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Sunday Links for March 11, 2012

The winner of the 2011 James Tiptree, Jr. Award has been announced: Redwood and Wildfire by Andrea Hairston. The shortlist of books sounds like a great reading list altogether.

The National Book Critics Circle Awards have been announced.

As I noted last Sunday, March seems to be an excellent month for new books. Here are Amazon’s picks for the best books this month. One book that sounds especially interesting to me is Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, but then, I’m a sucker for those ancient Greeks.

Science fiction and fantasy are filled to the brim with series. Sometimes it seems impossible to find a book that isn’t smack dab in the middle of a trilogy. This occasionally seems wearisome – and then you hit a series that so enchants you that you wish it would never end. Bryan Thomas Schmidt offers his perspective on eleven series he read and was glad he did. There are a few here I haven’t run across, and may have to give a try.

Total Film offers a list of the 50 most hated movies ever made. It probably won’t surprise you that a huge number of these are movies based on comics. I think the author, Simon Kinnear, must be a fan boy!

Sigh. Despite a number of studies and articles about how women’s books are reviewed far less often than are books by men, the discrimination continues. You would think that book blogs would be a place where things would even out, wouldn’t you? No such luck. Heck, even I can’t meet the 50/50 standard; in a rough count of the reviews on this site (not including short reviews), only 68 of 153 reviews (or 44%)are of books written by women (though I’m including authors whose gender is unknown to me, like K.J. Parker, as male; otherwise the percentage changes just a touch). At least I beat the average for blogs, but this is a good eye-opener for me, and I’m going to make an effort to review more books by women in the future.

Marvelous news: 500 new fairy tales have been discovered in Germany. While many of them seem to duplicate the Grimm’s fairy tales, many seem to be entirely new. I’m looking forward to reading them.

Kids are eager to read – just give ‘em a book and turn ‘em loose. I know that’s how I was when I was a kid, and having books in my home were probably responsible for turning me into a reader (together with frequent visits to the library, back in the days when your mom could turn you loose on your bike and let you ride across town without worrying that you’d be kidnapped or worse). It’s surprising what a difference it can make to give a child a book for her very own. The Read Across America program seems like a good way to get that accomplished, and I’ll be donating. In addition, next November I hope to hand out some children’s books along with candy on Halloween night. I’ll let you know how that goes – complete, I hope, with some photographs of faces lit up with delight.

March Madness in college basketball seems to induce March Madness in books as well. Bookspot Central is holding its annual tournament of science fiction and fantasy. You could do a lot worse than to make these brackets into your reading list for the rest of the year. If you’ve read any of these books and loved them, do step up and vote!

If your interest is in mainstream fiction, there’s a tournament for your taste, too. I’ve been enjoying the Tournament of Books for as long as it’s been around, even though I’ve rarely read more than one or two of the books contesting for the spot as best of the year. This year the only one I’ve read on the list of contestants is Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, although, as is often the case, I own several of the other books on the list. [Insert oft-repeated complaint about not having enough time to read.]

I don’t usually highlight reviews of individual books here, but I thought Douglas Coupland’s review of Hari Kunzru’s Gods Without Men especially thought-provoking; so much so that I immediately ordered a signed copy for my husband, who I think will love it. It’s the lead review in today’s New York Review of Books, a publication that I still find essential, despite its traumatic decline over the 20 years or so in which I’ve been reading it.

As I write this, I’ve just finished watching the latest episode of The Simpsons, which is a play on the movie “Inception.” Great stuff. It’s funny to me how a show that is built around a largely illiterate and unsophisticated family is, in fact, highly literate and sophisticated. One of the real joys of the show for true aficionados is the introduction, which has been different for every one of hundreds of episodes. Fantasy fans will get a huge kick out of the Game of Thrones introduction. It’s worth watching more than once.

James Tiberius Kirk is the first starship captain many of us “met” in our lives, and for many he remains the best. (Not me; I’m a Pickard woman myself, but that’s a whole different story.) Forbes, of all periodicals, explores five leadership lessons from Kirk. It’s a surprisingly thoughtful article from a periodical that you wouldn’t expect to ever take anything science fictional at all seriously.

For the writers among us, this article on 25 things you should know about word choice is a fine lesson in how every word counts.

Michael Chabon suggests that writing teachers are biased against science fiction. This will come as no surprise to anyone in a masters in fine arts department just about anywhere in the country. It’s a shame, given that the market for short science fiction, fantasy and horror is the healthiest short fiction market in the nation. Fortunately, these fields have their specialized workshops, like Clarion, to take up the slack – not to mention excellent teachers like John Kessel at those universities willing to spread their wings. Wired Magazine interviews Chabon about the prejudice against science fiction.

Author Richard Parks writes about playing fair with your readers. Those who follow this blog will have noticed that I have a real bee in my bonnet on this point, especially when it comes to mysteries. I hate when an author hides the ball, making it impossible to figure out the puzzle. Parks explains when it’s appropriate to do that and when it’s not.

I recently read and enjoyed The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells; The Serpent Sea is waiting in the wings for me to finish the paper I’m writing for the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in a couple of weeks and get back to the serious business of reading for pleasure. Wells has set up a website gathering all the stories set in the same universe as these two novels, which I also plan to explore at my earliest opportunity.

In news about the publishing business, it appears that Amazon may be reconsidering its stance as the only seller of books for the Kindle. It would be good to see some competition in this area. As it is right now, I can’t buy a book to read on my Kindle from Barnes & Noble or anyone else, unless they’re selling pdf files – and I’ve never come across a retailer who is.

I’ve occasionally been blurbed – that is, had an excerpt from one of my reviews published in the opening page of the paperback version of a novel. It was sort of a thrill when it first happened, but I’ve more or less avoided writing in a blurbable fashion for some time now; I’m not interested in being an unpaid advertiser. Famous authors often are called upon to blurb books very early on, and almost all of them have a policy about what they’ll say about whom. Stephen King and others offer their thoughts on the quandary of the book blurb here.

I have a huge girl crush on Rachel Maddow. I hope one day I’ll get to meet her, buy her a cup of coffee, and just shoot the breeze for a few moments. In the meantime, though, I’ll have to settle for enjoying her news segment called The Week in Geek. It’s amazing how much happens in science and technology every single week, and this is a great way to keep up with it.

What’s the most astounding fact about the universe? Neil DeGrasse Tyson will tell you. And you’ll be delighted.

Magazine Monday for March 12, 2012

This week's Magazine Monday column at Fantasy Literature considers the new Asimov's Science Fiction -- a double issue for April/May 2012. There is a great deal of excellent fiction in that issue, and reading it was pure delight.