Books, June 2017 and halfway through the year

I’ve been really heckin busy. Come see Proof in just 2 short months, everyone!

Has Feminism Changed Science?, Londa Schiebinger

So, has it? In short: some, but nowhere near enough.

I’ve been extraordinarily lucky in my career that I’ve worked with institutions and individuals who were nothing but supportive of me. But this is far from universal, at those institutions and in my generation, and even more so in the past. Frustratingly, many of the problems the author identifies are as present now as when book was written almost 20 years ago, such as inflexible schedules (both daily, interfering with childcare and other home obligations, and career-long, interfering with maternity leave) or the implicit expectation of especially academic careers that someone else is taking care of all real-life responsibilities for you (or that you don’t have any other responsibilities). And most of the policies that would improve the situation of women in science even improve productivity and creativity, even seemingly costly proposals such as spousal hires and maternity leave, both because happy unstressed people do their jobs better and because introducing new perspectives leads to new questions and creative new solutions.

Genre: history, science. Format: nonfiction. Rating: 3/3, and it’s held up frustratingly well

Acceptance, Jeff Vandermeer

The trilogy wraps up with a reasonably satisfying conclusion that answers everything except for SPOILER what in the heckin heck in Area X anyway? I loved flashing between multiple times and places and verb tenses to finally piece together what happened, if not what caused or or why. I’m not so much a fan of the second-person narration, which mercifully is pretty rare overall. Maybe it reminds me too much of murder mystery character sheets? Someone on the Writing Excuses podcast (I don’t remember who, unfortunately) suggested that second-person narration might well become more common as video games grow in popularity, as those are essentially second-person narratives. I find it works in video games because you’re an active participant in the story, but I find it distracting in narrative.

Genre: horror. Format: novel. Rating: 3/3

Silenced in the Surf, Kate Dyer-Seeley

Rule one of narrative (and especially of comedy): don’t punch down. SPOILER FOR THE MURDERER AND MOTIVE. If the murderer’s motive was that the person he killed bullied him for being a nerd, then perhaps lay off the mean nerd stereotypes in the story? Constantly describing him (constantly as in nearly every time he entered a scene) as a stinky, cape-wearing, no-social-skills dweeb rather reinforces the perception of the nerd as an acceptable target for bullies. This doesn’t apply to specific characters having such views (even POV characters!), but when the story structure and moral supports them. Plus it reduced my sympathies for the narrator (who I still quite like) because I was annoyed how judgy she was being.

Genre: mystery. Format: novel. Rating: 2/3, readable but definitely the weakest of the three I’ve read so far

I’m also currently reading the graphic novel/webcomic Stand Still, Stay Silent, which follows a group of explorers in a post-apocalyptic Scandinavia after a mysterious illness kills almost all the people. Also, there are literal trolls and demons and magic after the fall of humanity. It’s GORGEOUS. There is a print edition of the first portion of the story, and the entire thing is available online and updated a few times a week. (How the author manages to draw that much that quickly I have no idea. I can’t even draw stick figures.)

And of course, mid-year stats check-in:

7508 pages in 29 books

Faves of the year so far:

Novel: Lock-In (March)

Series: Sorcery and Cecilia (#1 February and #2 in progress)

Graphic novel: Stand Still, Stay Silent (in progress – not fully released)

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