there are four men cast, three on IMDB and one which was announced on Twitter recently. The cast in general looks diverse, which is a nice change, but it does worry me that what should be pretty much an entirely female driven movie and was an entirely female driven book is going to somehow be undercut with an excess of male leads, especially since a lot of the male cast seem to be relatively famous. I’m still crossing my fingers. It helps that the author is directly consulting at least some of the time on the adaptation.

The Girl with All the Gifts – There’s already a trailer for this one, but you can read the book summary here. I loved this book – it’s a nice new take on a zombie novel with a very deep, literary focus instead of a focus on action. I am not sure how that will translate into the movie, but the trailer is good. Despite the main character being a young girl, the book is definitely adult. I see some vacillation here in the trailer on the branding, though. I expect this to be a very different movie from the book, but still good and interesting.

My biggest worry with this is how they will successfully capture in screenplay/acting the central theme of the book, which was, arguably, how adults sin against children. It’s an important aspect of two of the main characters and how they live (and die, in at least one case). It will be interesting to see how that is communicated.

Oryx and Crake – I am not tracking this one as hard, mostly because I loved this trilogy so much and I’m terrified they are going to mess it up. It’s been licensed by HBO for a television series. HBO does not have a great record for truthful adaptations (True Blood) but at least this series has the advantage of being complete, with each of the books able to function as a semi-standalone. We won’t end up with another Game of Thrones fiasco (which is literally wounding my reader’s heart every Monday. Please stop posting spoilers, internet). That said, we all know how tempting it is for TV adaptations to just keep running on and on if they make decent money, and I can see this work really suffering from that.

I am, however, very excited for the potential Netflix adaptation of Alias Grace. Netflix has a much better record for adapting clear, concise stories (I’m thinking Jessica Jones here) so I’m hoping they will bring some of that to Alias Grace if production ever kicks off. While I haven’t read this book yet, it is apparently based off of a true story and seems like it will have a gritty, cerebral crime-solving feel to it. I can totally get behind that. I’ve also heard rumors of a potential Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s apparently a great year for Margaret Atwood adaptations.

Lastly, of course people are excited about The Dark Tower and American Gods (check out the images for American Gods here). I’ll totally be sitting my butt down to watch those, but plenty of people have already said more than me about that source of excitement.

A more comprehensive list of upcoming movie/TV adaptations is available at Tor.com, so if there’s something you’re excited about that I didn’t mention leave a comment telling me why you liked the book! I’m always looking for additions to my reading list.

 

Some updates on life

It’s been a wild few weeks.

Summer is always pretty wild, actually. My mother’s birthday in June kicks off a smorgasbord of celebrations which last until my birthday in August. We have entered that time. From this point until August 13th, I have precisely one weekend that isn’t already planned out. I’m hoping to take a trip to DC to see friends.

As if that is not enough, summer is also often the time I experience major life upheavals. This summer is no exception. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I have a new job which I will be starting in July. The day job is important for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that it feeds me. Starting a new day job is almost guaranteed to cut into my writing time, but I’m afraid it can’t be helped. Summer is also the season of gardening and  community volunteering, and this is taking up a lot of my time as well. My word count has not been climbing nearly as quickly as I would like, but there is climbing happening at least.

Add to that the incredibly depressing and disheartening recent headlines that have exhausted me emotionally, and I’m afraid I haven’t gotten much done. Good thing there is sunshine and thunderstorms to balance things out some. The new job is also really exciting, and while I like to keep my employment separate from my writing career, I can say that it seems like a much better fit for me.

In other news, my signing was a highly informative and fun experience. That seems like ages ago now. And I have been reading some great things. Geek Feminist Revolution was phenomenal, as I have gushed about before, and Princess Jellyfish continues to inspire. I’ve promised myself I will run more to make more progress on The Water Knife but I haven’t done it yet. I’m thinking about finally picking up Jim Butcher’s Aeronaut’s Windlass, which I’ve had next to my bed for ages but haven’t read. It looked super interesting but I have been avoiding getting into a new series and his books tend to be long, drawn out epics. I think I’m ready for it finally, and very excited. I’m also going to dig into The Raven and The Reindeer by T. Kingfisher after reading a lovely review about it. It seems to be exactly the sort of book I need to reinvigorate me.

The audiobook has hit some snags, so may come out later than I had expected. I will keep you posted on that. I’m hoping to really dig into that project and writing more this weekend and will have more updates. Until then!

 

Wasps and kindness

I owe speculative fiction and my non-traditional upbringing for being the person I am.

Today, I got to work and found a tiny wasp had perched itself on top of my bun. I am slightly allergic to wasps, so this caused a bit of a heart-stopping moment. But it was unusually cold last  night, and the wasp was sluggish. No doubt he (or she) had been drawn to my heat.

There’s this very Western idea that I encounter a lot. It’s the idea that animals don’t have souls. Now I don’t know much about whether animals or people or anything has a soul in the classical Christian sense – an animus that continues forward after we die, taking the same shape, the same bounds, carrying the same memories and personality. There’s no way to really know that one way or the other. But it seems there are a lot of people who believe in that, and believe that it is for humans only. And the idea that another creature has thoughts and can make decisions, in whatever alien fashion, never seems to cross their minds.

When I caught my little wasp friend up in a paper towel and put it out on the front porch in the sun, my motions must have seemed alien to those people.

My dad read me a lot of stories when I was a kid, from all different places. We read Native American stories (How the Rattlesnake Got His Fangs, The Same Sun Was in the Sky, The Birth of Fire) which featured jackrabbits and yellow jackets and javelinas and willows and histories. We read African and Black diaspora stories (Brer Rabbit comes to mind. There are so many Brer Rabbit stories.) We read stories from King Arthur’s Round Table and the childhood of Merlin, the greatest wizard of British legend. We read myths from Sumeria, Greece, China, and Japan. And, between these shorter stories, we read the epics of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and so many other fantasy writers imagining different worlds. Worlds where humans were not the only thing that spoke.

I don’t think that humans are the only things that speak here either. I have always known that animals and plants had, if not a soul, then a spirit. Life imbues them. They are not merely programmed automatons anymore than we are (or, if they are automatons, bound by their natures, then so are we). They make decisions, alien as they may seem.

Western culture often does one of two things with other forms of life. It dismisses it, consigning it to a lesser status, rationalizing its abuse and degradation. Or it idolizes it, putting it up on a pedestal, arguing that it cannot do wrong things, that it is somehow more pure than human life. Neither of these approaches makes sense. Both of them reduce what life is. It is a complex dance, encapsulating both the good and the bad. A snake that bites you and kills you is not evil. The dolphin that swims with you and lets you stroke its nose is not good. Animals have personalities. They are individual. How they interact with you is largely dependent on that personality and on how you treat them. Putting your head in the right place to anticipate their choices is imperative for good relations. Respecting them for their individuality is the ethical choice. Valuing life when you can, and taking care of it when you can, is important, but understanding that you can’t always avoid death is also imperative. But when you can avoid death, why seek it out? Why kill a wasp that merely looked for shelter from the cold?

It’s hard to think of things that way if you have never been forced to look outside yourself. I know it can be hard to keep in mind even with as much of a predisposition for it as I have. But I think that this wide exposure to story, this experience of thinking like other creatures as well as other people, has helped me a great deal as a writer and as a person. It has made my stories what they are.

I can never fail to be thankful for that.

The Geek Feminist Revolution – a love letter

An early post this week, as tomorrow is my author signing at the Tanglewood Barnes and Noble. I’ll be there and setting up by 6pm so if you have a book to bring for signing or are looking to buy a paper copy, please stop by!

Now, on to the subject at hand. I’ve been reading The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley and I have to say that this book has literally rocked my socks.

You may have picked up by now that I am a self-proclaimed feminist. This is not always considered a good descriptor of a human being, but I find that people who don’t want to be your friend if you call yourself a feminist are not usually nice people. I say this because of personal experience. As a writer, I primarily try to tell balanced stories with varied female (and male) characters. I don’t always succeed. I grow a lot from project to project. I’m still learning, and that’s okay.

I have the honor of being a relatively privileged woman. I am white, able-bodied, thin, and adjectives most commonly used to describe me are “smart” and “pretty”. This is not ego talking, or not ego for the sake of hearing itself. I find all sorts of people beautiful and admirable who do not, classically, fit these descriptors. This is an observation of social norms. I have privilege. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel like screaming every time I turn on the news and read about the most recent rape acquittal or talk to a friend who has just experienced some terrible abuse from a partner or get cat-called by some strange man and am reminded that I am, in fact, still a second-class citizen in many ways. That at the first blush, I am a woman.

Hurley said something that crushed me pretty early on in this book, so I’m going to quote it here.

[Joanna] Russ expressed the white-hot rage I felt at realizing the game was rigged against me from the start, and that no matter how equal I believed I was, the world was going to treat me like a woman, whether I liked it or not. Her book The Female Man is so ragingly, teeth-gnashingly nuts that I couldn’t get through it the first couple of times I tried. the title also gave voice to something I felt all the time – that I was a human, a man – not in the sense that I felt disassociated from my female body, but in the sense that I, too, had bought that women were somehow “other” and I wasn’t “other” so I must be a man, a real human too, right?

I had to put the book down when I read that, because I was that girl and it hurt to see someone else put those words on paper. I had thought that I was an anomaly. When my father read me the Lord of the Rings I was Frodo. Frodo, after all, was the hero. I was the hero. The biology didn’t factor in. I only really became aware of the way that my gender and sex had shaped my life once I became an adult and had names for some of the things that had happened to me as an adolescent – and continue to happen, because unfortunately adulthood doesn’t give you a free pass from sexual harassment.

Grappling with that sense of betrayal, with that sudden awareness, is a lot of what prompted the major plot points of Mother of Creation. Coming into adulthood and feeling purely betrayed by the promises of my youth, by the idea that I could be anything I wanted to be, was a harrowing experience. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I was insulated from that experience, relative to others. I am, as I mentioned, relatively privileged. My privilege includes a family that loves me and supports me in all sorts of craziness – including haring off to Japan and leaving a perfectly good, if dull and terrible, job to be a homeless traveler for a month. I always knew, if things got too bad, that I could go home. A lot of people don’t have that. Liana, the princess of the Creation Saga, does not have that. She has no home to go back to, and must face whatever the road throws at her.

But she, too, is fighting to be seen as a real human, despite the barriers of her sex and the situation of her birth. So many of us are.

Reading The Geek Feminist Revolution was like reading a love letter to all of us geek girls who wanted, so badly, to feel like we were human. It’s an at times violent and troubling love letter, but that violence is never turned towards us. Its turned against all of those who would suppress our stories, our muchness. Hurley’s keen analytical mind dissects our stories, the ones we have consumed and the ones that have consumed us. She lays our souls bare. The goal of every writer is to accomplish as much.

Updates from the homefront

Life has been pretty crazy lately.

I think I did an update not too long ago talking about how my S.O. and I had gotten engaged in April. Then there were several trainwrecks that happened – his grandmother passed away, for one, and I had some drama with my folks over the engagement. Normal life things, but they do take a lot of energy and time.

On the writing side of things I have been submitting my most recent batch of short stories. I’ve had, as expected, numerous rejections, though I’ve had two of those rejections come back slightly positive, with one being a personalized rejection and the other being short-listed before being cut. That has been encouraging. My short stories are definitely in a different place than they were even two years ago, and I can feel my style changing. I think that will be good, as long as it’s positive change that tightens the pacing and the characters, and not change that erases my voice. Also, I got new notebooks!

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The cutest notebooks! I’ve already started writing in the flower one! My favorite are the cacti.
I’ve also read some good books. Luna: New Moon has been my favorite recently, which is no surprise as it is by the master Ian McDonald. His work is amazing. I’ve started The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi on audiobook as well as Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist. The former is for running to, and the latter for listening to while driving to work. I love the voice of the narrators for both of these books, but especially the voice for Bad Feminist. She has such a rich tone. (Though I have learned more about competitive Scrabble than I ever wanted to with that book.) And I have been reading Princess Jellyfish, which is a manga – the anime was on Netflix a while ago, which is what got me into it. You can download the chapters on Comixology through your Amazon account, so that’s a pretty neat thing if you’re into graphic novels.

Lastly, I’ve been working in my garden, but the groundhog has found a way to climb over my fence and started eating everything so I need to fix that desperately. Pretty much all of my lettuce, peas, carrots and kale have been wiped out. I harvested all of the spinach and chard before she could get to it though, so at least I managed that much. I haven’t been over to the other garden to check the tomatoes and peppers, because there is construction going on around it so it makes it hard to stop in right now, and also because we have had rain every day for weeks so I’m not worried about watering the plants. The S.O. and I will probably make it by there in the morning since he is not working this weekend, which means pancakes and walks all over the neighborhood for garden checks and fruitshare pickup and getting movies for the week at the library.

Oh, and I may be switching jobs soon, which has been taking up a lot of my time and I’m very excited about for a lot of reasons, but I will tell you more about that perhaps at a later date. Suffice to say that I am only considering the move because of how amazing the position is, and if I get it I won’t have to commute anymore. Less time for audiobooks, but I’m happy for the trade if it means I’m more productive at home.

 

Surprise Book Signing!

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Hey, everyone! This is a special surprise post to let you know that I will be having a book signing at the Tanglewood Barnes and Noble in Roanoke, Virginia in conjunction with the national event B-Fest. I’ll be doing the signing on Friday, June 10th at 6 pm and then doing the trivia night event afterwards at 7 pm. The Facebook event is here. Hope to see you there!