Year today, gone tomorrow
Soon 2020 shall be hindsight
Not going a top-2020 book list, there are so many lists out there, so I’ll just recommend a few books this issue like I try and do every issue, and if you feel like a year’s-best-list please do have a roam through previous issues.
Contrast this laziness with the productivity and generosity of Abigail Nussbaum, who was recently very kind to Chosen Spirits, The Wall, and several other books in her recent reading roundup
Also grateful for these year-end best-of mentions in The Hindu, The Indian Express, Firstpost and Compulsive Confessions. CS really held this year together for me, and finishing it, releasing it, and feeling grateful for the response have ensured I had a… good year? Strange, but true
Also in the Express, this is me in their year-ender Eye, reminding you that 2020 was not science fiction’s fault
Finally caught up on the Baru Cormorant (secondary-world historical/anti-imperial/slow-build fantasy) series, which is supremely impressive, even though it drained me about midway through book 3 (Tyrant). I’ll probably pick it up again when the fourth and final book releases, but the first one, The Traitor Baru Cormorant, is one of those thrilling books that makes you want to completely dive into the universe and read a hundred stories in it. So layered, so complicated, so charismatic and so richly written. (I’ve linked to the Kindle edition, the paperback is an import and significantly more expensive)
Just as well written , even more charming, and definitely much less violent: Nghi Vo’s Singing Hills Cycle novellas (secondary-east-Asia-based-world, historical), The Empress of Salt and Fortune and When The Tiger Came Down The Mountain. I hope there are many more, and will devour each as it appears.
While east-Asia theming, let me also pitch Yoon Ha Lee’s space opera/fantasy YA adventure, Dragon Pearl, which I thoroughly enjoyed and hope to see more of soon.
From our part of the world, I want to point towards a book that’s been getting a lot of buzz in SFF circles: Yudhanjaya Wijeratne’s The Salvage Crew. The audiobook features Nathan Fillion and has been selling with the heat of a thousand suns: I try and go text-first whenever possible and this was certainly a book that gave me a lot to think about. I’d been reading a whole bunch of slow-moving and intricately crafted books before this which is why I initially found TSC overwhelming: not that it’s not intricately crafted, but there is just So Much going on. The forward motion is relentless, there’s about 15 new ideas in every page, there’s an actual AI cowriting some bits with Yudha, and the protagonist is also an AI who is probably Yudha? It’s a lot, and I enjoy books that are A Lot both as a reader and a writer, so please understand these wailings about TSC’s density are a compliment. The book is often stunning in the confidence and pace with which it ties really vast ideas together, and the snark/grumble/moan of the ex-human narrator makes it somehow more human than all the actual meatfolk in the story. Yudha is fiendishly bright, in his 20s, disgustingly prolific and also huge fun, so it is only a matter of time before he takes over the world. He’s written a bunch of books for Indian publishers as well, which like most regional sff have gotten zero marketing besides the occasional enthusiastic tweets from readers and fellow writers: do look them up if you read and like Salvage Crew.
More to Read/watch
This Future of Work series on Wired, featuring Aliette de Bodard, Tade Thompson, Usman Malik and Yudhanjaya W
Tim Maughan interview: Hacking the cult of the future
Things you already forgot about 2020
Two videos next, writers I admire talking to each other. I’m so happy every time I get to see these, not just for myself, but for everyone who’s on the internet and thinking of starting out with their writing careers. You have so much more information, so much more context, and so much more access to systems that just didn’t exist before. I know it’s a very long way to go before any kind of equality/parity is achieved, but real progress has been made.
Thinking about becoming a YouTuber? Here are YouTube’s top earners
Leonard Roberts in Variety about his experience on Heroes
The dark art of playing world-class Scrabble
Also, Gautam Bhatia has started Words for Worlds, an SFF-centred newsletter, so please do subscribe if you haven’t already.
Here are some ducks I enjoyed
Back in a bit
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