2017 Nebula Award Winners Announced!

By Brittney Reed-Saltz nebulas logo

Each year the Nebula Awards honor distinguished works of speculative fiction. The honors are voted on and bestowed by active members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. In other words, if something wins a Nebula, it does so because people who know and care about speculative fiction think it’s worth your time. So for fans, the list of winners and nominees is a great source for high-quality SFF that you know people are talking about.

Want to be part of the discussion? RCLS has you covered with several Nebula winners and nominees in the system, including every title nominated for Best Novel and for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation!

Check out what we’ve got below. You can view a full list and learn more about the Nebulas here.

Best Novel
Winner: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin
Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
Jade City by Fonda Lee
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Best Novella 
Winner: All Systems Red by Martha Wells
River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

Best Short Story
You can read these online! Just follow the link and look for “Read Online” beneath the cover image for each story.

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
Winner: Get Out 
The Good Place

Logan
The Shape of Water

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Wonder Woman

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Winner: The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller
Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren

Genre Spotlight: Weird Westerns

by Penny Hilton

Think about how hard it would be to address a supernatural or alien event in our modern lives. Now imagine you don’t have a car to flee in, just a horse to ride and a long-barreled shotgun that is notorious for sending bullets a foot left-of-center. This is the essence of the Weird West.

Thanks to television shows like Westworld and Preacher, the Weird West genre has gained notoriety in pop culture. Although I’ve never been a fan of westerns, I distinctly remember loving the movie Cowboys vs. Aliens because of how they pitted the rugged, battle-hardened cowboys against an unimaginable threat on a background of dusty saloons and general stores. So, I checked out all the Weird Westerns we have at RCLS to learn what this newly popularized genre was all about.

Weird Westerns are stories set in 19th-century America that feature elements from a variety of other genres including sci-fi/fantasy, steampunk, mystery, and horror (bestfantasybooks.com). There can be a range of options, like an alternate universe where hippos replace horses or a dusty southwest city where monsters, cyborgs, and cannibals are kept at bay thanks only to magic wards. Like other time-centered fantasy works, there is a healthy bit of world building in each book that helps the story develop and provide alternate history as needed.

Stylistically Weird Westerns are varied. Some throw you right into the heart of the weirdness, like the graphic novel The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn that features a foreboding conversation between a gunslinger and grisly tree of souls within the first ten pages. Others begin with an unremarkable western character that encounters a supernatural element such as an alien with a gold-seeking gun or a man who can genetically modify plants by breathing in their pollen (Dead Man’s Hand: an Anthology of the Weird West, John Joseph Adams).

While I’ve only mentioned the briefest of what this genre has to offer, below I have listed some of the Weird Westerns we have at the library. Stop by your local branch to check them out!

TV:
Preacher
Westworld
Firefly

preacher season 2        westworld      firefly

Graphic Novels:
Preacher by Garth Ennis; volume 1 available through Hoopla and Overdrive
The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn

preacher book 1       sixth gun

Young Adult:
Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen
Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

wake of vultures       revenge and the wild.jpg

Fiction:
River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
Dead Man’s Hand edited by John Joseph Adams
The Gunslinger (Dark Tower Series) by Stephen King
The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman
Six-Gun Tarot by R. S. Belcher

river of teeth.jpg     dead mans.jpg     gunslinger.jpg

half made world     six gun tarot

Sources:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WeirdWest http://bestfantasybooks.com/weird-west-fantasy.html https://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-joseph-adams/totally-bizarre-takes-on-_b_5432732.html
https://rclsreads.com/
http://www.syfy.com/syfywire/west-gone-wild-9-comics-weirdest-westerns

In Search of My Favorite Dark Bookish Feeling, or, Gillian Flynn Ruined My Life

By Brittney Reed-Saltz

Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a workshop on reader’s advisory with Becky Spratford, an expert on connecting readers with books. (You can check out her blog here.) During the workshop, Becky talked a lot about book appeals, and about how when we look for books, we’re really looking for the feeling and the frame. We love books because of how they make us feel, not necessarily because of the plot, which varies wildly from book to book… or, at least, it should!

That spurred me to think more about why I love my favorite books, and it helped me to identify the root cause of one of my biggest problems as a reader.

I guess you could call it Gone Girl Syndrome, or OMG-Why-Hasn’t-Gillian-Flynn-Written-A-New-Book-Yet Disorder. Like most of the rest of the world, I read Gone Girl a few years ago, and I loved it. When I read Dark Places and Sharp Objects, I discovered that I loved them even more. Then I read Flynn’s novella The Grownup… And then I was finished. With her entire oeuvre. And thus began the sad Googling.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking for books that are similar to Flynn’s, with varying degrees of success and a bit of floundering. What to search for? Gone Girl readalikes? Domestic thrillers? Psychological thrillers by women? The problem, of course, is that genre lists only go so far, and suggested readalikes don’t always capture what I like about a book in the first place. You can spend all day long telling me to read Tana French, but since police procedurals are hit-or-miss for me, it’s just not going to be the same.

So, what is it about Flynn’s work that makes it so irresistible to me?

I sat down and made a list of appeal terms that describe her writing. Here’s what I realized that her books have in common: They are dark, suspenseful, and engrossing. They are literary, with plenty of time spent on characterization, and they might employ multiple perspectives or play with form. They are psychological, and they often turn up bleak (very bleak) observations about people and society. Finally, they prominently feature “unlikable” characters and unreliable narrators, most of whom are women.

Once I had that list, I realized that those terms also describe other books I’ve read that have successfully given me that elusive Gillian Flynn feeling.

Here are those books:

The Secret History by Donna Tarttsecret history
Students at a prestigious New England university develop deep, complicated relationships while studying together in an exclusive Classics course. As they become increasingly wrapped up in the world they’ve created, tensions rise and give way to betrayal and death. Tartt takes her time developing characters that I loved to hate. They are glamorously despicable and so much fun to read about as you wonder if and when their lies will be revealed. Donna Tartt isn’t exactly an unknown author, and this is far from being a new book, but if you’ve been putting off trying her work, I can’t recommend The Secret History enough.

night filmNight Film by Marisha Pessl
I got so sucked into Night Film that it made me angry at real life for interfering with my reading time. This novel follows a disgraced journalist as he researches the death of the daughter of a cult film director, employing unlikely allies and extreme measures to sniff out suspected conspiracy. There were many times as I read Night Film that I had no clue what was happening or what was real, and I couldn’t get enough. The included photographs, documents, and web content add extra layers of involvement to this convoluted mystery. If you’re like me, you’ll wish that the movies this book describes were real, but unfortunately we’ll have to settle for alternatives. (David Lynch is a suggested substitute, and he comes pretty close.)

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylanlong black veil
A group of friends go into the abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary. One of them does not come out. Twenty years later, the body’s discovery dredges up memories and secrets that could ruin the lives of everyone involved. The spooky frame of this novel piqued my interest, but instead of a horror novel set in a derelict building (which would also have been pretty fun for me), I got effortlessly drawn character studies that interrogate the meaning of identity and change. Flashbacks between the present day and the day of the murder and the switches in perspective maintain suspense. Be advised that you find out who the killer is about halfway through, but don’t worry: The whodunnit isn’t the point, and there are plenty of reasons to keep reading to the very last page. (Also be advised that this book includes some animal deaths. The two scenes are brief and serve the plot, but if that’s a deal-breaker for you, steer clear.)

ultraluminousUltraluminous by Katherine Faw
A prostitute returns to New York City from Dubai, leaving behind an ex-lover, under unknown circumstances. Who is she, and why is she back? The details unfold as the narrator recounts her daily routines and her interactions with clients, giving up piece by piece until the full picture is revealed at the end. Faw doesn’t shy away from a bit of literary experimentation, writing in vignettes and eschewing all names in favor of the  dehumanizing sobriquets the narrator assigns to her johns. If you want a gritty examination of what it means to be in control, this is your book. I loved how it played with my expectations and kept me nervous and slightly confused. I read chapter after chapter after chapter like I was scarfing down potato chips, shocked when my knuckles brushed against the bottom of the bag.

Apparently, we can expect a new Gillian Flynn book in 2021, when she will release a retelling of HamletThat’s my favorite Shakespeare play, and I think that if anyone can get it right, it’s her. Until then, I hope that these recommendations help ease your impatience as they have eased mine.

And don’t worry; I’m always looking for more. If you see me at the circ desk, don’t be afraid to ask which books have given me that Gillian Flynn feeling lately, or to share your own suggestions!

Why Tracking Your Reading Is a Good Idea–And Some Ways to Do It

by Brittney Reed-Saltz

It’s a dilemma familiar to many avid readers: You’re browsing the stacks at your local library, searching for a new book to read. It feels like you’ve read everything, and you teeter at the brink of despair, when finally, a title catches your eye. You read the blurb, and it sounds like something you would love! You proceed with excitement to the circulation desk and check the book out. Back home, you settle in for a night of literary escape. You read the first few pages, and immediately you’re sucked in… Until you realize that things sound familiar. Too familiar. You’ve already read this book.

Despair! Angst! Worse… Nothing to read! Nooo!

During the years that I’ve worked in libraries, I’ve frequently encountered patrons stuck in this dreaded cycle. And I get it. When you read multiple books each week, it can be hard to remember what you’ve read.

That’s why I’m such a proponent of keeping track of every book that you read. I’ve been doing it for years, and here are some of the ways I’ve accomplished this task.

The Pen-and-Paper Method
This is exactly what it sounds like: you write down the books you read. Looseleaf paper, notepads, fancy notebooks, it’s all up to you. The same goes for any other information you want to include: dates started and finished, genre, markers of diversity, inclusion in book challenges, etc.

You can expand this idea way beyond a simple list. Bullet journals have been a big thing for awhile now, and there are so many articles and ideas on Pinterest for finding your own bookish bojo bliss. Keep it simple, or go as wild as you like… After all, this could be a great excuse to buy multicolored pens and whimsical washi tape.

The Social Method
Maybe pen and paper isn’t your style. You don’t want to keep track of a bunch of lists or have to remember to bring your journal with you when you’re out and about. If you want an easy and portable way to track your reading, book-oriented social media sites are the way to go.

Goodreads lets you create custom shelves, set goals, and share reviews with friends, and it is probably the most popular site to track your reading. The mobile app even lets you scan barcodes to quickly look up books and add them to your shelves! There is no end to the book recommendations that you’ll get on Goodreads, so expect your Want to Read shelf to overflow almost immediately.

LibraryThing is another option that allows you to catalog your personal library with as much specificity as you want. However, the site is only free for the first 200 books you enter; after that, you’ll need to pay a subscription fee or buy a lifetime membership.

Another fun option is Riffle, which allows you to create and share curated lists of books. If you’re the kind of person who loves recommending books to your friends, you can have a lot of fun coming up with your own custom reading lists. Riffle is also great for discovering new books or finding your next read when you’re craving a specific type of story.

The Privately Techy Method
Maybe sharing everything you read with the general public–or even just your friends–doesn’t appeal to you, but you like the ease and portability of a digital option. In that case, try a reading spreadsheet! With Google Sheets, you can have your list right on your phone. You can also customize your spreadsheet as much as you would like. It’s easy to track genres, page counts, audiobook lengths, and more. If the idea of an over-the-top spreadsheet is appealing, but you doubt your prowess, never fear. Book Riot has one that you can copy to your own Google Drive and use for free. 

So, which one do I use?
I have dabbled in each of these methods, and have experienced firsthand the pros and cons of each. When I first started tracking my reading in middle school, I made a simple pen-and-paper list. That evolved into a Word Perfect doc (hey, it was the early 2000s) that I kept for each school year and summer, printing them off for record-keeping. Sometime around the end of college I discovered Goodreads, and I used it off and on for several years before I decided that I wanted a more private way to track my books.

That’s when I started my Google Sheet reading log. I adore being able to track genres, color-code my reading by months, and easily sort my data. (It’s possible that I even make charts at the end of each month. And by “it’s possible,” I mean that I definitely do.)

Sometimes I still miss the social aspect of Goodreads, though, which is why I’m on it nearly every day, and why I still periodically review books there. Sometimes I just really need to talk to other people about a book that I’ve loved–or one that made me facepalm myself unconscious–and besides, I love making disastrously long lists of books that it will take me years to get through.

Ultimately, every reader has their own interests and needs, and there is not one method that will work for everyone. If you’re new to tracking your reading, try out different options and see which one feels natural to you and best fits your lifestyle.

Track your reading carefully and consistently, and you’ll free yourself from accidental re-reads forever!

 

Diverse Worlds: LGBTQ+ Sci-Fi and Fantasy

By Brittney Reed-Saltz.

This is the second installment of a series highlighting genre fiction that centers marginalized peoples and perspectives. You can view the first post here.

In my post about people of color in science fiction and fantasy, I pointed out the value of representation for all kinds of people in imaginative and speculative fiction. After all, if we can have a story about dragons and space travel and arcane magic, there is no reason why that story and others can’t feature the same diversity that exists in our world.

That counts just as much for members of the LGBTQ+ community. We still have a long way to go when it comes to representation in sci-fi and fantasy, but more and more books are being published that center characters who are not straight and/or cis.

Here are some SFF novels available through RCLS with LGBTQ+ characters. If you’re looking for more, I highly recommend this post on The Illustrated Page. I consulted it frequently while compiling my list, and I found so many books that sound wonderful. If you see something that we don’t have, be sure to request that we purchase it or get it as an Interlibrary Loan!

 

Asexual
Sheepfarmer’s Daughter by Elizabeth Moon

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Quicksilver by R. J. Anderson

quicksilver

Bisexual:
False Hearts by Laura Lam

Planetfall by Emma Newman

false hearts

Intersex:
An Unkindness of Ghosts by River Solomon

an unkindness of ghosts

Gay
Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

amberlough

Genderfluid/Nonbinary:
Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

river of teeth

Lesbian
Huntress by Malinda Lo

The Steel Seraglio by Mike Carey

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott

The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan

huntress

Pansexual:
Borderline by Mishell Baker

Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

borderline

Transgender:
Dreadnought by April Daniels

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear

The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

 

 

dreadnought

 

Returning to Reading: How to Beat Reader’s Block and Get Back to What You Love

by Penny Hilton

College killed my desire to read. Every day I would have more pages to read than hours in the day; it felt like the professors reveled in our misery. The books and articles stacked up, and my stress got higher and higher. Eventually I stopped reading for every class; if I did, it was just to scrape by. I still made good grades, but I had lost all desire to read. Me, the only librarian who couldn’t read through a single book. After years of unending tension between my passion for literature and the soul-crushing weight of academic obligation, I graduated. It was finally over, and my first goal was to recover reading for pleasure.

I needed to reclaim what was a staple of my childhood, escaping into a good book and finding yourself along the way. Reading had been an integral part of my life since birth. As the young child of an avid reader there was a chair beside my bed instead of a table so that my parents could read to me every night from a comfortable position. I was able to read and comprehend books like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire yet unable to spell my own name correctly inside the front cover. I spent most of my summers in high school reading and rereading my favorites. I developed a grand plan to love reading again and logically started with the first books I learned how to read–Harry Potter. Did it work? Not at all. Turns out when you become an adult, connecting with a book from your childhood is more about nostalgia and less about reading. I didn’t make it past the second book in the series.

I thought maybe I needed to go to an even easier reading level than juvenile fiction, so I read some adorable picture books that reminded me of what it felt like to read as a child, but I couldn’t just read easy books forever. I needed something engaging with which I could connect. My next step was graphic novels because they featured gorgeous artwork in addition to shorter stories. I picked up a few and made it through less than I checked out. I found myself spending more time looking at the art than reading the words. With this newest bust I was beginning to feel discouraged.

shambling guide

That’s when I found The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty,  a silly urban fantasy novel I never would have picked out before. The story follows a travel writer who finds herself thrust into the underground world of supernatural beings that coexist alongside humans. The prose was simple, and the story was easy to follow. I found all of its ridiculous plot points endearing and the protagonist relatable. I was hooked. I had found a novel I wanted to finish. After I did a victory dance around my apartment, I set out to carry this book with me everywhere I went just in case the desire to read hit me. And it did. I started reading this book on my lunch breaks, in waiting rooms, even while grocery shopping (a good reason to hit the in-store Starbucks). It started out sporadic, every couple of weeks or days, but eventually I developed a reading routine. It still takes me a few months to read an average sized novel, but I spend more time having quality reading experiences.

Once I finished The Shambling Guide I didn’t want to lose the momentum I had gained. To prevent this I took what I loved about The Shambling Guide and looked for that in other books–comical plots written with simple, direct diction. I created a Goodreads account (which I recommend to everyone looking for reading inspiration) and discovered a whole genre of irreverently comedic sci-fi and fantasy novels that have filled my reading list. Not only did I rediscover my love of reading, but I discovered a new reader within me. My advice to those of you like me who have developed reader’s block is to take the time to try things you never would have before. A new perspective may be all it takes to push past the block and get back to loving what you’re reading.

A Season in the Life of a Mood Reader

By Brittney Reed-Saltz

I am a mood reader, which is the literary embodiment of that Robert Burns poem about the best laid plans of mice and men. Even if I make a nicely-organized TBR list, those plans go oft awry.

Being a mood reader means that it might take me years–literal years–to get around to a book that has been recommended to me or that has been gathering dust on my shelf, but I don’t think it’s an entirely bad thing. My fickle nature leads to plenty of fun detours and pit stops that I wouldn’t get to enjoy if my attention span were more linear.

Often I find that these detours turn into pleasant little journeys, when a book contains a reference to something else that I then simply must read. Spring is a fertile time for these excursions, which is appropriate. What better time to explore and discover new things than when the earth is waking up and starting over fresh?

In Spring 2017, I had a thrilling season of mood reading, when connections abounded and every book that I finished pointed me in another direction. It all started when I read Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. That put me in mind of another book about writing that I had originally read in college: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. mood read 1

Revisiting Woolf’s analysis of women’s place in the world and the obstacles they must overcome to write reminded me of how much I enjoyed Woolf’s writing in college. It also made me think about all the Woolf novels I had yet to read. So I went on a little trip through some of her work and life, reading a biography, devouring To the Lighthouse and Orlando.

From Orlando, I became curious about its inspiration, Woolf’s lover Vita Sackville-West. So I read one of her novels, All Passion Spent, and whiled away some violet-scented hours with Virginia and Vita’s collected correspondence.

All Passion Spent features a French housekeeper and long passages of French, which I mood read 2had to translate with help from Monsieur Google because I do not speak the language. That planted the subconscious urge in my mind to take a detour, this time to France. I read two fun advice books, Polish Your Poise With Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott and the tongue-in-cheek delight How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas.

Well, can you spend any time reading glamorous French books without taking an existential turn? I couldn’t. I ended up reading Sarah Bakewell’s illuminating study of the existentialist movement, At the Existentialist Café. mood read 3

Bakewell’s discussions of Albert Camus reminded me of reading his novel The Stranger in high school. I realized that I remembered almost nothing about it, so I made it my next project. And then, I couldn’t get enough of Camus! I fell in love with him through A Happy Death, The Fall, The Plague, and a good chunk of the essay collection Resistance, Rebellion, and Death.

I had time for a couple more French-related interludes before my mood turned. Although Samuel Beckett was Irish, he spent most of his adult life in Paris, where his play Waiting for Godot premiered. I read it sitting on my back porch one night, wondering why I hadn’t mood read 4read it before. And American essayist David Sedaris made for witty company through Me Talk Pretty One Day, never more so than when he was recounting his faltering attempts to communicate in French.

(What happened after that? A complete departure into horror novels that lasted all summer.)

As the daffodils and pear trees bloom and the equinox approaches, I wonder what moody reading detours this Spring has in store for me. I know that no matter what catches my attention, my library will indulge my quirks and save my wallet with every book I discover.