So you’re mad online about whatever Game of Thrones did last episode. I don’t watch the show but it’s all over my timeline right now, and from what I can tell there seem to be three or four major complaints you have about this show that you keep watching only to complain about.
Here’s a quick little list to help you find something that might be more to your taste. So which bolded statement did you tweet out on Sunday?
Characters are doing things that make no sense. Hunger Makes the Wolf, by Alex Wells.
Instead of people doing things just to make a plot happen, why not read a scifi/fantasy novel where they act on very familiar motivations: class struggle? Wells’ novel follows a backwater mining world trying to fight off the megacorp who’re exploiting its people. Yes there’s a badass fire-witch, but she knows no amount of magic can help her stand up to corporate bureaucracy without a union backing her.
It apparently doesn’t take time for characters to travel anywhere now? The Year of Our War series, by Steph Swainston.
One of the major plot points of the second book is that characters are stuck for literally months on a ship traveling overseas while there’s civil wars and insect invasions they can’t lend a hand with. Outside of this refreshing nod to realism, Swainston’s series has battle scenes that are equally brutal to ASoIaF’s while criticizing its own government and heroes with gleeful abandon. I read the first book nearly ten years ago and can’t get over how relatably hateable Jant is.
I can’t say “slay kween” as a compliment anymore. Winterglass, by Benjanun Sriduangkaew.
You probably shouldn’t have been using that phrase in the first place? But regardless, there are better-developed, better-fighting female protagonists you can read about. Nuawa is a gladiator intent on assassinating the Winter Queen who’s conquered and oppressed her homeland. Kind of the opposite of Daenerys, and with all the heinously problematic elements replaced with evocative prose and a deft approach to worldbuilding.
This was supposed to be subversive but it’s ultimately just retreading the same tired fantasy ground while posturing about it. Viriconium, by M John Harrison. Or The Etched City, by KJ Bishop. Or The Narrator by Michael Cisco. Or or or…
Authors have been subverting all that stuff for about forty years. It’s not hard to find if you look beyond pop culture.
One of the most sheerly fun things I’ve read in recent years has been Hal Duncan’s series of Scruffian stories, which are a unique variation on stray child fantasies like the Lost Boys or the Borribles. They incorporate clever twists to history and mythology, a cheeky-but-probably-reliable-enough narrative voice, and a rambunctious spirit that’s as punk and D.I.Y. as any fold-over ‘zine you’ve ever rattled off on your day job’s Xerox machine.
The Scruffian stories come in the form of a Lethe Press collection (above) and a handful of chapbooks available in print, epub, and e-audio formats through the author’s Bandcamp page. There’s a new one coming out in a couple weeks, so if you’re a fan you might need some recommendations to tide you over. Or, if you like the books I’m reccing but haven’t read any Scruffians yet, that means now is a great time to get in to it!
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One of my favorite books from last year was Leech Girl Lives, by Rick Claypool. It’s a wonderfully satirical and decidedly leftist novel about a safety inspector in the far-future who gets exiled from her bubble-city after being framed in a plot to create an unsafe environment. While in the wilderness, two symbiotic leeches devour her arms and latch on to her shoulders, and things only get stranger from that point. There’s a LOT going on with this book, the ideas it tangles up, and the surreal world it presents. Which means there’s a lot of possible angles from which it looks a little like other books.
So you enjoyed this bizarre romp of a book and are still hungry for more. If…
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I’ve just gotten a short story about incorporeal solidarity published in the magazine Speculative City alongside awesome writers like dave ring, Stefani Cox, and Robin M. Eaves! It’s a great magazine from some really sharp publishers, so give it a look!
“Oh Ghost of Mine” is a story featuring Decca, one of the characters from To Another Abyss. The plot is completely separate so you don’t need to have read the novel beforehand, but you can totally pick up a copy afterwards if you want more of her snerky socialist supernatural solutions.
I think what first kicked off this story idea was a couple friends of mine who were having a discussion about where modern freelancers and the self-employed fit in to traditional Marxist class structure, and what shape a worker’s “solidarity” can take when they don’t really have co-workers or managers.
I don’t have much background in political theory so the first and most amusing answer I could come up with was “choose a line of freelance work that will grift the rich.” Which I find satisfying on a visceral level, but it isn’t really practical career advice, so I was left to explore it in fiction. I couldn’t think of any stories where someone had actually turned that old line about “the specter of communism” into a literal specter, and what’s the point in a metaphor like that if you can’t literalize it every now and then?
Moreover, ghosts are a pretty good model for activism. If you look at any story from M.R. James all the way back to Hamlet, ghosts have always known that the only way you’re going to get results if you start pestering folks who are comfortable with the status quo. Loudly. In their own bedrooms if that’s what it takes.