rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (books)
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On behalf of Readercon's program committee, I'm delighted to announce the book club selections for Readercon 23. This year we went with a theme of speculative explorations of sex, gender, and sexuality. Of course there are a great many excellent and fascinating works to choose from, but I think we've narrowed it down to a compelling foursome (as it were) that will bear up well under the close scrutiny of Readercon's book club discussions. Our selections:

Recent fiction: Ghost by John Ringo

Classic fiction: Magic's Pawn by Mercedes Lackey

Recent nonfiction: A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World's Largest Experiment Reveals About Human Desire by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam

Classic nonfiction: Imaginative Sex by John Norman

Just kidding! Here are the real selections, unthemed as always:

Recent fiction: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor. In her World Fantasy Award-winning first adult novel, Nnedi Okorafor continues her groundbreaking project of bringing an entirely new kind of voice into SF and fantasy, drawing on her own Nigerian heritage, African mythology and politics, and profoundly disturbing practices such as weaponized rape and clitorectomy. Set in a haunting and haunted world that is part far-future post-tech SF, part myth, and part utterly contemporary in its central issues, Who Fears Death raises important questions about the often-sentimentalized portrayal of Africa in SF, about feminism and empowerment, about the possibilities of SF and fantasy imagined from a non-Western perspective, even about genre disctinctions--sorcery and shapeshifting co-exist with computers, satellite communications, and “capture stations” to draw precious water from the air. What does Okorafor’s vision imply about the relationship of SF and fantasy to the developing world, about its capacity for engaging the social and economic issues of that world, and about imaginary settings drawn from resources other than familiar Anglo-American assumptions?

Classic fiction: The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutola. The Palm-Wine Drinkard is a classic of world literature, a vivid, exhilarating, and linguistically breathtaking tale of a fantastic quest. The novel is based on Yoruba folktales, but Tutuola makes them uniquely his own. In a 1997 obituary for Amos Tutuola in The Independent, Alastair Niven wrote: “Tutuola was a born story-teller, taking traditional oral material and re-imagining it inimitably. In this way he was, though very different in method and craft, the Grimm or Perrault of Nigerian story-telling, refashioning old tales in a unique way which made them speak across cultures." Now, sixty years after it was first released, The Palm-Wine Drinkard stands as the best sort of classic: one that remains a pleasure to read, but that opens up new readings with each encounter.

Recent nonfiction: Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction by John Rieder. John Rieder seeks to show that “colonialism is a significant historical context for early science fiction,” and that in many ways science fiction and modern imperialism developed together. In a review for Science Fiction Studies, David M. Higgins wrote of the “threefold trajectory of [Reider’s] approach—to consider how sf ‘lives and breathes’ in a colonial context, to examine how it ‘reflects or contributes to’ this context, and to analyze ways in which it may ‘enact’ challenges to colonial ideology.” Rieder discusses the intersections of race and class in works by Poe, Wells, Verne, London, Burroughs, Campbell, and a number of lesser-known writers. Are the connections between colonialism and science fiction that Rieder sees convincing ones? Could other factors account for the themes and tropes he identifies? How have colonialist ideologies lasted beyond science fiction’s emergent years?

Classic nonfiction: How to Suppress Women's Writing by Joanna Russ. First published in 1983, How to Suppress Women’s Writing remains a touchstone for many people, the sort of book often passed from one reader to another with the words, “You have to read this!” Tansy Rayner Roberts wrote of it in 2010, “This is not an angry book. It is not a book that condemns men. It is a book that shows how our culture’s traditional (patriarchal) way of reading and studying and archiving literature has forced limitations upon all of us, preventing us from understanding the importance of a huge percentage of the work written in our language. Men and women both have been convinced that women’s writing (and indeed, art in general) is less valuable and less significant.” How do we read Russ now, nearly 30 years after the book first appeared? Which of her ideas remain the most potent? Has it become, as critic Niall Harrison said in 2005, “a book that is most often referenced by its soundbites”? Do the soundbites do justice to the complexity of Russ’s analysis?

Please join us in reading and discussing these justly celebrated works at Readercon 23!
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