Tempest Challenge Ink

Tempest Challenge #20 – Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias

Last year at ReaderCon I asked some friends to be guest challengers for the Tempest Challenge and several said yes! Score. This is the first of those videos. Author Gabby Reed, who is the best, talks about why you should read Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias. It’s a book that deals with issues around immigration, which is in no way relevant to current events, right? Science fiction, oh you.

Would love to hear your thoughts on Ink on the #KTBookChallenge tag on Twitter and Tumblr or the comments here or on YouTube. And, as always, you can support me making Tempest Challenge vids by clicking the links below when you…

Buy Ink from Powell’s or Amazon.

TC Razorhurst

Tempest Challenge #19 – Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

Razorhurst is set in Sydney, Australia 1932. The protagonists are women and the characters AREN’T all white. What. How can this be? It’s a sneaky plot by Justine Larbalestier to make her books realistic and relevant or something. Justine continues to eschew uncomplicated and simple narratives about young people with this amazing historical novel. If you haven’t read her other books, start here and work your way back and do not pass Liar or How to Ditch Your Fairy on your way to GO.

Would love to hear your thoughts on Razorhurst on the #KTBookChallenge tag on Twitter and Tumblr or the comments here or on YouTube. And, as always, you can support me making Tempest Challenge vids by clicking the links below when you…

Buy Razorhurst from Powell’s or Amazon.

Tempest Challenge Uprooted

Tempest Challenge #18 – Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Next up on the Challenge: Uprooted. This novel is on the Nebula ballot for best novel and I am thrilled that this is so. The book deserves it. I’m still trying to figure out how Naomi Novik squeezed an entire trilogy’s worth of worldbuilding, plot, and action into a single book. It’s a thick book, sure. Not that thick, though! And yet it feels like in the hands of a less skilled writer this would be a sprawling trilogy with a middle book that leaves readers frustrated until they read the end. Skip all that and just read this.

Would love to hear your thoughts on Uprooted on the #KTBookChallenge tag on Twitter and Tumblr or the comments here or on YouTube. And, as always, you can support me making Tempest Challenge vids by clicking the links below when you…

Buy Uprooted from Powell’s or Amazon.

Tempest Challenge #17 – Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson

After many months away, the Tempest Challenge videos are back. I’m doing a bunch of new things around these videos this month and next, and the plan is to keep going on a regular basis for at least another year. I’ll need some help from you (yes, you!)–details on that to come.

Meantime, my latest challenge is Alaya Dawn Johnson’s Love is the Drug, a YA Mystery told from the perspective of a voice we don’t often see in fiction: an upper class black teen girl.

Would love to hear your thoughts on Love is the Drug on the #KTBookChallenge tag on Twitter and Tumblr or the comments here or on YouTube. And, as always, you can support me making Tempest Challenge vids by clicking the links below when you…

Buy Love is the Drug from Powell’s or Amazon.

Tempest Challenge #16: Archangel by Marguerite Reed & Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett

Took a long hiatus, sorry! I wanted to get out the last of the Wisdom from WisCon suggestions. This week’s books feature characters that AREN’T isolated from their families and communities, plus gorgeous writing and awesome covers.

This week’s challengers: Margurite Reed and Gretchen T of A Room of One’s Own bookstore.

And, as always, you can support me making Tempest Challenge vids by clicking the links below when you…

Buy Archangel (The Chronicles of Ubastis) by Marguerite Reed from A Room of One’s OwnPowell’s, or Amazon; or Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett from A Room of One’s OwnPowell’s, or Amazon.

Share a little bit of yourself screenshot

This Week’s Episodes & Assorted Links – June 13

A new episode of the Tempest Challenge is live. Second ep wherein I turn over challenging duties to the friends I saw at WisCon.

This week’s books feature women in lead roles, queer characters, lushly drawn worlds, women of color wrestling with the future and the past, plus deep questions about the role of religion in human history.

Our guest challengers: Meghan McCarron and Chesya Burke

Between the two of them they recommended three standalone novels and two series. That officially brings the Tempest Challenge reading list up to 37!

If you missed any previous episodes, do not fear. There’s a playlist. Or, you can go through them on the new Tempest Challenge Tumblr.

I quite enjoy having special guests! I’m looking forward to this being a regular thing when I go to cons.

Share a little bit of yourself screenshot

Episode 9 of the JEMcast is also live now. This week we discuss “The World Hunger Shindig,” one of my favorite episodes. Though I am somewhat irked at the white savior complex issues that pop up in the Holograms videos. The part where they ride off on a rainbow while shooting glittery, magical grain into African soil is a bit over the top.

Also, I continue to hate Rio.

Assorted Links

As always, please watch, listen, and share widely!

Tempest Challenge #15: A Stranger in Olondria, Solitaire, Water Logic, Kindred, and the Parable series

Lots of books on the list of recommendations this week, all courtesy of our guest challengers from WisCon. That dealer’s room is full of must reads. Another reason to go next year :)

This week’s books feature women in lead roles, queer characters, lushly drawn worlds, women of color wrestling with the future and the past, plus deep questions about the role of religion in human history.

This week’s challengers: Meghan McCarron and Chesya Burke.

And, as always, you can support me making Tempest Challenge vids by clicking the links below when you…

Buy A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar from Powell’s or Amazon; or Solitaire: a novel by Kelley Eskridge from Powell’s and Amazon; or The Elemental Logic series by Laurie J. Marks from Powell’s or Amazon; or Kindred by Octavia Butler from Powell’s or Amazon; or Parable of the Sower & Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler from Powell’s or Amazon.

Tempest Challenge #14: Hild: A Novel by Nicola Griffith & Koontown Killing Kaper by Bill Campbell

In this episode, WisCon Challenges You! There were so many amazing books for sale at the WisCon Feminist Science Fiction Convention that I couldn’t decide which ones to challenge you to read. So I got some of the amazing authors who attended the con to pick for me.

This week’s challengers: Nisi Shawl and Bill Campbell.

And, as always, you can support me making Tempest Challenge vids by clicking the links below when you…

Buy Hild: A Novel by Nicola Griffith from Powell’s or Amazon; or Koontown Killing Kaper by Bill Campbell from Powell’s or Amazon.

Tempest Challenge #13: The Woodcutter/Arilland Series by Alethea Kontis

Series Month continues on the Tempest Challenge. This week’s books are Enchanted, Hero, & Dearest by Alethea Kontis. And guess who helped me talk about these fabulous books? Alethea Kontis! Always awesome when I can get an author to talk to me about their books.

We didn’t talk about it in this episode since the video was recorded long ago, but the first book in Alethea’s parallel series is also out now! Trixter takes place during books two and three of the Woodcutter Sisters books. Read that, too!

And, as always, you can support me making Tempest Challenge vids by clicking the links below when you…

Buy Enchanted from Powell’s or Amazon; or Hero from Powell’s or Amazon; or Dearest from Powell’s or Amazon; or Trixter from Amazon.

 

Let’s Talk About “Comfort Zones”

Danger Zone

Of the reactions to the piece on challenging yourself to read non-white, cis-het male authors for one year, I find one to be very telling about people’s assumptions of reading experience. Paraphrased, it goes something like:

But in her piece Tempest said that she only read fiction within her comfort zone!

What I’m understanding is that these decriers think that when I made the choice to not read fiction that bored me, made me mad because it wasn’t good, or offended me, I was looking to only be comforted.

I think the fault lies in the conception of what “offended me” means. Because people who are steeped in some kind of unexamined privilege often see Being Offended as Being Made Angry or Being Made To Feel Mildly Uncomfortable. That’s what I see as being behind all those “You’re just looking to be offended!” cries when a woman or person of color or any number of people from a marginalized or oppressed group points out offensive stuff.

The assumption is that I can choose not to be offended[1].

A white man might read stories written by other white men that have offensive to black people stuff in them and not even notice. At all. Or care. At all. Or, if they notice, the experience may be one of, “Oh hey, that’s not all right.” But it doesn’t hurt that white male reader.

Offensive stereotypes of black or brown people as ignorant savages hurts me. Fiction wherein women are only in the story to be sexual slaves without agency or even names hurts me. Even casual, offhand, not blatantly racist/sexist/whathaveyou offensive crap bourne out of a writer’s ignorance hurts me. Literary microagressions.

When I read fiction–especially for pleasure, but even for the purpose of analyzing it so that I can grow as a writer–I don’t want a majority of my experience to be about getting hurt. And a lot of the time the white, cis-het male writer behind those stories has not given two thoughts to privilege or stereotypes or that social justice warrior glittery hoo-ha crap[2]. So I stopped reading them.

However, in sticking to women, people of color, LGBT, and other authors from marginalized identities, I was not reading in a “comfort zone.” I was not more comfortable, I was just less likely to run across fiction that hurt me. But the stories were certainly not universally comfortable to read. Not at all.

I’ve never sought out comfort when looking for new things to read. A thing may become a comfort read once I finish it. In fact, much great fiction makes me uncomfortable, which is a big plus.

The first time I experienced this was in high school. I read Octavia Butler’s Kindred[3] and it made me profoundly uncomfortable. I still remember the almost panic feeling I got when I imagined for a moment if what happened to Dana happened to me. I was sure I would not have made it at all. The thought that it might happen was terrifying.

This was the first time I understood how fiction can affect a reader. No book, even books I loved, had ever made me that uncomfortable. And I had never identified with any protagonist so deeply.

Same thing happened with Derrick Bell’s The Space Traders. Oh man, that story jacked me up for years. Because everything Bell wrote in that story was so true. 100 percent truth.

Truth is rarely comfortable.

So no, I did not escape into my comfort zone when reading non-white, cis-het male authors. In fact, I put myself more and more out of it as I went. Because not all of the fiction I read catered to the mainstream gaze. And the gaze it catered to wasn’t necessarily mine, either. There were stories that challenged my notions of how stories are supposed to go, how plots are meant to unfold, how characters must be constructed and revealed and relate[4]. This is what happens when you step out of mainstream culture’s comfort zone.

That’s probably why so many people are scared.

Footnotes

  1. Which is… no. I can choose not to tell you I’m offended. I can choose to hide that I’m offended. I can also take the offense to heart, consciously or unconsciously, and feel like I’m worthless. I’m not going to do that just so you don’t have to hear me talk about offensive shit.[]
  2. This is not true for every single one of these writers. Noting is true for every single one of any kind of people. But these days I am less willing to give a new author from this group a try unless I see some evidence that they have thought about these issues. That’s not a hard thing for me. Thus I end up reading some of the best white, cis-het male SF/F authors publishing today. WIN.[]
  3. This was assigned reading, too! Yeah, I don’t know how that happened.[]
  4. If this all sounds like some awesomepants to you, then I suggest you go through my Favorite Fiction archive here on the blog and check out my column at io9.[]