It feels good to get back into the groove of things. As you might know from my last letter, the past couple of months of silence from Frivolous has been…necessary. There’s purpose and focus: you writers and dreamers.
Ever since I started this letter, I realized that reading had become a task. I needed to keep up with all that’s out there so that I can cherry pick things that I found worthwhile to send to you. It also made me wonder - why do writers read? I suppose you could also answer with what writers read as a backdoor into why. Send me a note with your reasons; I’d love to compile and send back for folks (anonymized for now).
To keep from feeling like this is a task I remind myself why I do it and it may seem inappropriate at first: I don’t do it for you or this letter. I do it for my own projects as research, as well as understanding what makes for good storytelling (at the mercy of the current zeitgeist, of course).
That said, couple of things I’ve read:
- The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories - I haven’t made my way through all these, but several of them are contemplative and thought-provoking. And RF Kuang’s essay on translation adds an extra layer to speculative fiction: not only do we need to enter into created worlds, but it’s being presented to us across language, knowing that our interpretation is molded by the word choice and artistry of the translator. Keep this in mind as you read these stories.
- Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi - I struggle with this one (present tense deliberate). I wanted to write a reaction to this, but what he’s written is not something I can comment on. I have my thoughts, but they are not for public consumption, mostly because I feel (and felt) like a guest invited to someone’s house and to experience their life: my opinions on the matter are not necessary. I read this early this year; that I’m still thinking about it is evidence that I recommend you giving this a go.
What I’m currently reading:
- Rosewater by Tade Thompson - only a couple chapters in so far while the full trilogy is out. There’s worldbuilding here that’s heady and delicious.
On to the list of curiosities!
The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
There are times when one wants to read a tale, a tall tale, for no other reason than it’s different and fun. Scalzi definitely did that with this one. He seems to have chiseled out the most detailed biology and ecology of a kaiju I’ve ever seen. Hat-tip to all his research and daydreaming he did. It’s worth a read, even as a reference on kaiju. I'm forever going to compare future kaiju movies and books to this bar he's set.
Imaginary Worlds Podcast Episode #193 by Eric Molinsky
This was sent to me by one of you (thank you!) and the topic is very relevant. The episode goes into all the movies which borrow heavily from Asian cultures (particularly East Asian) but don’t actually have Asian actors in them in any meaningful roles. After the discussion, re-watching some of those movies can be awkward. This actually ties into the next topic:
Kate Elliot and Martha Wells on Narrative Worlds (Youtube interview)
Creating a believable world is a lot of work. It might be understandable, then, when writers fall into the trap of creating a planet or alternative world where there’s only one kind of people or species. Wells digs into this and its a wonderful discussion on how to avoid writing a monoculture, and I suspect to some degree, this is what's going on with movies that want to show a different future but don't want to take the time to actually create it right.