Words, words, words, art.

The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Science Fiction

March24

If you asked me about ten years ago what my favorite genre was, I’d have told you right off the bat, no hesitation, “fantasy.” The truth is, though, I’ve always been hugely into science fiction. Ahh, sci-fi! You had me honestly believing that I’d see actual colonies on other planets, hoping that I’d have the option of being a Bold New Settler– and if not me, then my children. That I’d be able to see my children launching themselves into the unknown, Boldly Going. Books involving The Future (whether bright and shining or dingy and dystopic), aliens, robots, Space, exploration, etc were my bread and butter. I’ve read approximately fifty thousand post-apocolyptic dystopia books (current favorite apocalypse: zombie outbreaks, replacing the nuclear holocaust survivors with awesome mutations genre from the 70s and early 80s).

So why list fantasy as my favorite, instead of sci-fi? I mean, you know, sure… I love magic and fairies and vampires/werewolves/etc as much as the next person who came of age in the 90s and fell in love with White Wolf’s World of Darkness games. Or, possibly, more. So why the falsehood?

Frankly, because science fiction is the realm of boys. It’s a male realm, the books populated with male scientists and male inventors and male adventurers, written primarily by men for male readers, and marketed toward males. Until very very recently, it was assumed that only men enjoy and like sci-fi, and the only female touches are heaving bosoms and slightly parted lips sighing after the hero… or some vampy female who betrays the man but not until they’ve had hot sex. I mean, for crying out loud, the sci-fi channel changed its name to SyFy to attract female viewers. Instead of addressing the content of their shows, their advertising, their staff, they… femmed up the name.

A friend of mine sent me some really good books for my birthday and another one sent me a gift card for amazon.com. So I’ve been reading and enjoying a lot of new stuff lately, but also looking at it a little critically and thinking about my reading habits as a younger person, and how I identify as a reader now, and just how much sexist training and indoctrination I had as a kid about what is and isn’t appropriate for someone who was born with a vagina. It’s kind of depressing.

Review: “Attachments” by Kate Wilhelm

January4

“Attachments,” by Kate Wilhelm, is the opening story in the Nov/Dec 2017 issues of “Fantasy and Science Fiction,” which is one of my favorite magazines. According to the novelet’s introduction, Wilhelm’s first story in F&SF was in 1962. She’s an established, experienced writer and it really shows in this piece.

“Attachments” opens with a a young woman in a creepy/picturesque ruin in England. We soon see that she’s from the USA and that she’s there with a friend… and also that something is horrifically wrong. As the story unfolds we see that it’s a ghost story, both literally and figuratively. Drew, the protagonist, has 2 ghosts attached to her who want her to do things for them; Drew’s abusive ex boyfriend lurks in the background, a constant threat to her both mentally and physically. Drew has to figure out how to deal with the ghosts on her back, how to solve their problems, and then how to solve the problems in her own life.

It’s a well written story. Drew is interesting and we get glimpses of her life, both current and past. The ghosts’ plan is flawed, but desperate plans often are. She, and they, need to be creative in coming up with a solution. The metaphor isn’t THAT obvious, but it’s there… Drew is asked to free ghosts from a prison, and must also free herself from the ghosts of her past.

It’s a fairly gentle story with a bit of menace that’s quickly neutralized.

“Attachments” is a solid piece that leaves me curious about Wilhelm’s other work.

posted under Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, novelet - 2017, review | Comments Off on Review: “Attachments” by Kate Wilhelm

Women Gatekeepers of Nerdery

October30

I don’t remember a time when I hadn’t seen “Star Wars.” I grew up with it. The original trilogy is one of my mom’s favorite films, and she took Baby Me into the theater to see “The Empire Strikes Back,” nursing me to keep me quiet. We used to check out the television magazine in the Sunday Tribune and highlight the showings of “Star Wars” movies, and she’d let me stay up late to watch them. She started reading me “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” as a bedtime story when I was so young that it just sank into my conscious. I don’t remember hearing it for the first time, I don’t remember a time without those stories in my blood, although I do remember lying on an inflatable pool float on the floor one hot and sticky summer listening to her reading to me and my brothers. Something was going on with our bedrooms, I don’t remember what, and we weren’t able to sleep in them. So we camped out on the floor upstairs and she read to us by candle light.

My mom introduced me to a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and encouraged me to read and enjoy the genre. She scoured used book stores for out of print books back in the day when out of print books could be very hard to find (no internet!). She took it as given that I could and should love these books, these movies, these tv shows. She shared them with me, shared her love and adoration, her visions of the future and endless possibilities.

I know a huge amount of women who are really deeply invested in science fiction and fantasy books, movies, and tv shows. Most of them were introduced to it by other women, by their moms and aunts and older sisters and cousins and best friends. Paperbacks are circulated, pages worn fabric-smooth, binding creased and bent and chipping away, covers held on with yellowing tape. Read this. Try this. What do you think of this? Have you read this one yet? We induct each other into little worlds, usher each other in, introduce each other to our favorite books and characters and authors and worlds.

More and more the recommendations involve “there’s a female central character!” or “nobody gets raped in this one!”

Science Fiction and Fantasy, like Gaming, has a reputation as being male-dominated, a genre ruled by men: written by men, about men, for men. Women interested in these areas are treated as trespassers, foreigners, creatures suspect and false. This despite the fact that there’s a very long history of women writing Science Fiction and Fantasy… that one could easily argue that the novel in general and Science Fiction specifically were founded/originated by women authors. Women have always been involved with Science Fiction, with Fantasy, with Gaming, with Horror, with Pulp, with all the little islands men set themselves up as absolute rulers of despite all evidence to the contrary.

So let’s have a toast to the women in our lives who introduce us to our favorite nerd things, our geeky tv shows and movies and books and games. Let’s think of our lady friends and their recommendations and our history. Let’s remember each other with fondness and kindness and keep sharing our passion and love.

Women have been a part of every aspect of nerd culture since the very beginning. We aren’t going anywhere. But we’re bringing others with us.

posted under gaming, NerdLife, stuff | Comments Off on Women Gatekeepers of Nerdery

The 2014 Hugo Ballot: The Short Story Category

July24

I felt a little let down by the novella and novelette categories, that the offerings were a mixed bag– something that other people I know have agreed with and said is how the Hugos often are. Which shouldn’t be surprising, really, as there’s a wide variety of tastes and preferences and they’re called “The Hugo Awards” and not “The Brigid Awards,” so I shouldn’t expect to love everything on offer.

And then I hit the short story category and three of the four stories deeply affected me and made me cry and the fourth was just eh. Not for me. If I could nominate three of those short stories for first place then I would. It’s a painful decision, and that’s super great.

Before I talk about the stories, I’m going to tell you something ridiculous.

I read two of the stories, couldn’t find the third I wanted to read, and then started reading “A Stranger In Olondria.” “Wow,” I thought to myself, “this is a really long short story. Huh. This sure is slow to start. My goodness, this is pretty long for a short story.” Then, uh, I realized I’d started reading A NOVEL and not A SHORT STORY. So I stopped (which was hard, actually, looking forward to picking it up again) to read the very excellent short story by the same author.

The Ink Readers of Doi Saket, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, is a story set in Thailand about Thai people and culture and Buddhism, written by a white man from the Netherlands. It reminded me very much of “The Milagro Beanfield War”: both works are very earnest, but also condescending and exotifying toward the people/cultures they are about.

Selkie Stories Are For Losers, by Sofia Samatar, is a fantastic story about loss and love. It’s a coming of age story, and it’s a story about stories. The protagonist is still reeling from the sudden loss of her mother (who may or may not be a Selkie; she may or may not have accidentally returned her mother’s skin while looking for something else) when she meets, befriends, (and falls in love with) a young woman whose mother has tried to kill herself several times and who has basically checked out of life. They are both motherless, in their own way. They are both creating their own homes, their own families, or trying to, in their own way. It’s a beautiful and deftly written book, full of longing and bitterness and sorrow and hope and fear and love, so much love. And I really love Selkies and Selkie stories. And the fact I didn’t rate this story higher speaks volumes about the quality of the short stories on this ballot.

If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love, by Rachel Swirsky, is an incredibly powerful short story about love and hate and destruction and hope and which lives are considered important. I think a lot of people are put off by the opening cadence of the story, which is a bit like a children’s story (notably, “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie,” but it reminded me of some other kid stuff I’ve read to my own kid) but that stylistic choice is very important one that gives the story a lot of its power. This is very much a social justice/social commentary piece (as, in my opinion, the BEST Science Fiction is), and it is utterly devastating. I highly recommend it, but have some tissues or a sleeve or something handy. (For some reason, this wasn’t included in the voter packet I downloaded. I’m very glad I sought it out and was able to find it online.)

The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere, by John Chu, is a stunning bit of character-driven fiction that revolves around personal relationships that are hampered by the odd fact that, suddenly and for no reason, cold water started falling out of nowhere on people when they lie. It ranges from a clammy mist, to a drizzle, to a torrential downpour depending on the severity of the lie. It’s greatly impacted the very private and closed off Matt, who loves his boyfriend and loves his traditional Chinese parents and sister, and is terrified of letting any of them down. Matt has to come to terms with what he wants, and what he needs… and he has to learn how to open himself up to his boyfriend and to his parents and let them in. The cold water falling down is a fantastic narrative device, something that has utterly fundamentally changed the world without changing human nature, something that reveals Matt’s lies to himself… as well as his truths.

It was SO HARD deciding how to rank these stories, and I’m SO HAPPY that’s the case. I utterly adored Samatar’s short (and have really been enjoying her longer work). She manages to capture characters and their world so very well. I’d like to read more about those girls. Swirsky’s short is absolutely heart breaking, wrenching, so sad and so beautiful, and so wonderfully written. But Chu’s piece? It’s so very human, and so hopeful in the end.

I want to say a special thank you to Chu for managing to break the streak of male mediocrity in this year’s ballot. What a powerhouse of a story.

posted under 2014 Hugo Ballot, books | Comments Off on The 2014 Hugo Ballot: The Short Story Category

The Mythical Friendzone

December18

I want you to imagine something.

You meet this person. You hit it off. You spend a lot of time hanging out. You discuss your favorite shows and politics, they’re always really complimentary, you go out drinking together. You get sick and they come by armed with Sweet And Sour Soup and you chill and watch tv together. When you go places, you drive in your car. You help them carry stuff home from IKEA in your car, you help them move with your car. You like and trust them. You’re friends.

Then you loan your car to someone, and they find out and flip out at you.

Don’t you realize that THEY wanted to borrow your car? How DARE you loan your car to someone else when they’ve wanted to borrow your car this entire time! How disrespectful are you? Just loaning your car to everyone around except for them. Unless you loan your car to them RIGHT NOW and let them drive it ALL THE TIME, they are leaving your life forever and telling everyone what a shitheel you are. OBVIOUSLY they only wanted to hang out with you because you have a car. Why else would anyone voluntarily spend time with you?

This is what complaining about “the friendzone” is like, this idea that women owe men sex/romance and that’s the only reason a man would want to be friends with a woman. It’s harmful and reductive, saying that the only value a woman has is in her willingness to date/fuck a dude. It’s immensely disrespectful. And it’s a super common complaint.

How dare that woman I’m friends with date someone who isn’t me. I used to hang out with this bitch all the time and talk about comic books but she wouldn’t date me so whatever. “friendzoned.” I didn’t go to that woman’s Doctor Who party because she already has a boyfriend so what’s the point, I won’t be able to bag her.

This attitude reduces women to nothing more than an accessory that provides a (sexual) service and it’s gross and wrong. It states that women aren’t deserving of having and sharing their opinions, talents, skills, hobbies, creativity etc the same way that men are. Women’s friendship isn’t prized. There is only one thing about them that has value.

Two guys can get together and talk about football or Marvel comics or science fiction or cars and be friends and that’s fine, that’s good and normal. But if a guy and a girl do the same and she doesn’t put out she’s a bad person because her friendship, her emotional connection, her very SELF is not valuable.

And that’s so fucked up.

posted under feminism, life, social responsibility | Comments Off on The Mythical Friendzone

Geek Culture and Inclusivity

December16

I’m female, fairly geeky, and in my (early) 30s. Like a lot of geeky women my age, most of my friends are male. This isn’t because men are more awesome than women, or because I’m uncomfortable around women. It’s because for people my age, nerdy geeky interests were more heavily discouraged in women than in men, so when I found people who were, say, really into Star Wars and science fiction and role playing games, they skewed heavily toward the male. Thanks to the internet (I LOVE YOU INTERNET) I now have a lot more ladygeek friends and oh my GOSH, ladies, I love you so much. But this is because I can easily chat with people in different states and countries. If I want a face to face get together, most of my friends are still dudes. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Dudes are pretty rockin! I love my friends a lot. But, unlikes a lot of older female geeks, I’m very lucky. My guy friends are pretty feminist and don’t treat me like crap.

That’s sad, isn’t it? I’m LUCKY that my friends TREAT ME LIKE A HUMAN BEING. Isn’t that sick and gross? But for a lot of female geeks, that’s just how life is. Geek demographics are changing and more women are joining the club. But the social hierarchy is still heavily male, and young female geeks face a hell of a lot of prejudice and discrimination and outright hate (hdu invade our boysclub with your tits and opinions! Go make a sandwich!) even while there are more of them. Will their greater numbers turn the tide? Will some measure of equality be achieved? Or will young geeky girls just get turned off by the geek macho posturing and turn their interests elsewhere? No idea.

But there is a reason that the face of geekdom is overwhelmingly male (and white and able bodied).

I’m not saying that every geeky/nerdy guy is a misogynist or a dickhole or evil. I’m just saying that we all live in a culture that privileges (white, straight, able bodied) men over everyone else and subcultures by and large reflect that.

So what’s a guy to do in a subculture that contains The Open Source Boob Project, Big Name Authors Sexually Assaulting Women, Developers not understanding (caring?) just how very real Rape Threats and Violence Against Women are, the overwhelming majority of published authors being white and male, industry editors and publishers sexually harassing (female) employees and potential authors, enough incidents of sexual harassment/casual misogyny that a wiki is needed to keep them all straight, and more? I mean, this is just stuff I found in like 5 minutes of google searching/remembered personally. And this doesn’t touch on racism, ablism, homophobia, or the million other ways predominantly straight white able bodied dudes actively and passively (whether meaning to or not) make it clear that other people aren’t welcome in their social group.

I have male friends who’ve asked just that question. A lot of them have leadership roles in their friend groups. They run games, they’re the ones who have the house everyone visits, they’re the ones who organize movie outings, etc. Most social groups have at least one person like that. So they’re poised to help guide and shape social mores or at the very least speak up when someone’s out of line.

Here’s a post on the effects of making rape jokes or dismissing rape/assault allegations. It’s a good starting point. You can apply those points to any sexist commentary or “jokes.” 1 in 6 women has been raped or assaulted, according to statistics. Almost every woman I know has been raped or assaulted. When people in your social group use “rape” to mean “killed” or “cheated” or “beat me at something” or “stole” or “unfair,” the women in your group hear that you consider a relatively major crime that mostly happens to other people (women) on par with relatively minor inconveniences in your own life. Some women are cool with this but a lot of women aren’t, and unless you know that woman well you won’t know where she falls on the spectrum. 1 in 12 women will be stalked in their lifetime and 25% of women (1 in 4) report being physically assaulted or raped by a domestic partner, which makes jokes about beating your girlfriend/a female NPC kind of tasteless. (And FYI, 1 in 33 men are raped per year. I know two guys who have been the recipients of domestic assault, one who was in a homosexual relationship and one who was in a heterosexual relationship. Male reporting rates of domestic violence are really, really low and a society that mocks and belittles men who are the recipients of violence/have been raped is part of that. If you care about your friends, don’t make them feel bad because someone acted violently towards them. Men, especially, are less likely to talk about having been raped or beaten, so you’re really unlikely to know if one of your male friends has experienced this.)

So purging rape and abuse jokes is a good start.

The next step is purging unwanted attention. Ladies! They are pretty awesome, right? They smell good and have nice hair and they have tits and everything. Wow! How great are ladies? Here is a clue: while many ladies enjoy flirting and being sexy on their own terms, ladies were not put on earth for you to claim as your very own. Which means don’t flirt with a woman who doesn’t seem interested, don’t “hit on” a woman who is anything less than encouraging/enthusiastic, don’t stare at a woman’s body parts or tell her/tell other people how hot she is. If you are a straight dude, think about how a gay dude might act around you. Would he corner you and talk about how great your ass is and how you should totally get together and not give up that line of thought ever? Probably not. If he did, how would you feel? Kind of gross and used? Frustrated? Bored? Threatened? A little flattered but uninterested? Part of why gay dudes don’t do this in mixed company is because it’s considered incredibly socially wrong, but it’s somehow totally ok for straight dudes to do this to (presumably) straight ladies. Why is that? Because straight dudes have power and control that gay dudes and ladies do not have. Don’t do that. It’s really gross and off putting and a lady who had to deal with that in social setting will eventually find a new social setting. Perhaps that social setting will consist of non-geeky people. Perhaps it will consist of people on IRC. Perhaps it will consist of a group of totally awesome geeks that she will never invite you to join because ew, you have terrible manners. WHO CAN SAY.

If you see someone harassing a woman– commenting on her, staring at her, flirting aggressively with her even though she’s tried to turn him down, cornering her, dominating the conversation, step in. On the one hand, women don’t need to be “saved” by men. On the other hand, women are often taught to be “nice” and to avoid confrontation (and you seriously never know when a woman’s tried to turn aside a dude who’s flirting with her and it escalated to violence and so she learned not to escalate or take a stand because she likes having her face bones unbroken). So step in. Go over there. Ask the woman if everything’s ok. Distract the guy. Don’t go in with the idea of saving her– or of claiming her as your own! God no!– go in with an offer of help that she may or may accept.

So that’s another pretty basic socializing thing. What’s a more sophisticated one?

Consume– and discuss– media by and featuring women. I have actually heard actual men who I thought were intelligent up until they said this thing, say that they don’t read books by or about women because they are not worth reading. Oh HO! Apparently women, the gender stereotypically known as the communicative/chatty/talkative gender can’t write books. OH NO THAT IS FOR MEN TO DO. Also: women are just not that interesting! Yes, yes. That’s right. The gender that makes up literally half the population of this earth, the gender that men are told they want to spend their sexy lives with, is not interesting and has nothing important/fun to say. OH WOW THAT IS NOT SEXIST AT ALL. When you say that you don’t read books, watch movies, listen to music, etc when they are by or feature women because they are inherently bad for featuring women, you are saying that women are inherently bad and there’s no reason to talk to them or be around them ever. Which, ok, if you really believe that, please say it loudly enough and often enough that everyone who thinks otherwise can easily pick up on that and start avoiding you. But if you think women are actual human beings whose thoughts and words are worth something, consume media by women and featuring women. Discuss that media. Talk about it with your friends. Review it online. And while you’re talking about books and movies and stuff, talk about the problematic stuff. Like female characters who do nothing but get rescued or give the (male) hero sexual relief or who are killed off quickly so the hero has something to avenge. Or how often rape is the sole defining character trait of a female character.

When someone in your social group makes jokes about rape or makes jokes about how women are stupid or unfunny or whatever, shut him down. Tell him it isn’t funny. Don’t put up with that shit. It’s really easy to sit back in silence and let one person bloviate about how women are inferior or they just can’t do math or drive or they need to make more sandwiches while giving him head. But your silence tacitly supports his sexist/misogynist comments. When you don’t say you disagree, he assumes you agree with him, and everyone else assumes that everyone in the social set holds the same views. Be prepared for backlash, for being called PC or “overly” PC, for being called “butthurt” or “a girl” or “a pussy” (NOTE: the worse thing you can call someone is a feminine designation. SEXIST? NOT AT ALL.). This is pretty much nothing compared to the backlash women get when they point out sexism, which generally starts out with allegations that the woman is “overly sensitive,” “lacking a sense of humor,” “hysterical,” or the like and often ramps up into threats. Why is asking someone not to make comments/jokes that make you feel uncomfortable or safe such a big deal? Because there is power and status in being able to unquestionably put other people in their place. Being called on that is an erosion of power and status,and some people take it as a personal attack. What fun!

If someone in your group consistently makes sexist comments and jokes and acts inappropriately despite interventions, ask them to leave. Stop inviting them to things. Tell them why. If a friend came to your house and was cruel to your dog or urinated in the sink every time he used the bathroom or constantly insulted your dad’s political views/appearance/whatever you’d step in and say something. If they kept doing it, would you keep them around? Probably not, yet people are very willing to sit back and tacitly encourage folks in hateful and harmful behavior toward women.

Remember that the goal of this is not to treat women as “special” or “put them on pedestals.” It’s to treat them with respect and consideration. It’s to leave them feeling welcomed and safe and part of the group, not like an outsider being allowed in and granted a small measure of acceptance which can be revoked at any moment if she doesn’t behave appropriately (laugh at the jokes, endure the tit-staring, tidy up after get-togethers, etc). For some reason, a lot of people think that “not verbally berating someone” means “condescendingly treating someone like a special princess on a pedestal.” If there’s someone like that in your social group, dump them. They’re toxic.

Women have been geeks and nerds all throughout history, and for big chunks of history have been denied, stifled, excluded, or not given credit. We are in the 21st century and it’s time for women to stop being excluded from society and instead welcomed. Do your part.

(a lot of this can be applied to racism, homophobia, ablism, cisexism, etc but I’m taking a lot of my responses and advice from what I know personally, so have focused mainly on sexism. Yes, my privilege is showing. Please feel free to comment on that, as well as offer other advice on this topic.)

(edited to change some mildly problematic wording)

Awesome Damn Comic of the Week: DiceBox

July30

People reading these comic recommendations are probably getting a pretty clear idea by now of what I like in a comic (or a story in general). Let’s make a list of what DiceBox has, shall we?

  • Science Fiction
  • World Building
  • Healthy Sexual Relationship
  • Strong Female Characters
  • People of color/different ethnicities who aren’t simply “exotic other”
  • Very solid, good writing
  • Very solid, good art
  • Consistent quality and improvement
  • A made up alphabet
  • The word “peh” to indicate gender indeterminacy

Ok. Some of this stuff is pretty specific to this particular comic, some of it more general.

Molly (who is missing a finger and who sees things) and Griffen (a musician and instigator of trouble) are married women, itinerant factory workers traveling around “a space faring future” and having adventures and interacting with others and revealing stuff about themselves. It is supremely character driven, yet also has a very definite sense of time and place. The colors used are rich and wonderful and set the mood of the story nicely. This story very obviously has a beginning, a middle, and an end. There is a script, and it is well plotted and well paced and very planned, a lovely and exciting thing in the world of webcomics. There are no wacky adventures here, there are not madcap adventures, there are no daily gags. Just very good art and very good story telling and really, what more do you want?

DiceBox is one of those comics that I cannot recommend highly enough. It is rich and lush and intelligent and will leave you at the same time very satisfied, and wanting more. Check it out.

posted under AWDofW, comics | 2 Comments »

Books, a Love Affair

April22

There’s lots of ways to divide people into groups. There’s people who love the country and those who love the city; there’s people who love poetry and those who don’t; there’s people who love George R R Martin and those who don’t; there’s people who understand binary and those who don’t; there’s people who think Carrot Top is funny and everyone else; and there’s people who buy and own books– lots of books!– and those who don’t.

My friends are pretty evenly split between book owners and book renters (library users). Both groups love books and love reading, but one group invests money, time, and physical space on acquiring and housing books and one group invests their money, time, and physical space on other things. One group has stacked bookshelves, stacks of books, piles of books, mounds of books, and one group doesn’t. One group has to schlepp tens of (heavy) boxes of (heavy) books up and down stairs when they move, and one group doesn’t.

I’m in the first group, and I’m kind of getting tired of it.

When Nesko and I had a kid, and that kid started becoming mobile, we had to move all of our books to much higher shelves. We got rid of all our tall free-standing bookcases so Niko wouldn’t pull them down on himself. Then, about a year ago, it looked very seriously like we would be moving very soon, and to much smaller quarters. I proceeded by acquiring large numbers of boxes and putting things into those boxes, preparing to move. I packed up 14 large boxes of books (as well as three really big boxes of board games and 3 huge boxes of kitchen stuff). Then all those things stayed boxed up for months and months and we didn’t miss most of it. I did miss some things. I wanted to play a few of the board games we had packed away, I missed my extra mixing bowls and glass pyrex measuring cups, for instance. As part of spring cleaning we opened up our boxed up kitchen things and got rid of most of them. We unpacked our games and weeded through them, stripping some down for parts (tokens, money, dice, etc) and setting a few aside to give away. Those we’re keeping are on shelves in two categories: 1) Keep 2) play and see if we enjoy them, if not get rid of them.

Meanwhile our books are still packed up and I haven’t NEEDED to get into any of those books and we’ve permanently acquired very few new books. I’ve checked out and read almost 70 new-to-me books from the library this year, and after reading them I’ve returned them. There’s a very small handful of those books that I would have liked to keep forever. And more and more I like an apartment that isn’t cluttered with STUFF, especially as we have an apartment that’s crammed full of toys and kid books and games.

When I packed up the books, I noted what books where in what boxes. I have an entire inventory. (I did the same for the games and kitchen stuff.) I’d been meaning to type that list up and I finished doing so the other day. Every book that was packed away for storage is now entered in a spreadsheet. It was emotional. I thought of all those books and how much I love books, and how hard it was to find some of those books, and how other books were gifts from people who know me really well and love me. I have a bunch of books on Celtic history that Nesko brought back from a layover in England, from when his trip to Montenegro was cut short because of the bombing. I have a bunch of books I spent a long period of time tracking down and spent serious money on purchasing and shipping. I have books I’ve read and re-read time and time again, and I have books I’ve read once or twice only. And I started thinking of winnowing down our book holdings.

And I had a mini panic attack.

Seriously, I felt anxiety! There were surges of emotions! I felt like I was betraying my books! Isn’t that weird? I have synesthesia and apparently part of that is sometimes people who are synesthetes anthropomorphize inanimate objects and ascribe emotions to that. Books are inanimate! They don’t care what happens to them! But I felt like I was abandoning them, like they wouldn’t be loved if I got rid of them.

I also panicked because OMG what if I NEEEEEEEEED THESE BOOKS down the line? OMG what if all libraries and the internet cease to exist and I no longer have access to this information? Panic panic panic panic. But that’s silly, too.

I went through and I highlighted about half the books, marking them to be gotten rid of. I calmed down a bit. I might go through and mark more to get rid of. Of the books I’m keeping, a bunch are books I think Niko will like to read when he’s in middle school which isn’t that far off any more. I don’t want to get rid of books just to re-purchase them or whatever.

I remember, as a kid, always having something to read at home. My dad’s a book collector, not in a serious OMG HUNTING DOWN FIRST EDITIONS kind of way (although I think he would be if he had more disposable income) but in a bibliophile way. I grew up with shelves and stacks and mounds of books: books in the living room and in the bedroom and in the kitchen and on the couch and in the bathroom and on top of the tv. There were so many books there was always something new. History books, poetry, literature, fiction, memoir, science. That feels so normal to me. It’s honestly weird to have, right now, a single shelf only for our owned books. I feel almost naked!

And, weirdly, I feel defensive. Like I can’t prove I read books. No, really, I read a lot! I’ve read hundreds of books! Don’t judge me by the scanty offerings on my shelf! I’ve read everything Roger Zelazny has published, you just can’t tell because his books aren’t on display! I’m a Tolkein fan, an Ellen Kushner fan, A Cherie Priest fan, a Lois McMaster Bujold fan! I have a first edition hard cover of Scott Lynch’s “Lies Of Locke Lamora”! I LIKED HIM BEFORE HE WAS COOL OK. I have most of the run of “Blade Of The Immortal,” I have the Johannes Cabal books published in the USA! I’m cool! I’m a legit nerd/geek! REALLY I AM. I’M SO COOL YOU GUYS. LOOK AT THIS SNAPSHOT OF HOW COOL I AM, HOW WORTHY, HOW GREAT AND QUIRKY MY TASTE IS. JUDGE ME. JUDGE MEEEEEEEEE.

We will be moving again at some point.

I’m tired of hauling books around.

I’m tired of not having enough space, not having enough shelves, not having enough flat surfaces.

I’m becoming one of THOSE people, a book renter instead of a book owner.

From now on, I’m only going to keep books that are really and honestly meaningful, books that I love, books that resonate, books that I return to again and again.

Eventually, I think, I’m going to get a Reader or Tablet and start buying electronic versions of books I enjoy. But that’s out of my price range at the moment, and I do resent the DRM included on most traditionally published books.

If you live in Chicago, let me know if you’d be interested in a big book swap party at my place. We can all bring the books we don’t want/need any more and trade for other books, and anything left over I’ll donate to our community center to sell at a book fair fundraiser (or use in their classroom).

Having made the decision to get rid of books, to literally cut my book collection in half, I’m already feeling lighter. It was a struggle to get to this place, but it feels good. I still experience moments of BUT WAIT–! freakout but they’re coming less and less. Letting go is hard, but it’s something I can do.