Sunday Book Talk Open Thread: Toni Morrison, Who Left A Legacy

The Washington Post collected memories of Morrison from “eight black female writers & thinkers” — including a best-selling author named Michelle Obama:

… For me and for so many others, Toni Morrison was that first crack in the levee — the one who freed the truth about black lives, sending it rushing out into the world. She showed us the beauty in being our full selves, the necessity of embracing our complications and contradictions. And she didn’t just give us permission to share our own stories; she underlined our responsibility to do so. She showed how incomplete the world’s narrative was without ours in it.

It’s a thread running through “Beloved” and “Sula” and “The Bluest Eye” and all of her work — that black stories, particularly the stories of black women and black girls, are worthy of examination and celebration. Again and again, she was unapologetic about that fact, deliberate in proving that our stories are rich and deep and largely unexplored. We belong, she showed us, not just in paperback books but in textbooks, not just in a publishing house but in the White House. And on their own, our stories are more than enough to inspire a Nobel laureate…

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Open Thread: Time Travel As Cultural Barometer

Leon Trotsky once wrote, “Art, it is said, is not a mirror, but a hammer: it does not reflect, it shapes.” I suspect that this phenomenon is more intense in works of speculative fiction* than, say, spy thrillers. These stories are well-positioned to plumb and amplify the pressing issues and paranoias of their times; more to the point, they often offer high-concept utopian solutions, be they progressive or reactionary.

So I was amused to see the Guardian ask: Why are there so many new books about time-travelling lesbians?

In 2016, I sat down with my co-author Max Gladstone to write our novel This Is How You Lose the Time War, which follows two time-travelling female spies as they fall in love. That same year was also when I first heard people speaking earnestly and frequently about feeling as if they were in the wrong timeline, as the Brexit referendum results rolled in and Donald Trump was elected US president.

[…] But our novel is just one of several recent stories of queer women time-travelling. There is Kate Heartfield’s Nebula-nominated novella Alice Payne Arrives and its sequel Alice Payne Rides, which see two 18th-century women – lovers – become embroiled in a war. There are also Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade, Kate Mascarenhas’s The Psychology of Time Travel, Kelly Robson’s Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach and Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline.

[…] I wrote to each of these authors in anticipation of this piece and it turns out we were all drafting our books in 2016.

The article is a quick and a good read. I haven’t picked up This Is How You Lose the Time War yet, but it’s near the top of my list. I did read two books last year that featured time-traveling lesbians, though, just chewing through a random pile of space opera.

This article reminded me of a fun piece on Doctor Who**, which found that the Doctor was significantly more likely to overthrow the government during the Thatcher era. Read more

RIP Toni Morrison

We’ve lost a giant.

Thread here for any remembrances, or just literary fandom.

I’ll start: the writing speaks for itself. Others speak of her unparalleled commitment to other writers, of color, of course, but also to anyone driven to the vital act of committing words to paper:

I just retweeted that one.  Then there’s this:

And with that, over to you.

Images: Toni Morrison lecture at West Point Military Academy in March, 2013. photo credited to West Point.

Toni Morrison signature.

‘American Carnage’ Open Thread: GOP Lifer Shocked, Shocked to Discover…

Politico Magazine’s chief political correspondent Tim Alberta finds himself trapped in the nightmare party at the end of Animal Farm, where the faces of men and pigs have become indistinguishable. It’s a heavy lift, but eventually he finds a satisfactory villain to blame for the totally inexplicable triumph of Donald Trump over the Republican party:

As George W. Bush left office with record-low approval ratings and Barack Obama led a Democratic takeover of Washington, Republicans faced a moment of reckoning: They had no vision, no generation of new leaders, and no energy in the party’s base. Yet Obama’s forceful pursuit of his progressive agenda, coupled with the nation’s rapidly changing societal and demographic identity, lit a fire under the right, returning Republicans to power and inviting a bloody struggle for the party’s identity in the post-Bush era. The factions that emerged—one led by absolutists like Jim Jordan and Ted Cruz, the other led by pragmatists like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell—engaged in a series of devastating internecine clashes and attempted coups for control. With the GOP’s internal fissures rendering it legislatively impotent, and that impotence fueling a growing resentment toward the political class and its institutions, the stage was set for an outsider to crash the party. When Trump descended a gilded escalator to announce his run in the summer of 2015, the candidate had met the moment…

And you thought we Democrats had an exaggerated opinion of Number 44. Perhaps once the current Squatter-in-Chief has been replaced by a real (Democratic) President, we’ll be better able to appreciate a scrupulously sourced and painstakingly footnoted version of the current Revanchist Rebellion. It’s pretty clear his Repub comrades don’t intend Mike Pence to inherit the Oval Office, even if his lord and master is removed before 2020 by medical crisis or political impeachment.

From the NYTimes, “American Carnage’ Shows How War Between Republicans Led to Their Peace With Trump”:

Alberta, a political correspondent for the conservative magazine National Review before moving to Politico, brings more than a decade of reporting and a real understanding of the conservative movement to “American Carnage.” He reminds readers of the 2000 presidential election, when George W. Bush campaigned with the promise of “compassionate conservatism,” reflecting an attempt by the Republican Party to present itself as “warm, aspirational, inclusive,” pursuing minority outreach and immigration reform. Republican pollsters had taken a look at the changing demographics of the country, and the numbers spelled doom. The Republican Party simply couldn’t survive by catering primarily to white people.

Or could it? Read more

Recommended Reading #5: Armageddon, With Social Justice & Rock Wizards

Welcome back to Recommended Reading! I hope your Sunday is going well. I woke up to a short story rejection, so I lopped off 350 words and sent it in to another place. Excelsior!

To some, today’s trilogy needs little introduction. Each book won the Hugo Award, three years running, the first time an author had accomplished this feat. And the author, N.K. Jemisin, has been central in the fight to get the vocal alt-right trolls in the speculative fiction* community to shut the fuck up**.

In an acceptance speech that’s being hailed as one of the best ever made at the Hugos, Jemisin defiantly raised a “rocket-shaped finger” (a reference to the rocket-ship design of the massive Hugo statue) to the racist rhetoric that positions the recognition of her work as being about identity politics rather than her own talent.

“It’s been a hard year, hasn’t it,” she began. “A hard few years, a hard century. For some of us, things have always been hard. I wrote the Broken Earth trilogy to speak to that struggle, and what it takes to live, let alone thrive, in a world that seems determined to break you — a world of people who constantly question your competence, your relevance, your very existence.”

The Broken Earth trilogy takes place in a world called the Stillness, where geological cataclysms periodically decimate the population, through both the initial events and the ensuing nuclear winters. Some people, called orogenes, are born with the power to harness and redirect the earth’s energy. They are hated and feared, and the dominant imperial power collects them as children, to break them and train them to serve the empire.

One day, after deciding such a civilization is unfit to continue, an orogene of immense power rips the continent in half. Read more