Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Black Sci-fi/Fantasy Books Through July and Early August 2020

...Okay so it happened slowly but surely. I burned through most of the new TV shows and movies wanted to watch on streaming. Production schedules are screwy right now on top of the fact that I've just been watching more lately... for reasons. I got a free subscription to audible and rekindled my habit of reading.

A Word on Audiobooks
It's been a while since I've gotten new physical books but for a while, I've been subscribed to Tor's free ebook club. What I've kind of found is that I just don't have the attention span I used to so while I have a lot of books a lot of which are good I haven't really worked through them. 

Part of what got me into reading as a child is that at school there would just be long spans of time where I couldn't do anything else, attendance, the bus, latchkey. As an adult, I think it's even stupider but a lot of my teachers could never just say do whatever the hell you want as long as you don't bother anybody during times like that. To be fair to them I've taught, well substitute taught and there is just some stuff that's a bad look. Anyway, they did tolerate the quiet kid reading stories about alien invasions.  

Aside: Don't watch the Animorphs TV show. The closest filmic thing to what the books "felt like" is The Faculty, which is probably why to this day it's my favorite horror movie. I was already primed for it. 

But that's not now. I've got a computer in my pocket whenever I go out and these days again for... reasons I don't go out much at all. There is enough to do that books aren't really my only option anymore. 

That being said I've found it's easier for me with audiobooks. With an audiobook, if I get distracted for a minute or two or start dooffing around on my phone in the slower bits it seems less like a big deal rather than reading print where the story stops when I stop, though I know that may come off disrespectful to the writers that the story may not have my full attention. 

The speakers on my computer were busted and I never really had the cash to spend to fix them so one of the first things I did with my COVID-19 check was to get some new speakers and fix a few other things that bugged me about my computer. 

It took me a while but eventually, I started to think about all the stuff that I would have liked to do them and audiobooks made the cut.  

I Love It But... It Can Suck

I love science fiction and fantasy and have for a while. They are my genre of choice. But specifically with fantasy. It annoys me how everything comes back to white people. The default setting for fantasy is medieval Europe and while for the most part, I can get into that grove when I want to annoys me that a genre whose name derives from its infinite possibility consistently excludes other histories and other stories.  I made the decision that if I get back into reading fiction regularly I would try to make the effort to read more black science fiction and fantasy writers. 

This is to say that while I did and do read other stuff today at least I focusing on stuff from Black authors. 

It's not the first book I picked up but it's been on my list for a long time. Fantasy as a genre is in the shadow of Tolkien who loved the old stories and used them to make new ones. As I said it annoys me that at least until recently I didn't really see a lot of stories doing the same with other old tales, at least ones that aren't from Europe.  

This one does. 

You might want a quick primer on Yoruban and Caribbean folklore. 

Both of these series by the same author are good and are worth reading but The Broken Earth Trilogy feels as though it's a ground-up reworking of the Inheritance Trilogy which is why I think they work better together than as a single read. Both book series feature peoples that seem alien as major players to the plot. The Inheritance Trilogy is more so ABOUT these peoples than the Broken Earth. And so it takes a bit longer to get into the heads of these people though once you get into the grove it's not hard. 

As a result, I think The Broken Earth is the more accessible read since it's the characters at its focus are a little bit more relatable. And then once you get used to the idea that these are still people, which is part of the point of both series, come back to The Inheritance Trilogy.

I read these as e-books and I still need to read the third book in the series. They are shorter than everything else I read... which is good. I like N. K. Jemisin but at least the stuff of hers I read has been big and epic with both The Broken Earth and Inheritance Trilogy taking place of thousands, in the case of The Broken Earth Trilogy tens of thousands of years.  

The scale of those stories can get ... exhausting.  So I was and if I'm being honest still am looking something smaller and more intimate. For that Binti is a good start. But... it feels very much like it's written for a younger audience. 

Which isn't bad but sometimes does take me out of the story. 

Other Notable Mentions/Stuff I'm Thinking About
  • Lillith's Brood: I've read Lilith's Brood before. In fact I consider it to be the most complicated, densely intellectually packed novel I've ever read. I kept stopping to just mull over what the main character said for a bit. It's a book of ideas.  N. K. Jemisin's writing style kind of reminds me of that and it has similar themes of change and imperialism so I kind of want to revisit it. 
  • Midnight Robber: Brown Girl in the Ring was Nalo Hopkinson's debut. When I read writers talking about writing many are jaded by the fact that their first novel defines them when they've grown (mostly I'm talking about William Gibson and Neuromancer) If I find an author I like I kind of feel I owe it to them to give later stuff a chance and a lot of people have said that Midnight Robber is a better book. 
  • Children of Blood and Bone: I know next to nothing about this one but it keeps showing up in my recommendations. 

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