Book Reviews: BLACK BUCK, AGAINST THE LOVELESS WORLD

I picked up Against the Loveless World, a book about a Palestinian refugee who narrates the story from her confinement in an Israeli prison. The publisher comps the book to Her Body and Other Stories which I find a little odd (it doesn’t have much in common in subject or in tone), but in any case the writing is as enchanting as it is hard-hitting. Nahr is being interviewed by a white journalist she describes only as ‘the Western woman’ (CN for a gang-rape mention):

The Western woman put her hand up. She glanced down at her notepad, covered her written questions with both hands, inhaled deeply, and blinked one of those exaggeratedly long blinks—as if she were breathing through her eyelids—then said, “I read somewhere that you were gang-raped the night Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.”
I raised one eyebrow, which seemed to make her uneasy. In my peripheral view, Lena’s lips turned up almost imperceptibly.
The woman continued, “I can only imagine the horror of that night, and I’m sorry to bring it up.”
“What makes you think it’s okay to ask me these things?”

It’s good. It’s also a huge relief to read a book where no character exposits how elven aging works or how the conlang has five hundred words for ‘beige’—sometimes you get genre burnout, and the next explanation regarding the functions of a space empire or magic system becomes completely unbearable; you need to read something else to breathe. By no means is Against the Loveless World a cheerful read, but there’s a wryness to it: Nahr is not a cipher victim on which the reader may project their idea of what an Arab woman and refugee should be like. It’s odd to say, but this is such an easy book to read despite its subject matter, which I think separates it from outsider exploitation. Books about Arab women being miserable written by white people are an oppressively miserable affair to read, if they are at all readable.

Saying that this is a book about resilience seems trite, though it is about that. There are stretches that are very hard to read as Nahr endures successive rapes, and once those are past and she comes to live in Palestine, she has an unstable life disrupted constantly by raids, attacks, the arrests and brutalizing of her loved ones. Parts of the book are written with a surprisingly breezy tone, but there’s always an undercurrent of grimness and fear of what’s to come. It’s complex, demanding, and very angry.

The day that changed my life was like every other day before it, except that it changed my life. I suppose that makes it as important as a birthday, wedding, or bankruptcy, which is why I celebrate the twentieth of May every year like it’s my birthday. Why the hell not?

As with any other day, my alarm went off at 6:15 a.m. The buzzing interrupted an unremarkable dream that left me with morning wood. But instead of rubbing one out, I kissed my photo of my girlfriend, Soraya; straightened my leaning tower of books; said good morning to my posters of Scarface, The Godfather, and Denzel as Malcolm X, and stood in front of my mirror, taking stock of the person staring back at me.

I didn’t know it back then, but I was, and am, an attractive Black man. At six two, I’m taller than average, and my skin, comparable to the rich caramel of a Werther’s Original, thanks to my pops, is so smooth you wouldn’t believe it’s not butter. My teeth are status quo and powerful, also known as white and straight, and my hair is naturally wavy even though I usually keep it short with a tight fade. Goddamn! The kid looked good and he didn’t even know it. I took a deep breath, hopped in the shower, and began my morning routine.

Black Buck is such a ridiculously fun book even while it goes for the jugular of racism in start-up culture. It’s a bit Death of a Salesman, and it’s a bit… almost satirical self-help? One of the slickest books around while absolutely not flinching from the reality of white supremacy. Most of it is of course larger-than-life and exaggerated, the heartwarming beats can be a little corny (I love them though), and there is more voice than prose.

It’s a book that is hard to say anything bad about because it’s just so smooth, and it’s uplifting despite the way it ends (and despite the way Darren not getting everything he wants, and being subjected to a final injustice by force of white supremacy). It incorporates side-characters who are marginalized differently from the protagonist without ever making me feel this is done for the sake of ‘sounding’ progressive: the Black lesbian character is charming and vicious. I predict this is a book that’s going to be optioned in no time, it has that kind of buzz and sheen to it, and it’s something I’d genuinely love to see onscreen.


I’ve switched newsletter platform to Revue! You can subscribe and view previous issues here. Honestly I don’t think Revue is the best (the formatting UI is almost as much of a nightmare as WordPress block editor), but it’s still a format I prefer over blogging, so if you want to keep up with what I’m reading or watching or writing, that is the place to do it more than this blog.

Recent reads: MY DARK VANESSA, THORN

Out of curiosity I picked up My Dark Vanessa and ended up not finishing it. Not because it’s just so problematic but because it feels like an airport novel. It’s neither shocking nor messy; it’s just tedious and predictable.

I can see why this got a huge book deal in that it’s exactly the kind of book people who don’t read books would pick up (which explains why it has a Stephen King blurb). A film option’s bound to happen at some point, starring a petite white actress who’s indistinguishable from the other white actresses.

Thorn by [Anna Burke]

This one surprised me a lot because I didn’t expect to get past the protagonist being a teenager (she’s probably 17?). I liked it much, much better than Compass Rose.

They say the Huntress rides out when the sun is at its farthest and Winter has her jaws buried deep in the heart of the warm, green world. In the mountain valleys, they swear you can hear her hounds on the knife’s edge of the wind, howling down the peaks in a spray of teeth. The Huntress rides behind them mounted on a great white bear with a horn of silver and bone at her lips and a spear cut from the living heart of a mountain pine at her side. No beast can stand before her charge, and every northern child knows that the Huntress stalks the snows, looking for the lost, the unwary, and the bold alike.

A lesbian retelling of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ set in a wintry mountain. Off the bat it’s much better than the Disney take, because whereas Disney’s Belle is a cishet girl whose ‘difference’ is that she reads books, Thorn‘s Rowan is well… a lesbian. Unlike Compass Rose this isn’t set in a queer-normative world, so unfortunately for her being a lesbian carries real cost of persecution, especially since her father wants to marry her off to a boy. I’m not a fan of this kind of setup usually, but here it more or less works because the specter of comphet doesn’t loom too closely as Rowan spends most of the book in the Huntress’ castle. You can really tell it’s written by a lesbian because the ‘Beast’ is a beautiful ice domme in hunting leathers who rides a huge bear. The love story is excellent, the prose is pretty great, and though the beginning runs a bit slow as a whole this is one of the better fairytale retellings out there. Dramatic, gorgeous imagery, and paced just right.

Recent reads: a post-post-apocalyptic lesbian adventure at sea and an alien invasion

For the most part, this book is okay and even enjoyable. The prose isn’t bad and the dialogue has a lot of verve. But there’s a weird disparity between the author’s ability to characterize (which is very good) and the author’s ability to plot (which is less good). While most of the characters in this book are fantastic and interesting, the titular protagonist is neither of those things until much later in the book, and even then she becomes interesting primarily because she’s reacting to actions taken by the interesting people around her which, again, isn’t ideal. The stakes are not very coherent until more than halfway through the book, and large chunks of the beginning feel like pure filler. The setting is very strange in that it reads like it could have been Age of Sail fantasy, but actually it’s the post-post-apocalypse future after humanity has made Earth uninhabitable and everyone lives on ships or island stations–but the tech level feels odd and uneven, to the point that I’m not sure why this takes place in this specific setting. There’s a lack of specificity to the story that makes the milieu feel like an afterthought: this book could have been space opera and nothing would have changed apart from some vocabulary, and might arguably have benefited from being either space opera or outright fantasy. For example, what’s with the protagonist’s mysterious heritage and  golden eyes that people won’t stop harping on about? Why does she have some kind of psychic/electromagnetic ability that lets her sense Earth’s cardinal points? Who knows. It’s not touched on even by the book’s end and is the only fantasy element in an otherwise science fictional setting that is, nevertheless, weirdly low-tech for what it purports to be; it feels like a leftover from a different draft and contributes to that odd YA-adjacent issue (in YA, it’s popular for the protagonist to have special parentage and special magic eyes) even though this book isn’t YA.

My reaction to the book is pretty odd as a result. I liked the romance, I liked the concentration of powerful, warlike women (everyone in power in this book is a woman, violent, experienced, and most of them are gay), the dialogue is whippy and fun and grandiose at the right places, but I skimmed a large amount of the text because large amounts of the text aren’t very compelling. This book goes on for too long, coming in at 375 pages when I reckon 200 pages would’ve done the trick. Either making the pirate captain, the admiral, or the pirate queen the protagonist would’ve improved everything significantly (especially if the pirate captain and the pirate queen furiously hate-fucks)–they’re seasoned, interesting, they have bloody history and complex motivations, and their perspective would’ve made the narrative vastly more efficient, less bogged down by the protagonist’s ignorance.

Do I recommend this book? Sure thing, because the lesbian romance is good and the majority of the characters are bloodthirsty women with complex pasts, and what made me skim large chunks of this book may be less of a slog to others. As a bonus, the author is a queer woman.

I really wanted to like this one but, throughout, I couldn’t get rid of the nagging feeling that this is a book written by a person who doesn’t read much SFF. Which by itself is fine, but it means that a lot of what’s done here feels incredibly dated, and very much out of touch. Then there are entire passages that go like this

He shrugged. “Like a million other people. You wouldn’t have noticed me at all.”
Trina’s eyes grew big. “Hold up—were you a white guy? And you took this brown kid’s face?”
Horizon raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
“You didn’t! Horizon!” She looked around, almost expecting there to be hidden cameras in the bushes, as if this were all some retro prank. “You can’t—you can’t take other people’s faces, their races, and wear them like—like a suit!”
“Oh, race is a construction,” he said, waving his hand. “Everyone knows that.”
“That might be, but it’s still meaningful. Constructs mean things.”

[…]

He shrugged again. “Well, you can feel however you want about it, obviously.”
“Horizon, listen to me. You’re being so color-blind it’s racist!”
He looked stung, as if she had struck him. “I can’t believe you would use that word on me. How long have you known me?”

I mean, ok. It’s… well, it’s nails on chalkboard, isn’t it. I’m not one to complain that real people don’t talk like this but the problem is that the author hasn’t convinced me these people, given their context, would talk like this. It’s not an isolated thing–characters talk like this a lot (‘Nice try. I’m not about to let you oppress me with your systems of heteronormativity, stud’). Check out this positive review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Trina shakes her subsequent alcoholic depression just long enough to take on a “vengeful quest” to confront a former friend whom she fought with years before over identity politics, and to save a lost boy from the effects of the Seep.

‘Identity politics’ indeed.

So, assuming that maybe the reader isn’t supposed to take any of these conversations seriously (‘You can’t use other people for your own purposes any longer. This stops now!’), what are we left with? We’re left with a mildly interesting premise that sounds better in marketing copy than in execution, and which glowing reviews have compared to Ursula le Guin and Sheri Tepper. Which is probably accurate in the sense that I’m not sure the author has read science fiction any more recent than those, because the stilted style also reminds me of older fiction, to say nothing of the ideas explored which–as said–are pretty dated. Societal order collapses and utopia rises from it; people are joined in alien hivemind; everyone has total freedom to act and eating meat is painful because humans are joined to the pain of everything so most people are vegans now (really?). I think for this book to work, there needs to be a strong emotional core and in this case it just isn’t there, or what’s there doesn’t work for me.

As a whole, this book contains barely enough substance to fill a short story (30 pages, tops), let alone the 216 pages it occupies in hardback. Which is a shame, because as a short story it could’ve been decent.

Year-End Reading and Writing Things

This year I picked up exactly 20 books to read and finished 11 of them. This is primarily an issue of quality; most of the books I tried (both in and outside my preferred genres) were just not very good, with most of them being quite incredibly bad. Various others were merely mediocre.

I finally got around to reading the Aud Torvingen books by Nicola Griffith properly and am very pleased with them. I’m just at the beginning of Always but don’t feel my judgment of these books will change. They’re books about a butch lesbian sort of private investigator, who’s an ex-cop, fabulously wealthy, hypercompetent and very aloof. Aud believes all problems can be solved either by money, cold calculation, or violence; she mellows and becomes a better person here and there, but the core of her character is sharp and icy and interesting. The books also have excellent nature writing, always a plus, and the prose is brilliantly stylish.

While I had issues with it, Oyeyemi’s Gingerbread was one of the highlights of the year, along with Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. The latter is absolutely brutal and doesn’t have what you’d call a happy ending.

One of the absolute reading low points of this year was Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. Which is amazingly bad to the point of nearly incomprehensible: Atwood’s prose is usually much better than this. The book’s incredibly let down by the presence of two teenage girls’ POVs who are not very intelligent or very distinguishable from similar characters from a lot of other books. Aunt Lydia is a horrible person but at least she’s interesting.

For anime, here’s my year-end recommendation.

  • The Case Files of Lord El-Melloi II
  • Psycho-Pass: Sinners of the System Cases 1-3
  • Psycho-Pass: Season 3
  • Vinland Saga (it’s not amazing but it’s not horrible)
  • Kimetsu no Yaiba
  • Granbelm (a real dark horse: who knew Fate meet Madoka meet mecha, but lesbian, could be so good?)

My writing

For my own work, this year I had a small number of new short stories out, ‘That August Song’ in Beneath Ceaseless Skies; ‘Where Machines Run with Gold’ in The Future Fire , ‘Then Will the Sun Rise Alabaster’ and ‘Tiger, Tiger Bright’ in The Dark Magazine. These are all pretty different stuff, respectively one secondary-world mecha fantasy (what if Darling in the Franxx didn’t suck and was also lesbian?), space opera (tie-in short stories to the Machine Mandate setting, where And Shall Machines Surrender takes place), and contemporary dark fantasy.

In terms of books, I had two out or forthcoming this year! One is And Shall Machines Surrendera cyberpunk neo-noir where two ex-military lesbian cyborgs grapple with trouble in an AI-ruled utopia and find out… a lot. It’s a new setting, and I intend to write more in it, other than the two short stories linked above.

The other is Mirrorstrike, the sequel to my 2017 lesbian Snow Queen retelling, now up for preorder. Probably a good antidote if you’re especially sick of hearing about Frozen 2. The sequel is considerably longer than book one, and is the first time I really write a sequel to anything, so… please look forward to it! Nuawa and Lussadh are fine. They’ll be so fine in book two.

Science fiction/fantasy by writers of color recommendation list

Some author overlap with the lesbian list, since I naturally read a lot of writers of color regardless.

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. Non-binary protagonist, queer relationships.

  • Content warnings: depictions of gender dysphoria (ownvoices), on-page domestic violence and sexual assault

Moonlight Garden by Kang Unnie and MissPM. A Korean lesbian webcomic taking place in a fantasy Korea that’s not only just normative but lesbian-majority. Part period drama, part love story, and very graphically smutty indeed. 

Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Quiet literary science fiction.

Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw. Lovecraftian noir.

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead. Alternate history, speculative.

All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Military SF. I don’t recommend this without reservations, but it’s a fun read.

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi. Fabulist meta-narratives about stories and storytellers.

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. High fantasy; gay male primary characters.

Short fiction

Vajra Chandrasekera

Christopher Caldwell-Kelly

Troy L. Wiggins

FAQ

Where’s [my favorite book/author]?

I either haven’t read them or I didn’t like/couldn’t finish the book. Feel free to make your own list.

Why’s the list so small?

Eventually it will be less small.

But [this book] isn’t really science fiction or fantasy!

Magic realism and fabulism are nice, actually.

What is Not Yours is Not Yours, Helen Oyeyemi

There’s a certain kind of fiction, usually contemporary or near-future, written by white American women (but, hashtag, not all white American women!). It has a particular tone and interest, and the setting tends to be extremely provincial, to the point that reading such fiction feels like reading someone – and this applies to Americans in general, whether they’re turning out nonfiction or otherwise – who’s never set foot outside their own house but who believes their experiences are nevertheless relevant and universally compelling. The focus is on, vaguely, the human condition though really the writers are most interested in whimsy and sentiment. It’s sort of literary, in a workshop kind of way, and any gestures it makes at progressiveness are palliative rather than radical. I find this universally draining to read. As in it literally drains my will to read, and also to live. It’s not offensive (on the contrary it’s anodyne). It’s not bad. Occasionally it shows promise. I don’t retain anything about it, not what it has to say (on the rare event it has any) or characters or setting (interchangeably American) or the prose. I expect it is very nice to read for others who share the mindset and life experiences and cultural background radiation with the writers. People who like that sort of thing will find it the sort of thing…

When I first read the final story in What is Not Yours is Not Yours, it seemed worryingly like that sort of thing. It’s not, exactly; maybe this collection has more in common with Kuzhali Manickavel than its white American female counterparts. I have to preface that I like the collection as a whole a great deal before I say that this is that sort of thing, but done well: without the provincial narcissism, the limitation of thoughts and images. It’s magic-realist and whimsical, and it’s pretty and airy, and it’s very easy to read. It improves you literary constitution, if you have one of those. The stories are interrelated, but in an effortless rather than labored way. There is a leitmotif – keys, access – but this is, again, nothing labored; rather it is effortlessly arrived at. There is an incredible ease to the prose, the structure of each story and of the collection as a whole. It’s hard to find anything to criticize, or even particularly dislike. I enjoyed my time with it.

SEÑORA LUCY was a painter with eyes like daybreak. Like Montse, she wore a key on a chain around her neck, but unlike Montse she told people that she was fifty years old and gave them looks that dared them to say she was in good condition for her age. (Señora Lucy was actually thirty-five, only five years older than Montse. One of the housemaids had overheard a gallery curator begging her to stop telling people she was fifty. The Señora had replied that she’d recently attended the exhibitions of some of her colleagues and now wished to discover whether fifty-year-old men in her field were treated with reverence because they were fifty or for some other reason.) Aside from this the housemaids were somewhat disappointed with Señora Lucy. They expected their resident artist to lounge about in scarlet pajamas, drink cocktails for breakfast, and entertain dashing rascals and fragrant sirens. But Señora Lucy kept office hours. Merce, her maid of all work, tried to defend her by alleging that the Señora drank her morning coffee out of a vase, but nobody found this credible.

That’s from my favorite in the collection, the opening story ‘books and roses’, which – setting the tone for What is Not Yours is Not Yours – is one part fairytale, fully a love story (lesbian, in particular). Unlike the palliative progressiveness – the bland, lazy ‘diversity’ – of that sort of thing, this is confident in itself and its presentation of protagonists who are black, brown, queer. You can’t hear the author wringing her hands over how to describe black skin or Indian girls, because there’s no hand-wringing. There’s nothing self-conscious about most of it, though I’d say it opens strongly and toward the end begins the process of petering out. ‘dornička and the st. martin’s day goose’ is extremely typical for what it is, aesthetically and thematically quite safe, a fairytale that moves and concludes like a fairytale. (We come back to ‘people who like this sort of thing…’ To a lesser extent, ‘drownings’ is subjected to the same structure and tone.) Meantime, ‘“sorry” doesn’t sweeten her tea’ or ‘is your blood as red as this?’ or ‘presence’ are peculiarly themselves, difficult to pin down, and very good.

I do much prefer Manickavel’s short fiction, having said that, because Manickavel leaves more lasting impressions on me than this particular Oyeyemi (and I enjoy Oyeyemi’s novels, I mean). Maybe it’d be different on reread – I’m not in a habit of rereading by and large; most likely it would. I wish I’d liked it more or that it’d made more of a mark on my brain, or that I felt more strongly about it.

(As an update, what do you know, Nina Allan had a similar response I did to this book.)

This collection is as rich and strange as any you are likely to find. It seethes with invention and originality, and yet I came away from it confounded by how little these stories affected me on any level other than the merely cerebral. My mind was left cluttered with images and metaphors, and yet I seemed unable to remember a single one of the stories distinctly, set apart from the bigarrure of its fellows. Each story is about many things—yet none of them are truly about anything. Each contains a kernel of outrageous beauty or glorious transgression—the guerrilla book swap in “a brief history of the homely wench society,” the audacious lie told by Freddy about Ched and Tyche in “freddy barrandov checks . . . in?,” the bizarre act of deception perpetrated by the grandmother against the wolf-beast in “dornicka and the st martin’s day goose”—which renders these tales exhilarating in their bombast and totally unlike any other story you might read on any given day. Yet for me at least they felt lacking in any emotional resonance whatsoever. There are several leitmotifs—keys, roses, puppets—running through the core of this collection that serve as loose thematic binders, but their importance feels circumstantial rather than being freighted with any deep meaning, and the same might easily be said of the recurrence of various characters from one story to another. These are stories that never stay still, which is perhaps the reason they never acquire any meaningful depth.

I admire this book a great deal, but I don’t really like it much, and I say this as someone who counts Oyeyemi among her favourite authors. It’s not her, it’s me. Your mileage may vary.


Some reviews of this collection that amused me and which I don’t agree or disagree with in any particular way. From Chicago Tribune, ‘A writer’s writer (I first heard her name from Kelly Link, who cited Oyeyemi as a favorite at a book festival panel), she spent all of one semester in an M.F.A. program before bolting — perhaps wisely intuiting that her writing was better off with its weirdness fully intact, and fully hers. Thank goodness, because the nine stories in this collection feel idiosyncratic in a way that is hard to imagine surviving a workshop setting.’ (The phrase ‘a writer’s writer’ is very apt and may or may not be associated with a certain dynamic that the founder of Bookslut mentions when she talked about shutting down Bookslut.)

Aaron Bady: ‘The same could be said of Oyeyemi’s writing. In struggling to describe her work—and it is a struggle—book reviewers often praise her mastery of craft. NPR declared her new novel What is Not Yours is Not Yours “flawless,” a “masterpiece,” and The New York Times describes her as a master author who “expertly melds the everyday, the fantastic and the eternal.” But I would praise her work in almost exactly the opposite terms. Oyeyemi’s fascination is with the flaws that make us human—and the dreams through which we approach our own brokenness—and so, her stories are twisted and imperfect. As another reviewer observed, they are “idiosyncratic in a way that is hard to imagine surviving a workshop setting.” Like dreams, her books are too odd to be good, too terrible to be loved, and too broken to be masterpieces. (In this, she has a lot in common with Silvina Ocampo, and much of Oyeyemi’s introduction to last year’s collection of Ocampo’s fiction could read as a description of her own aesthetic.)’

(He also says, ‘Dreams are the return of everything our daytime brain has worked to ignore. Dreams are the uncanny and the forbidden’ which is exactly the kind of thing a reviewer adds as filler and rather tautological. I suppose you could technically call it a novel – a mosaic novel to be exact – but to me it’s very much a collection; YMMV. It’s interesting how even reviewers who review for big venues take a certain view of workshops.)

AMERICANAH, belatedly

I don’t say this kind of thing often (or probably at all), but Americanah may be one of the most important books I’ve ever read. It’s the kind of book that makes me look backward and wish I’d read it sooner, that I’d read it at a younger age, that it’d been one of my formative reads.

It is a book that’s easy to feel deeply, passionately for; it is a book that inspires fervor, in a way that’s both numinous and entirely down-to-earth. It’s a book to quote, a book to share, a book to luxuriate in. It’s a warm book, an incisive book, critical and loving all at once.

Continue reading “AMERICANAH, belatedly”

SORCERER OF THE WILDEEPS

Since leaving his homeland, the earthbound demigod Demane has been labeled a sorcerer. With his ancestors’ artifacts in hand, the Sorcerer follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight.

The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive.

The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror. Demane may have to master his wild powers and trade humanity for godhood if he is to keep his brothers and his beloved captain alive.

This novella very pointedly makes the case, IMO, for the victory of prose. Because (for me at least) the premise doesn’t appeal much to me: it suggests sword and sorcery, a very bro kind of fellowship (the book has no women, except for Demane’s aunt in flashbacks), and just not what I especially like. But because the language is so flowing and organic, it kept me reading long enough to appreciate the characterization and so read all the way to the end. (Also, ‘Super Bass’ which takes place in the same setting is what convinced me to pick this up in the first place, again on strength of its prose.)

Continue reading “SORCERER OF THE WILDEEPS”

FOR EXPOSURE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A SMALL PRESS PUBLISHER, Jason Sizemore

Before I go any further, let me give writers these words of advice: never, ever respond to a rejection. You’re not going to change anybody’s mind. Move on and try again with a different story.

Also before I go any further, let me give editors these words of advice: never, ever respond to a rejection response. The writer at the other end of the letter is likely in an emotional and irrational state. Move on, you have hundreds of stories waiting for you in the slush pile.

Jason Sizemore’s For Exposure isn’t quite like anything else I’ve read – for that matter I don’t think there are too many titles out there chronicling the life and times of running a small press (writers’ memoirs are plenty; editors’ and publishers’ less so).

It’s a very personal, and very honest, book. It gets into the numbers, the practicalities: being cheated out of money by distributors, That Guy who won’t stop pitching the editor terrible novels at cons, the ups and downs of running a business specializing in some of the most unpredictable markets on earth. It also reminds us that publishing is – though certainly a business – also a thing most people do as a labor of love (paid, of course, but it’s mostly about love of reading and love of the imagination rather than the Capitalistic Dream).

It is also, of course, absolutely entertaining.

Continue reading “FOR EXPOSURE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A SMALL PRESS PUBLISHER, Jason Sizemore”