Sunday, 7 February 2016

Shout-Out: Graft by Matt Hill

Manchester, 2025. Local mechanic Sol steals old vehicles to meet the demand for spares. But when Sol’s partner impulsively jacks a luxury model, Sol finds himself caught up in a nightmarish trans-dimensional human trafficking conspiracy.

Hidden in the stolen car is a voiceless, three-armed woman called Y. She’s had her memory removed and undertaken a harrowing journey into a world she only vaguely recognises. And someone waiting in the UK expects her delivery at all costs.

Now Sol and Y are on the run from both Y’s traffickers and the organisation’s faithful products. With the help of a dangerous triggerman and Sol’s ex, they must uncover the true, terrifying extent of the trafficking operation, or it’s all over.

Not that there was much hope to start with.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Sarah, Please Keep Doing Special Needs in Strange Worlds

I don’t normally comment on controversial issues in SFF, but sometimes you can’t stay silent.

SF Signal posted a Special Needs in Strange Worlds entry titled, “We are all disabled” that has caused a lot of hurt. (The post has been removed from the site but @eilatan took this screenshot of the post and asked that it only be shared with a TRIGGER WARNING)  While I was not personally affected by it (I found it more confusing than anything, and didn’t agree with the premise), I understand that many in our community were.  

I have learned a lot from the Special Needs in Strange Worlds column.  I have also learned a lot from the responses I’ve read about this particular post - responses that explained why it was insensitive to post, offensive, how it fed into stereotypes associated with autism.  How it hurt to read on such a well respected site as SF Signal.

SF Signal messed up.  Sarah messed up.  

I was taught that three things are necessary when you make a mistake:
1. Apologize 

2. Make restitution 
You have to somehow make up for what you’ve done.  First, they removed the post.  Good start.  Some other possibilities to help in this instance could be to post on SF Signal one or two responses to the original post, explaining why it was offensive and different ways negative stereotypes hurt.  Several posts by autistic people, showing different viewpoints, would be wonderful - to get more voices out there and counteract the inaccuracies of the offending piece.

3. Try to do better / Don’t make the same mistake again
I’m sure Sarah will be more careful going ahead - assuming she decides to go ahead with the column.  Maybe a panel would be more appropriate for screening responses for this column than one individual, and some people will volunteer to help her with it.  Maybe more people will send her their experiences to post in the column so it’s more representational.

Criticism is good.  We need to be able to point it out when people do things wrong.  But if we go too far and push people out of the genre for making mistakes, we’ll soon be in a very small, very empty room.  Because we all make mistakes.  All of us.  We can all do better.

And education is one way of doing better.  Education that this column usually provides.

I NEED this column.  I want to learn more about others, about what makes us different, and similar.  I want to know more about people’s experiences with disabilities so I can better understand my fellow man.  But like most people, I’m lazy.  I’ve stumbled across the occasional other post on this topic, but I don’t go out of my way looking for them.  We need posts about representation, about difference, about disability on sites like SF Signal that get a lot of genre traffic.  Because I’m not the only one who needs to learn about these things who won’t go looking for them.  

They need to be front and centre in genre if we want change, they need to be on the sites that get traffic, views, discussion.  

Mistakes hurt.  Sometimes they hurt a lot.  But if we don’t pick ourselves up and try again, if we give up, then we learn nothing from the mistakes.  And the mistakes simply repeat themselves in different venues at different times, with different people.  

Sarah, you made a mistake.  But I respect you.  I respect your work on the Special Needs in Strange Worlds column.  I’ve learned so much from you and that column.  This genre needs you.  Please, please keep doing it.  Don’t let this mistake be the end of this wonderful work you’ve done.

ETA: I've just read this enlightening post on Flat Out which explains more of what was offensive about the original SF Signal post.  It's worth checking out.

And here's a response by Foz Meadows, which dissects the post, again pointing out some of the problematic language.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Shout-Out: Winterwood by Jacey Bedford

It's 1800. Mad King George is on the British throne, and Bonaparte is hammering at the door. Magic is strictly controlled by the Mysterium, but despite severe penalties, not all magic users have registered.

Ross Tremayne, widowed, cross-dressing privateer captain and unregistered witch, likes her life on the high seas, accompanied by a boatload of swashbuckling pirates and the possessive ghost of her late husband, Will. When she pays a bitter deathbed visit to her long-estranged mother she inherits a half brother she didn't know about and a task she doesn't want: open the magical winterwood box and right an ancient wrong—if she can.

Enter Corwen. He's handsome, sexy, clever, and capable, and Ross doesn't really like him; neither does Will's ghost. Can he be trusted? Whose side is he on?

Unable to chart a course to her future until she's unraveled the mysteries of the past, she has to evade a ruthless government agent who fights magic with darker magic, torture, and murder; and brave the hitherto hidden Fae. Only then can she hope to open the magical winterwood box and right her ancestor's wrongdoing. Unfortunately, success may prove fatal to both Ross and her new brother, and desastrous for the country. By righting a wrong, is Ross going to unleash a terrible evil? Is her enemy the real hero and Ross the villain?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Video: Americapox - The Missing Plague

This video by CGP Grey answers several questions I never knew I had. The question this video deals with is: Why, when the Spanish arrived in the 'new world' and spread plagues, did no 'new world' plagues spread through Europe?  The answer is quite interesting, and goes over where plagues come from. (And part 2 isn't out yet.)

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Book Review: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

Pros: quick moving, suspenseful, action packed

Cons: no down time to consider the questions the book posed, didn’t feel emotionally connected to the characters

For Parents: swearing, some sexual content (mostly kissing, nothing graphic), lots of violence

Picking up immediately where The 5th Wave ends, Ringer leaves the group’s temporary shelter to hopefully find a safer place where they can spend the winter.  Meanwhile, Cassie still has hope that Evan survived the explosion and will meet up with her again, though each passing day makes that less likely.  Fear, paranoia, rage, hope, and love all come into play as the characters struggle against their new world.  And the big question remains, why?  Why did the aliens create such an elaborate series of ‘waves’ to annihilate humanity instead of one catastrophic event?

This is a very fast moving book.  There’s little time to think about what’s happened before the next calamity hits.  On the one hand, it makes for a suspenseful, action packed novel.  On the other hand, it doesn’t give you any time to consider the questions the book poses.  And I found that my emotional attachment to the characters wasn’t as strong as with the first book (though I suspect if I’d reread the first book before picking this one up that would have been different).  When bad things happened to the kids I didn’t feel it as deeply as I should have. 

I like that we got to learn more about some of the kids’ pasts.  Through POV flashbacks we learn how Poundcake got his name and why he doesn’t talk, we also learn a bit more about the aliens.

It’s the second book in a trilogy so the ending leaves you wanting the final volume, The Last Star, where all the questions will - hopefully - be answered. 

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Books Received in January 2016

Since I won't be accepting much in the way of review books this year, this column will likely not be a monthly feature.  The list today has 1 title, which I actually got in December but forgot to add to my list then.  

Traveler by Arwen Elys Dayton - This is the second book of the Seeker trilogy, and I've already reviewed it.  This is a fun YA series and I'm looking forward to the third book.

Quin Kincaid is a Seeker. Her legacy is an honor, an ancient role passed down for generations. But what she learned on her Oath night changed her world forever.
Quin pledged her life to deception. Her legacy as a Seeker is not noble but savage. Her father, a killer. Her uncle, a liar. Her mother, a casualty. And the boy she once loved is out for vengeance, with her family in his sights.
Yet Quin is not alone. Shinobu, her oldest companion, might now be the only person she can trust. The only one who wants answers as desperately as she does.
But the deeper they dig into the past, the darker things become. There are long-vanished Seeker families, shadowy alliances, and something else: a sinister plan begun generations ago, with the power to destroy them all.
The past is close. And it will destroy them all.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Movie Review: Time Lapse

Directed by: Bradley King, 2014

Pros: makes you think, good acting, some tense moments, establishes and follows internal logic/time travel rules  

Cons: takes a while to get going, no science

Three housemates: a painter with no inspiration, an aspiring writer, and guy who’s hoping to win big on dog races, discover a machine in their neighbours house that takes photos 24 hours in the future.

The premise of the film is fairly simple, though it takes a while to get going as they have to find the machine and then figure out what it does.  But once they do, and realize they can use it to further their ambitions, things start to get tense.

The acting is great, which is important as the film really demands a lot of its protagonists.  I wasn’t that keen on Jasper’s character (played by George Finn) and wasn’t surprised that his greed and idiocy caused some of their problems.

There’s an internal logic to how the machine works and thereby how time travel works in the film that the film doesn’t deviate from.  Which is great.  Having said that, I felt that the characters should have asked more questions about how the machine worked.  The film gives no science or explanations at all about how this is possible.  

The ending made me think about the film in new ways, going over the events to puzzle out what happened and why things happened in those ways.  

It’s a well done film, that’s worth seeing.