Sawyer: Record of a Spaceborn Few, p. 175

Self loves Becky Chambers’ world-building. She first picked up on Chambers’s absolutely on-point world-building skills in the Sawyer sections (This novel uses one of those mutliple point-of-view structures, which normally self finds extremely annoying, but here actually likes). As a result, Sawyer quickly became one of self’s favorite characters.

In a recent chapter, he met the crew of a salvage ship. His observations about the crew, especially one with a “flip-eye”, and the way he’s asked to “break code” is completely beguiling. She almost quoted it in a blog post yesterday, but had to complete her week’s assignment for a memoir class she’s taking from UCLA Extension (a comp; after all these years of teaching, she’s entitled to at least a dozen of these!), so decided to forego the pleasure.

This morning, she happily begins to read a new Sawyer section (p. 175). Once again, the inventiveness of Chambers comes through!

A few pages earlier, Sawyer met Eyas, self’s second-favorite character.

Sent message

Encryption: 0

Translation: 0

From: Sawyer (path: 7466-314-23)

To: Eyas (path: 6635-448-80)

Hi Eyas,

I hope you don’t mind my sending you a note. I found your scrib path in the ship’s directory (you’re the only one with your name!). Anyway, I wanted to thank you again for your advice the other day. I’d just signed up for sanitation work when I met somebody outside the job office looking to hire workers for a salvage project. It’s just a gig right now, but it might be more. Plus, the crew’s been the only group of people other than yourself to offer to show me the ropes. They seem like fun folks. So I’m on board with them now, but don’t worry! My name’s still in the sanitation lottery. I took what you said seriously, and I’ll help out when I’m needed. Thanks for steering me in the right direction.

Sawyer

Oh, Sawyer. He’s good at reading code, but doesn’t bother encrypting his message to Eyas? What a neophyte! The message has self thinking: Danger! Danger! He is entirely too trusting of his new crewmates.

And now that Sawyer’s sent the message, he sits on his bed thinking: I should have bought new clothes.

lol

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

This Is How An Alien Drinks Hot Liquid: Record of a Spaceborn Few, p. 59

Lacking lips, Ghuh’loloan held the Human-style mug up, flattened her face back into her body so that it lay almost horizontally, and poured a little waterfall into her wide mouth. Her whole body shivered. ‘Ho! Oh ho!’

So, here’s a question: Why do aliens need gender? Is this something essential to reproduction? Self would have thought, being such a superior life force, aliens would have found a more efficient way to reproduce.

She honestly didn’t think about this until she noticed the pronouns in the passage above: Her.

Stay tuned.

Record of a Spaceborn Few, pp. 38 – 40

Self is enjoying this book. She didn’t think she would, because of the alternating viewpoints.  But she already likes one character a lot: Sawyer.

She loves Becky Chambers’s world-building. It is multi-layered and also precise.

For instance, there’s some kind of class system (with Humans somewhat farther down on the scale than they are right now, lol). Self knows this because Sawyer bags a transport to The Fleet. There, he immediately encounters “a branching sign that read Cargo Bays on the right and Central Plaza on the left, all the scales and claws went right.”

Sawyer is “a grounder.” He’s never been to the Fleet before. As a grounder, he’s used to mingling with ‘species.’

But suddenly he’s in a place where there are mostly humans. They speak a language called Ensk. Sawyer isn’t used to speaking Ensk: “His face said Human. His vowels said Harmagian.”

He looks for a place to eat and stops at Jojo’s (What a mundane name for a restaurant of the future!) and asks a woman behind the counter for a menu: “Exoskeletons crunched between her hands.” The woman tells Sawyer, “We’re out of red coaster stew.” So Sawyer says, “I’ll have twice-round pickle.”

Already self’s insides are roiling, imagining what goes into this dish. Sawyer’s insides are roiling as well, since he can’t see what the preparer is doing: “Something was chopped, something was ladled, a few bottles were shaken.”

Too funny.

Self would like to thank The Guardian for recommending Record of a Spaceborn Few. And for recommending The Essex Serpent and November Road.

Stay tuned.

We Meet Aliens: Record of a Spaceborn Few, p. 16

A hatch yawned open. How, Kip couldn’t say, because there weren’t any edges on the outer hull to suggest doors or seams. The crowd broke into a cheer as three Aeluons stepped out. Kip had really wanted to see them up close, but even at a distance, they made his heart race. Bare silver heads he knew were covered in tiny scales. Patches on their cheeks that swirled with color.

abstract architecture background buildings

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Now Reading RECORD OF A SPACEBORN FEW: Isabel (pp. 8 – 9)

The rest of the Exodus Fleet was out there, thirty homestead ships besides her own, orbiting together in a loose, measured cluster. All was as it should be . . . except one, tangled in a violent shroud of debris. She could see where the pieces belonged — a jagged breach, a hollow where homes and walls had been. She could see sheet metal, crossbeams, odd specks scattered between. She could tell, even from this distance, that many of those specks were not made of metal or plex. They were too curved, too irregular, and they changed shape as they tumbled. They were Human. They were bodies.

photography of stars and galaxy

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Excerpt: First Causes (Quarterly West # 89)

Yesterday, someone on Twitter posted a question to the Asian American writing community: share your 2018 achievements. Self’s response began with: “I am an experimental science fiction writer.” Which she’s sure had people scratching their heads.

To explain what she meant by “experimental science fiction writer”, here’s an excerpt from a story that Quarterly West published in Issue #89. The story takes place in a classroom of the future. The narrator is a boy named Dragon who is NOT a dragon. The professor, who really IS turning into a lizard, is named Fire Lizard. The other characters are Drinker, Knot, and Big. Big’s just gone missing.

Drinker says, low, “Big passed.”

I answer: “Fucker. Big’s not Big. He’s Big XXX. Mark it.” I slash three quick XXX’s across my screen. Knot looks to the side quickly, then glances down.

“The All-Powerful, the Everlasting,” I start to sing, lowly.

Drinker shudders, pulls slightly out of his seat.

“You!” Fire Lizard screams, pointing at Drinker. “What’s your issue?”

“Obscure,” Drinker mutters.

Fire Lizard’s eyes seem to bug out of his head. “Who remembers rain?” he shouts. “Last rain? Who remembers?”

I hold up my hand. “Ghost of,” I say. “243 days since.”

Self would like to take this opportunity to express her gratitude to Quarterly West for taking a chance and accepting this story. It’s wild, it’s crazy, it’s not easy to understand. But did she ever have fun writing it.

Stay tuned.

Self’s Top Three Reads of 2018

How did self end up selecting these three?

The books may have been far from perfect — self thinks, in particular, of the first two — but they were the books she found herself re-reading, despite their flaws:

DSCN0006

  • Dead Letters, by Caite Dolan-Leach: Bravo, Dolan-Leach. Self has not been able to dislodge the dysfunctional Antipova twins and their yummy boy toy, Wyatt Darling, from her thoughts since she read this, Dolan-Leach’s first novel, mid-November.
  • Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz: Beat out a host of other science fiction self read this year, including All Systems Red, Book 1 of The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells; and Jade City, by Fonda Lee. The book lived because of a character named Threezed.
  • The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman: Vol. 2 of His Dark Materials killed self in every way. If not exactly perfect, it was close. Will Parry forever. The book did such a number on her that she went to Oxford to see Will and Lyra’s bench, in the Oxford Botanical Garden.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Still Reading THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE

Haven’t reached the dog point-of-view chapters yet. When self does, that may very well spell The End. But David Wroblewski’s writing style is quite lyrical. And very spare. For the first time in her life, self understands that a dog obssession may not be the worst thing to spend a week reading about. Who knows. She’s still on the fence about dog point-of-view.

To help her along, she re-reads wicked letters from Zelda Her Malevolence in Caite Dolan-Leach’s over-the-top but strangely magnetic novel, Dead Letters. (What Follows Is Not Really a Spoiler, Since Zelda Could Just Be Pretending To Be Dead) To show you how fabulous this Zelda is, her funeral photo (selected by her father) shows her in a see-through caftan, an image of pure, feral Untameability. Picture of course taken by her strait-laced sister, the one whose boyfriend she stole. Do you see how over-the-top this novel is? Why isn’t it set in some British stiff-upper-lip society drawing room?

When self started this trip, she thought she’d be unloading books as quickly as she went, leaving them behind after she’d done reading them. But oops, she found herself wanting to re-read Emma (Jane Austen). Then Autonomous (Annalee Newitz). Then All Systems Red (Martha Wells). And now, Dead Letters.

What. Is. Going. On.

Stay tuned.

Currently Reading: DEAD LETTERS

Self finished All Systems Red two days ago, which marked the end of her science fiction cycle and the beginning of a mysteries/thrillers cycle. She’s currently reading Dead Letters, by Caite Dolan-Leach, which is full-on family angst, involving twins. Talk about upping the ante.

She likes clustering her reading — sometimes by genre, sometimes by author.

For a few years, she read only books by women.

Another few years, she read only memoirs.

Another few years, she read only travel books.

Another few years, she read only books by African American writers.

One summer, she read only Henning Mankell.

There was a period of reading just history books.

And so forth.

For 2018, she read mostly novels. But these ranged from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials to science fiction. She adored reading science fiction, which she hadn’t done in a while. She read The Hunger Games, sure — but they don’t really count as science fiction, do they?

Anyhoo, she is sorry to let the science fiction genre go. It’s probably the most rapidly expanding literary genre at present. And, because in August she attended a talk by George R. R. Martin in Redwood City’s Fox, and picked up a few copies of Oakland-based Locus Magazine, her attention was immediately captured by an announcement of the World Fantasy Awards. One of her newly discovered favorite authors, Fonda Lee, whose Jade City self just finished reading, was a co-winner with Victor LaValle for Best Novel (Yay, Fonda Lee!)

They even had a category for Best Short Story, for which Fonda Lee was a finalist.

And there was also a category for Best Artist (Winner: Gregory Manchess). She really enjoyed looking up the finalists art.

Now, back to her reading/writing.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Quote of the Day: ALL SYSTEMS RED

DSCN0195

  • And what was I supposed to do? Go off on this empty planet and just live until my power cells died? If I was going to do that, I should have planned better and downloaded more entertainment media.

— Murderbot, All Systems Red by Martha Wells

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