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Jan. 1st, 2015

2014 Book List

This year, I challenged myself to stop being a lazy-ass and actually read something that isn't either fanfiction or for school. The challenge is for 100 books, and it's usually logged through Goodreads. I do not have a Goodreads account, nor do I particularly want one, so I decided to log it in a text document on my computer, and then post it at the end of the year. I didn’t get to 100, but I think I did respectably, considering I rarely ever have time to read anymore. There are several large gaps in between completion of books, due to various reasons (largely university being a timesuck).

When I was younger, I used to read a ton of books. I loved to read. Then I grew up, went to high school, and realized that honestly, after reading all of this stuff for school, I didn't want to read anymore.

In 2013, my mother started getting on my case about it. “All you ever do is watch TV and screw around on the Internet! You used to read all the time! What happened?” Well, I got older and realized I don't have tons of time to read anymore, and when I do have time to read, I want to read fic, not book. But this year, I decided to try to read a bit more than I usually do. And here's the results of that challenge, in the order of the books I read all the way through. I was going to include a short summary, but I'm lazy, so I ended up just linking to the Amazon page, which should have reviews as well as a summary. If you have any questions about the books you can leave a comment asking for more information and I will do my best to answer them, but keep in mind that some of these books I read a while ago, and I might not remember everything about them.

You can use this as a rec list if you want, but to be honest, some of these books I liked a lot better than others. If you have a question you can comment or email me. Manga read in book format, as opposed to scans, is also included, although scanlations/manga ebooks were not included because of the volatile natures of those sites- one day you log on, the next day it’s been deleted.

I have included books that were required for my classes, except textbooks. There were some other books that were only available as e-books. Anything that is only available as an e-book is marked with a * after the title, and anything read for class is marked with **.

So, onto the books!

1. 1634: The Galileo Affair: Eric Flint and Andrew Dennis
Date Completed: 1.4.2014

2. 1635: Cannon Law: Eric Flint and Andrew Dennish
Date Completed: 1.6.2014

3. 1635: The Papal Stakes: Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon
Date Completed: 1.16.2014

4. Grantville Gazette I: Eric Flint et. al.
Date Completed: 2.25.2014

5. The Winter Witch: Paula Braxton
Date Completed: 2.27.2014

6. Grantville Gazette II: Eric Flint et. al.
Date Completed: 3.6.2014

7. Crowned: Julie Linker
Date Completed: 3.11.2014

8. Kitchen Princess Omnibus Vol. 1 : Natsumi Ando, Miyuki Kobayashi
Date Completed: 3.11.2014

9. Kitchen Princess Omnibus Vol. 2: Natsumi Ando, Miyuki Kobayashi
Date Completed: 3.12.2014

10. Kitchen Princess Omnibus Vol. 3: Natsumi Ando, Miyuki Kobayashi
Date Completed: 3.12.2014

11. Absolute Conviction: My Father, a City, and the Conflict that Divided America**: Eyal Press
Date Completed: 4.24.2014

12. The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle over Abortion**: Steven Singular
Date Completed: 4.26.2014

13. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Ransom Riggs
Date Completed: 6.13.2014

14. House of Faith or Enchanted Forest? American Popular Belief in an Age of Reason**: Charles W. Hedrick
Date Completed: 6.24.2014

15. Mighty Like A River: The Black Church and Social Reform**: Andrew Billingsley
Date Completed: 6.26.2014

16. The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down: Ann Fadiman
Date Completed: 7.1.2014

17. Moving the Rock: Poverty and Faith in Black Storefront Church**: Mary E. Abrums
Date Completed: 7.8.2014

18. Black Saints in a White Church: Contemporary African-American Mormons**: Jessie L. Embry
Date Completed: 7.17.2014

19. High * Speed!*‡ Kouji Oji
Date Completed : 8.5.2014

20. Diary of a Sorority House Mom*: Ann Hyman
Date Completed: 9.3.2014

21. The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth Century America**: Sarah Barringer Gordon
Date Completed: 9.28.2014

22. Animal Sacrifice and Religious Freedom: Church of the Lukumi Babalyu Aye vs. City of Hialeah**: David M. Obrien
Date Completed: 10.9.2014

23. Jury Discrimination: The Supreme Court, Public Opinion, and a Grassroots Fight for Racial Equality in Mississippi**: Christopher Waldrep
Date Completed: 10.24.2014

24. The Will of the People: How Public Opinion Has Influenced The Supreme Court and Shaped the Meaning of the Constitution**: Barry Friedman
Date Completed: 10.31.2014

25. The Runaway Bridegroom*: Sundari Ventrakaman
Date Completed: 11.9.2014

26. The Bus Kids: Ira W. Lit
Date Completed: 12.1.2014

27. The iCandidate: Mikael Carlson
Date Completed: 12.27.2014

28. The iCongressman: Mikael Carlson
Date Completed: 12.31.2014

‡- The version of this book that I read was an unofficial English translation, since I couldn’t get the original Japanese copy without paying at least $50 to get it, which I did not want to do. The link I downloaded it from is no longer active, and I cannot locate another one, I still have the file though, if you want it comment with your email address and I’ll send it to you.

Mar. 16th, 2014

Warnings Wars: Science Fiction Edition

Dear god, it just doesn't end, and now I'm worried they're going to drag my favorite sci-fi series into it. Christ almighty, leave the Ring of Fire books alone! If the social justice warriors get their mitts on that I think I'm going to have a breakdown.

Why am I concerned about the fate of the Ring of Fire books? By the way, for those of you who are not familiar with them, the Ring of Fire series is also known as the 1632 series, written by Eric Flint and others, about a modern West Virginia town that ends up being sent back in time to Germany in the year, you guessed it, 1632, right in the middle of the 30 Years War. I highly recommend these books- go read them if you possibly can.

Anyway, apparently there's been a bit of a dust-up over at Baen Books (which just so happens to publish the 1632 books). And the Ring of Fire gets namedropped as something that wouldn't have happened in today's hyperpolitical world, especially with the sorts of people attracted to the Baen Books now. And they've hijacked the Baen convention. A lot of the authors are becoming nervous, worried that they won't be able to write what they want anymore without risking a disproportionate backlash. I hate to say it, but given what I've seen happen in fandom, they are right to worry. And given the way this convention was skyrocketed onto Twitter by inviting a certain British dude to host it, well... the sci-fi writers should be battening down the hatches, because it's about to get rough.

No comments on this, folks, apparently one of them is linking to things from Twitter. I don't think my poor Lawn is up to the challenge of dealing with them. Oh, and by the way, if any of them read this: stay away from Eric Flint and the Ring of Fire or I'm gonna punch you. Why must they take everything I love?!

Jan. 3rd, 2014

I Don't Think You Get The Point of Sci-Fi

Today I stumbled across a publisher of sci-fi and speculative fiction that bills itself as being socially conscious and progressive, called Expanded Horizons. And it is seriously one of the craziest things I've ever read.

Don't get me wrong: it starts out reasonable enough- as far as I can tell, you are not required to adhere to literally every single thing on this list, because I can't see how that would be possible, especially as multiple things are contradictory. But it's nothing particularly out of the ordinary. They want to increase the number of non-white people, women, LGBT people, and disabled people shown in sci-fi, which is an admirable goal. I have no problem with that, and I actually think it is a good idea, since I've read enough sci-fi that is basically “White Dude Saves Aliens And Fucks Alien Lady” that it's getting old. More diversity could lead to more interesting stories.

Where it goes batshit insane is where they say they want to increase representation of psychics, otherkin, otakukin, real-life vampires, and people with magical powers. And they are 100% serious about this- they really mean what they're saying.

For those of you who don't know, otherkin are people who believe they are animals trapped in a person's body. To me they largely come off as either kids goofing around, or people with some severe issues. A small subset of them treat it as a sort of religion, which I guess I can understand, since there are plenty of religions out there that come off as equally odd to me. Where it starts to become a problem is when adherents to this demand that people recognize their “true inner wolf” and demand that people stop sitting on their imaginary tail. Overall, though, they tend to be mostly harmless, but they're hardly a group that needs special representation. People who think they are wolves aren't... exactly what I would expect an organization focused on social justice to pay attention to.

Where it gets even weirder is the otakukin or fictionkin. Otakukin are people who quite literally believe that they are anime characters. If I was to identify as Higurashi Kagome from Inuyasha, I would be an otakukin. Fictionkin are the umbrella-type of otakukin, meaning people who think they are fictional characters of any type. A guy thinking he is Harry Potter would be a fictionkin.

The whole submission guidelines are a mix of understandable, if somewhat shortsighted (seeing as they are a science fiction publishing company) rules, and utter WTF-ery. No stories about aliens or giant bugs taking over the world? That's like half of sci-fi right there! No stories where mutants are oppressed? Guess the X-Men are out now. No sexbots, no blonde people, no clones, no zombies, no apocalypses in general, no aliens, especially no fat aliens or aliens that are very different from humans, but you also can't base your aliens on people... what the hell are you supposed to write about for your sci-fi? That's like 90% of sci-fi right there. And with the otherkin/fictionkin, psychics, and vampires included, I can't help but wonder- who exactly are they trying to market this to? People who hate sci-fi? Psychiatrists? Actual aliens? I don't know, and canno imagine anyone actually being able to write anything that fits to their exacting standards, especially any science fiction.

Mar. 13th, 2012

Fanfiction, Writing, and Omnific Publishing

I write fanfiction.

It's not exactly something I'm ashamed of, although if you asked me in real life and I didn't know you all that well, I would probably deny it. It's not because I'm ashamed of my “goofy-ass hobby” (to paraphrase someone on Fandom!Secrets a while back), it's because to be honest, it really is just a hobby for me. It's something I do for the lulz and to exercise my creative side (in my current line of work, and what I'm going into once I get a degree, there's really not a lot of freedom to be creative). And depending on what the hypothetical relationship between us is, I might have other reasons for denying it. I'm not about to tell my boss or my coworkers about my hobbies- that's none of their concern, and besides, I know them well enough to know that they probably wouldn't approve. Since it's not something I make income on, it's just a way for me to blow off steam, I don't really feel like anyone but me needs to know about it.

I am not delusional, I know I'm not going to make tons of money if I just decided to write something original. And, if I may be blunt, I don't really want to publish my original fiction- most of it I don't even publish online at all. To me, my original fiction is more personal, and a lot of it I wrote during more difficult times in my life, and the content really kind of reflects that.

But this is just my own personal opinion. I know that plenty of people write fanfiction to practice to get better with their original fiction, because their end goal is to become a published writer. That is perfectly fine. I am not the Grand High Poohbah of Other People's Business. If your end-goal is to become a published writer, more power to ya. In fact, let me know if you do get something published so I can read it- I like to read good books. If your whole purpose for writing is just for fun, that's great too- welcome to the club. I don't even mind if you enter your fic in a charity auction (like Fandom Helps- last March they did an auction for tsunami relief in Japan)- that's a good way to get fic you want AND to help out people in need. Even though the legality of it is a bit questionable, it's not like anyone other than a complete psychopathic copyright lawyer would care that money was made on fanworks, especially since the writer doesn't get to keep any of the money they make.

What I do have a problem with is repackaging fanfiction to be sold as original fiction, with a few minor tweaks.

I am not talking about official licensed tie-ins. My father has about ninety billion sci-fi books based on Star Trek in the house, using Star Trek characters. All of these books were approved by the official franchise, even though technically a lot of them started out as fanfiction.

What I am talking about is things like Omnific Publishing. At first blush it appears to be your standard self-publishing company- there's a lot of those, you can even do it with Amazon. And from my experience a lot of self-published books tend to be utter crap (there's a reason major publishers like Simon&Shuster and Penguin Books make you get an editor), there are some really good ones out there. So what's the problem? Yeah, they might come up with some lousy books, but then again, that's par for the course in self-publishing, as well as mainstream publishing. I've read terrible self-published books, and I've read terrible mainstream published books. One more self-publishing company isn't spelling the END OF BOOKS AS WE KNOW THEM.

But if you do a little digging online you find that this company got its start professionally publishing fanfiction. (Please note that the above links are all to different social media sites- JournalFen, Livejournal, and Absolute Write, and include information from anons, so not everything may be entirely correct). Which is basically putting a big sign up over your stuff that says “SUE US PLEASE.”

I really dislike how certain individuals and organizations go overboard with regards to copyright infringement. The RIAA once tried to sue LimeWire for more money than exists in the world (several trillion, the worldwide GDP is about $1.4 trillion [USD]). People writing fanfiction is not going to cause the Apocalypse. But even I recognize that there are some things that are over the line, and mooching someone's intellectual property, messing with it a bit, and then trying to claim it as your own is dodgy, to say the least. At my university, if you try to do that with regards to academic work, you literally get put on trial in front of the Honor Society, and if you're found guilty, they'll expel you.

Honestly, though, I don't really care if a few arrogant fangirls get smacked down with copyright law for trying to make money on their fanfiction. What worries me about this is that this could potentially bring fanfiction into the mainstream public eye. I'm not saying that to sound like hipster, either- it could cause serious problems for people who just want to play in the sandbox for their own entertainment, so to speak. I write a lot of fanfiction, and I do it for fun, because I love the worlds and characters. I'm not trying to make money off of it, and neither is anyone else I know who writes fanfiction. But considering what's happened in the past when butthurt people get wind of stuff like this (see:SOPA), I have a feeling that this could eventually blow up into a clusterfuck of epic proportions, culminating in some seriously damaging lawsuits. And then those of us who just want to do our hobby in peace could find ourselves in some expensive legal trouble.

It sets a dangerous precedent, I think. If the enemies of free speech and expression can make a convincing case for “hey look, these people are stealing shit and making money on it,” we could eventually start to lose more and more rights, and what we'd taken for granted since the Internet's inception could come crashing down around us.

I am not saying this to be a doomsayer or a conspiracy theorist. I'm just saying that you might want to keep an eye on this sort of thing, and take steps to protect yourself. All I'll say here is that it might be a good idea to back your stuff up and make sure everything is disclaimed to infinity and beyond. It probably wouldn't protect you in a court of law, but it might offer some measure of security for a time.

Jun. 6th, 2011

Childhood, books, and... thinly-veiled politics?

Books can make you dumb, at least according to this article. This woman apparently took her cues on how to become an adult from a bunch of books like Gone With The Wind, Wuthering Heights, and The Little Mermaid, and resents the fact that she got such a skewed idea of what it meant to be an adult (and ultimately, a woman) from these stories. And reading it got me to thinking- I consumed a LOT of media as a child, books, video games, television programs, and movies, but I didn't take any cues on how to become adult from them.

OK, OK, like every other kid from my generation, I really wanted my Hogwarts letter. But I was never under any delusion that I was actually a witch. When I was young, I was told the story of Eglė the Serpent Queen, but I never thought that I was going to be taken to the sea by a magical snake prince and marry him (and considering how that story ends, it's a damn good thing that wasn't a true story). When I was in preschool I wanted to go and solve mysteries like the characters in Scooby-Doo. When I was in second grade, I thought it would be awesome to be a Pokemon trainer, and when I was in fourth grade I wanted to be a Sailor Scout. It might have crossed my mind a few times that my stuff might come to life when I wasn't around, like in Toy Story. I totally wanted to go to the school in Regarding the Fountain and its sequels. When I was dealing with some really difficult times in my childhood (and up until about a year ago), The Magic Faraway Tree was always there for me. But you know what? I never thought that the stories I read and watched were real. Because my parents taught me from a young age that what you read in fiction and see on the television isn't real.

When the Roadrunner drives the Coyote off a cliff, it's fake. When Scooby and co. take down a fake monster, that's definitely fake. Hogwarts, sadly, is fake too. The Magic Faraway Tree doesn't really exist. You cannot go outside and catch Pokemon.

And when it comes to taking role models from literature, which is also part of what this article is about, I have to be honest with you- growing up I identiied with several characters, but honestly? It didn't matter to me whether or not they were female or not. Yeah, I wanted to be like Velma from Scooby-Doo, but I also wanted to follow in Harry Potter's footsteps. When I got a little older, and dealt with some serious issues that affected me, it really helped to think “what would Neo do?” But I also found Mulan inspiring.

The thing is, this article could have been really good if it hadn't come across to me as a way to berate people who didn't feel the same way about the books that she did, or the same way about the characters. Personally, I absolutely despised Wuthering Heights and thought Cathy was an insufferable bitch who I'd love to punch in the face if I ever met her IRL. Another book that was highly touted (but not mentioned in this article) was The Awakening, by Kate Chopin. The best part of that book was when Edna drowned herself in the ocean, and I said so in my essay exam on that book. If those are the kinds of things I'm supposed to prize over the other things that had a larger effect on my life, like the movies, video games, and television shows that I liked, then I'm sorry, but I'll take Pokemon, The Matrix, and The Magic Faraway Tree any day, and I don't much care whether or not that's the “politically correct” choice. It actually is rather disturbing, that we're now trying to assign people's sense of self-worth to the characters they identified with as children. Should I be worried that I'm going to start thinking I'm a Pokemon or something?

Another thing- when I have Kaboomlets, they're going to get the same stuff I got growing up- I'm going to buy them Regarding the Fountain and its sequels, The Magic Faraway Tree, Harry Potter, Pokemon, my favorite Disney movies, Scooby-Doo and Looney Tunes. And if I can manage it, The Penguins of Madagascar. Of course, they'll be exposed to more “classiC” literature as well, but I'm not going to say that's the ONLY media they can consume.

In conclusion, don't feel bad if your choices of entertainment growing up don't feel bad. You take inspiration from whatever source you want. And if you want to pretend to be Catherine Earnshaw, that's great. I'm going to be over here pretending to go on adventures with my Pikachu.