The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge

Rory Gilmore reads a lot of books. A lot of books. 339 in the original series, if Buzzfeed is to be believed. And who doesn’t trust Buzzfeed?

Meanwhile, I’m a bad English major. There are so, so many books I should have read that I haven’t ever opened. But it’s really hard to know where to start in that whole “filling the gaps in your reading” thing. I love lists and that rush of accomplishment at checking things off them, but a good “must read” list is hard to find. There are a million of them, all with different things, all skewed or flawed or biased in a million ways. And the whole idea of “must read books” kinda bugs me, because “must read” according to who? According to boring old conservative white male professors? Some random critic at a newspaper? Why do they get to decide? But I need some kind of outside list, to remind me of the things I’ve been meaning to read and introduce me to the things I might otherwise have missed out on.

So, I’m attempting the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge, a classic of online book nerdery. Take the list of books that Rory mentions during the course of Gilmore GIrls, and read as many as you can. It’s not a definitive must read list, but it’s a good list, or at least a varied one. It has the classics, but it also has a lot of non-fiction, feminist essays, modern novels, iconic children’s literature, poetry, science fiction and fantasy and trendy self help books and mega bestsellers and all sorts.

I’ve read 57 books on the list. 55, before I dipped my toes in the water and finally read 1984 and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which I just finished today. And let’s be real. I’m not going to read all 339 books on this list. I wouldn’t read another word of Faulkner if you held a gun to my head (I read roughly half of The Sound and the Fury for the Literature GRE before I lost all will to live. Never again). But with the combined powers of the library, the local charity bookshops and the wonders of out of copyright ebooks online, I’m going to give the list a good try. There’s a lot of stuff there that I want to read, along with a lot of stuff I’ve never heard of, and it’s fun to have a reading challenge. I have a lot of other reading to do at the same time, but making any mark in the “omg, you’ve never read this??” pile is a good thing to me.

At least, I’m going to tackle the “A”s, because there’s a bunch on there I want to read, and a list of 15 (or 13, minus the two I’ve read before) is far more manageable than one over 300. We’ll see after I finish those. But so far, it’s fun!

Two (plus 55) down, only… 282 to go.

Ewig: Wenn Liebe Erwacht

I’m so excited! Today is the release day of the German edition of A Wicked ThingEwig Wenn Liebe erwacht. How cool is that? This is the first time one of my books has been translated into another language, and it is SUCH an awesome moment.

I wish I spoke German, so I could appreciate it fully! But still, I’m hyped. And I can’t help thinking that I hope the translator liked the book, since she had to spend so much time with it… 😛

The Inspiration for Long May She Reign

Long May She Reign is out now!

I can’t believe it’s finally out in the world, on the shelves for you guys to read. And, to celebrate, I thought it’d be fun to talk about some of the random things that came together to inspire this genre mishmash of a book.

The Ballroom at the Haunted Mansion

I was such a chicken as a kid that I didn’t go into the Haunted Mansion at Disney until a couple of years ago. It just sounded like it would be scary! 10-year-old me couldn’t cope! But when I finally did go on the ride, I was fascinated by the ballroom and its 1950s visual magic. Spoilers, if you don’t what to know how it’s done, but the room uses an old stage trick called Pepper’s Ghosts to create the illusion of dancing ghostly figures on the ballroom floor that seem translucent and to fade in and out of view. You look at the ballroom through a piece of glass, which reflects a group of dancing figures hidden above you out of view. This is actually a Victorian stage trick, and it got me thinking about how illusions and phantasmagoria like that might be used in a fantasy tale in the place of magic…

18th Century Ghost Tours

My research into phantasmagoria led me to discover the history of ghost tours (something very familiar to me, as I live in a supposedly ghost-filled city and see ghost tours every night). Initially, people used tricks similar to Pepper’s Ghost in “séances,” convincing high-paying guests that they were actually communing with the dead. Then, in post revolution France, a man called Etienne-Gaspard Robert built a portable device that allowed him to create moving ghostly images. He performed in an old tomb in Paris, and people were so convinced that his ghosts were real that the French authorities temporarily shut him down, concerned he was going to resurrect the executed Louis XIV.

Read More

One day to go!

Long May She Reign comes out tomorrow.

Help?

Releasing a book is a really weird experience. Because of how publishing works, I finished editing Long May She Reign over a year ago. I last read it in August, when I did the final look through for typos and errors (and my mom has already told me she’s found a typo in the finished book. Thanks, mom). There’s something very strange about finishing off a book, waiting a year, and then having it go out into the world for people to read. You’re talking about it like it’s this BRAND NEW THING, but by the time a book hits the shelves, you’ve already spent a substantial amount of time working on the next thing, if you haven’t already finished it. So I’m really, really excited that you guys are finally going to meet Freya, but it’s hard to wrap my mind around the idea that she’s only just going out into the world.

And I guess it’s like any project — before you do it, it has all this potential. It could turn out great. People could like it. You could meet your own expectations (unless you’re an insane perfectionist, oops). But when you actually complete the project, all of that stops being hypothetical. It is, or it isn’t. And I feel like I’m standing on the edge of that right now, like, “Um, maybe I’ll just go and hide in a cave for a month.”

But it’s also really, really exciting to dive back into thinking about this story and this world, and getting to reflect on what I actually wanted to achieve with the book, now that all the messiness of actually writing it is long past. I’m getting to think about why I wrote Freya the way I did — why I made her insecure, why she’s so judgey at the start of the book, why I chose to have her struggle with social anxiety. I’m thinking about why I chose to make a fantasy novel that is driven by science, not magic, and all the fun I had researching science for the book. Writing a book can get so messy and emotional that you lose sight of what you’re actually trying to do, and I feel like release day is one of the few times where you get to think about it and go, “Yeah, actually, that was the right book to write.”

It’s a weird, weird transition, and I’m going to be very relieved once tomorrow comes and all that anticipation ends. I just really hope you all enjoy the book when that happens!

Hate? On the Internet???

Argh, I am so mad right now.

Like, incoherently, making random noises of frustration at my laptop screen, wondering why the world is so stupid angry.

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the current situation with Pewdiepie on my other blog. Honestly, I thought I was hovering on the line of being too forgiving of offensiveness in an attempt to understand the mindset of the people supporting him. And even six months ago, I would have told you that I didn’t really like the Pewdiepie persona, but I liked the guy behind the channel, Felix, well enough. He seemed like a decent guy, and I liked seeing him and his girlfriend Marzia in her vlogs. Since he amped up the “shock” humor in his videos, I started to be really uncomfortable with him, because even if it’s just a persona, he’s still choosing to create that character and broadcast that to millions of people. All this backlash over his Nazi jokes seemed inevitable.

What didn’t seem inevitable — although perhaps it should have — was the entire Internet seeming to show up in support of him. I get that this must be a really tough time for him. He’s dealing with a lot of public backlash, a lot of guilt over the cancellation of his show, and a giant spotlight on him while he grapples with all this. But, you know, he also chose to say those things. Actions have consequences. And the number of people I’ve seen twisting this around so that it’s the mainstream media bullying him and taking his statements out of context is mindblowing.

Anyone who talks to me about Youtube for more than a minute will figure out that there are two (well, three) Youtubers that I really love: Jacksepticeye, and Dan & Phil. These are my “watch their stuff as soon as they put up a video, don’t miss their liveshows, genuinely think they’re awesome and would watch them painting a fence for an hour if they filmed it” Youtubers. And they’re all friends with Felix. Dan and Phil haven’t said anything, because they never comment on serious issues, unless it’s in a liveshow. But yesterday, Jack put up a video talking about the Felix drama, and while I didn’t agree with everything he said, I thought his response video was incredibly sensitive and measured, talking about how Felix is a good friend, but that he definitely messed up, and that he can’t blame companies for reacting the way they did. Basically, saying Felix is a decent person, but his jokes failed spectacularly and crossed the line into offensive territory, and now he’s seeing the consequences of that.

So, of course, the internet seems to have imploded with hate for Jack, saying he backstabbed Felix, calling him horrific names, and generally being so intense that he has now said that he regrets the video. It’s a mess on the level that only the Internet can provide, where over-intense strangers pile onto somebody because of some perceived infraction — this time, for being too “SJW-y,” despite the mildness of what Jack even said in his video.

And it’s just exhausting. It’s exhausting and depressing to see someone say something so middle of the road and be lambasted for it. It’s exhausting to see someone you respect then backtrack in response to the pile-on criticism. Gotta be nicer to the person who has been vocally supported by Neo-Nazis because of his “jokes,” after all! It’s exhausting to see how people are the worst, and will go to extreme lengths to insist that that popular white guy who said really offensive things did absolutely nothing wrong and should face no consequences for his actions.

hate internet pile-ons, no matter the cause. Liberal or conservative, 4chan memesters or “SJWs,” I find the entire culture of mass insulting and shaming abhorrent. This is apparently an unpopular view these days, where a lack of willingness to join the pile is taken as a lack of caring about an issue. I also hate how the culture of the internet seems to default to hurting others. It’s shock jokes, jumping to telling people to kill themselves when you disagree with them, enjoying the schadenfreude of someone else’s humiliation, swinging from idolising someone to despising them at the drop of a hat, just… everything is so big and so negative, where being offended is a far bigger crime than being offensive, and sympathy to the nuances of a situation is the ultimate betrayal. And it’s so depressing, and so infuriating, to see all of this falling down on someone for daring to say that hey, maybe a more considered and sensitive approach is in order here.

I’m stretching for a wise-sounding way to conclude this, but I got nothing. This is basically just a rant. I almost want to ask why any of us bother existing online at all. It’s just all so much, so stressful, so dark. And then, of course, I come back to the fact that one of the reasons I’m upset is because I must have spent hundreds of hours at this point watching Jack’s videos, having them cheer me up when I feel low. Without the internet, without the structures and content at the heart of this culture, that wouldn’t exist, and that would suck. But I don’t know, guys. Maybe we could try and take the good parts without all the violent words and hate as well? Maybe?

A Few Thoughts on Nerdiness and Minimalism

My wonderful college roommate Meg runs a blog about minimalism, and her recent post about passions really hit home for me. She talks about our need to display our passion for others, with things like graphic tees, nerdy accessories, mountains of stuffed animals, and piles of unnecessary equipment for activities we want to do but don’t actually do.

I’ll probably talk about this in more depth another time, but I started something of a light minimalist journey last year when I implemented the oh-so-trendy Marie Kondo method. I’m not joking when I say that it really has changed my life. I wasn’t a hoarder, exactly, but I liked having things. I liked collections. I had a guilt-inducing pile of Tsum Tsums and more stuffed animals than I had space for, among lots of other things, and having a hardcore clearout really helped me feel more focussed and relaxed, more appreciative of what I have, and even less anxious. But there’s one impulse that still gets to me a lot, and that’s to buy things that are branded with characters and stories that I love.

It’s Harry Potter tees that don’t fit well, but I buy because I love Harry Potter. It’s a Pusheen weekly desk planner that I don’t need, because I have a bullet journal. It’s my BB-8 bag that is completely impractical, and I never use, but that I can’t get rid of, because it’s BB-8, and BB-8 is adorable.

And then there are my bookshelves. I used to keep every book I bought, even if I ended up hating it. Now I have more of a conveyer belt of “buy, read, donate.” But every now and again, I still feel that pull. That need to be the sort of person who has A Library. That can go, “Here are my bookshelves. Look what a big reader I am.”

And reading Meg’s post really helped me figure out that impulse. It’s the idea of wanting physical proof of our passions. We’re displaying them for other people, to some extent, but we’re also, I think, displaying them to ourselves. Helping define ourselves with things that we can look at and go, “Yes. I am this person.”

The trick, of course, is finding comfort and confidence in ourselves without these things. Not erasing them from our lives completely, but only buying them when they serve us. Perhaps it’s the difference between the Hogwarts scarf I’ve worn every winter day for over two years, and that BB-8 bag that I never use, but keep because I’m a Star Wars person, and a Star Wars person needs their BB-8 bag!

I’m definitely still figuring all of this stuff out. But if nothing else, reading Meg’s post helped me resist buying a sparkly Jigglypuff tee from Primark the other day that was totally “things Rhiannon loves” and not at all “things Rhiannon will actually wear.” So, you know. Baby steps.

Gotta Catch Em All!

Well, Gen 2 Pokemon just appeared in Pokemon Go. Goodbye, life and productivity. Hello, hours of “exercise” and running around town staring at my phone.

I can’t help it. I know Pokemon Go isn’t exactly the most well-made game in the world, but god, it’s so addicting. I love collecting stuff. I love that rush you get when you can add something new to the collection, especially if it’s been something you’ve been searching for for a while. I love the neatness of a completed checklist, a perfect set. But real life collections have the double problem that they cost actual money, and you end up with loads of junk that takes up all the room in your house. But Pokemon Go is FREE, it doesn’t take up space, and all you have to do is walk around. Plus I get such a rush at seeing the Pokedex fill up, especially when I manage to complete a whole row. And Pokemon are darn cute too.

But, you know. It’s a game of diminishing returns. It gets less fun the more Pokemon you have. It’s so frustrating to play and not find anything you’re looking for. Recently, I’ve been playing it every couple of weeks or so, when the spawns have shifted and I can usually catch a couple of things I need, or during special events (thanks, Valentine’s Day, for finally getting me that Clefable). But now? New Pokemon everywhere! Loads of unknown critters on the scanner. It took me more than twice as long to walk to the coffee shop to write this morning, because I kept having to stop and play.

Basically, it’s the perfect distraction for my pre-Long May She Reign release jitters. If only the servers would stop crashing, so I could actually play. 😛

Why I Blog

When I think about why I started Feminist Fiction over five years ago (whaaaat?), I always think back to one specific moment in Doctor Who. I started working on the blog in earnest because I was infuriated by the way the media was talking about the new Hunger Games movie, but when I think of why I kept writing, I remember the end of Season 2 of Doctor Who, when Rose left. I was 17 when that aired, and something about that episode crushed me. I didn’t have the words to explain why I was so upset, but it left something painful inside me, something beyond this idea of “oh this ending is sad.” I didn’t really know what it was, and I grappled, in fandom spaces, to figure out why I felt that way. Now I know that this was one of my first instances of feeling that a show I loved had betrayed me, making the female protagonist agentless, powerless, left sobbing on a beach with no control over the situation or say in what happened. But at the time, I couldn’t figure out why that upset me so much. I just knew that it did.

So now I write about those things. I write to figure out my own feelings about complicated issues regarding narrative and representation, and I write because there might be someone else out there grappling with the same sorts of problems, feeling that something is wrong, but unable to express exactly why. Other people’s critiques of feminism and fandom shaped me in a lot of ways, back in the days when social justice and fandom weren’t automatically intertwined, and although I’d never assume I was that influential on anybody, I hope that occasionally some people find my thoughts helpful, whether it’s expressing something they agree with, or saying something they disagree with so vehemently that my totally objectionable words help bring their thoughts into focus.

Which brings me to blogging here, and a helpful conversation I recently had with a friend. I really enjoying doing “blogmas,” writing a blog post every day in December running up to Christmas on whatever happened to be on my mind that day. Casual thoughts about movies or books, some Youtube recs, some life stuff. Anxiety and writing and perfectionism and Disney. One thing that was great about it was how freeing it was. I’m fine writing on Feminist Fiction, but I second guess myself a lot when it comes to this blog. I have 50 drafts of posts that never went up. 50. That’s almost as many as I actually have posted.

Because, beyond thinking about writing quality, I’m always wondering… what is the point of this post? What benefit does posting it bring? What is it really even about? Factual topics don’t suit my writing style as much as more musing or analytical things, but surely factual posts, or even the ever-present internet “listicle,” are more useful to readers. They have more utility, and that’s what this is about, right? Utility. Purpose.

But it took thinking about the real purpose behind Feminist Fiction to understand what I really want to do with blogging, the thing that I always end up second guessing, because it doesn’t have enough purpose, because it’s too navel-gaze-y. I want to be navel gaze-y. I want to write blog posts that are open and musing about, well, life. About things that happen in the news and about books and games I come across, but also about those tricky other things, like dealing with anxiety and figuring out who you are and who you want to be.

I like to blog because it helps me figure out what I think about these things. And I like that there’s always a chance, even if it’s a slim one, that someone will come across the post and have it help them figure out their own feelings. Help them see a way forward or feel less alone with their problems. I’m a huge fan of chatty Youtube, the kind of video blogging that doesn’t have much purpose beyond someone reflecting on things. It makes me feel calm and connected, and often leads me to think about things in unexpected ways. And that is the purpose of this blog too. To muse, to think, to clarify, and hopefully to connect.

So, this is all a very, very long way of saying that I’m reinstating Blogmas. Not exactly Blogmas, because I’m not going to be blogging every single day until Christmas. But semi-blogmas. Blogging every day that I don’t have a particularly good reason not to blog. In fact, my goal is to blog 300 days in the rest of 2017, which leaves 21 days off, assuming I don’t get weak and invoke the blog posts I wrote before this point. Is it ambitious? Yup. Will I last a week and then fail? Possibly. But that’s my goal.

Keep your fingers crossed for me, and come back tomorrow for some more nerdy, navel-gaze-y fun. Confessions of an anxious author. Or something like that. 😛

A Few Bits of News

It’s snowing here in York! Just a few powdery flakes, but that’s practically a blizzard for us, and it’s making the world seem a little less terrible than it has done for the past couple of weeks.

I’ve spent the past week recovering from the world’s most melodramatic cold, so I’m a little behind on everything that’s been going on. So, here’s a quick little update of things you might have missed.

First things first, Kingdom of Ashes is having an ebook promotion right now! It’s $1.99 for the next couple of days, so if you haven’t read it yet, now’s a good time to snag it.

YA Books Central were kind enough to make me author of the week this week. I did an interview with them, and there’s also a giveaway for a signed hardback of Long May She Reign.

I was also included in Barnes and Noble’s YA Open Mic series this month, where I talked a little bit about shyness, social anxiety, and how they were impacted by my Big Move from my native UK to the far more gregarious US.

Plus, Long May She Reign comes out in less than two weeks! Which feels insane. You can preorder it from all good bookstores. And eee, the book is gorgeous, if I do say so myself (which I think I can, because it’s not like I designed it). If you take off the dust jacket, there’s even a little gold foil bottle/chemistry flask embossed on the cover, with a tiny castle inside.

Long May She Reign Giveaways

There are currently TWO giveaways running where you can win a copy of Long May She Reign. There’s one on Goodreads, ending February 1st, and one with EpicReads, which ends February 5th. Enter both, and have double the chance to win!

These giveaways are only open to people in the US and Canada, but don’t worry if you’re international. I’ll be giving away signed copies internationally once the book is officially released.

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