Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
A Miscellaneous Reading List
A few days ago I submitted my nomination ballot for the Hugo Awards. In many years it's a bit hard for me to think of five excellent things to nominate in each work category. But last year I spent a lot of time highlighting interesting short speculative fiction that you can read for free online, so it was super tough to choose in the Best Short Story category! I wish I could have nominated 15 things.
My nominations for Best Novelette:
Also, in Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form, I nominated "Explaining the Pandemic to my Past Self Part 2" by Julie Nolke.
I didn't have as many books to nominate -- I often read stuff years after it's published, and I've been far more lax about logging my reading than I was years ago.
A few days ago I finished The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson; I liked it, and since it came out in 2015 Dickinson has published two more books in the series, so I'll probably pick those up. It's wrenching and full of political intrigue, and perhaps it's a measure of my mental wellness that I was up for that. I don't think I would have made it more than two chapters if I'd tried that in December.
Today I finished reading Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair by Sarah Schulman. I'd meant to read it since I'd read this fascinating and wide-ranging Autostraddle interview. For a few years now I've been interested in feminists talking about how we distinguish character assassination from accountability. I appreciated adrienne maree brown's thoughts from last year that included:
i, we, have to be able to discern what is me/us, and what is fear.
which leads to my next unthinkable thought: do i really know the difference between my discernment and my fear?
Schulman goes broad and deep in discussing this topic. What do we lose when we use email and text messages to try to discuss conflict, instead of phone and in-person meetings? How do displaced anxieties and unprocessed trauma cause us to overreact to expectable, no-one-is-at-fault problems with our friends and peers? What ripple effects emerge when we are afraid to negotiate and when our groups don't support processes of reconciliation? A very worthwhile read and I recommend it for anyone who wants to think more deeply about a wide variety of phenomena that often get labelled "cancel culture."
Less recently, I read the thought-provoking collection "The Beatrix Gates (Plus....)" by Rachel Pollack, in PM Press's great "Outspoken Authors" series. I appreciated a perspective on the transgender experience that I'd never read before, and images from the stories will stay with me.
And, many many months ago, I finally finished Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon. I was a little disappointed! Lots of fun observations, but I found the finale of the virtual reality plot kind of empty.
I have a bunch of notes about shorter reads to share with you:
I think that I'm particularly and uniquely and very deeply American. If we want to talk about the ideals that we stand for, all the songs and the anthem and sort of what we were founded on, I think I'm extremely American. I think for the detractors, I would have them look hard into what I'm actually saying, the actions that I'm doing, maybe you don't agree with every single way that I do it and that can be discussed. I know that I'm not perfect. But I think that I think I stand for honesty, for truth and for wanting to have the conversation. And for looking at the country honestly and saying, yes, we are a great country and there are many things that are so amazing, and I feel very fortunate to be in this country. I'd never be able to do this in a lot of other places. But also, that doesn't mean that we can't get better. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't always strive to be better. I think that this country was founded on a lot of great ideals, but it was also founded on slavery. And I think we just need to be really honest about that and be really open in talking about that, so we can reconcile that and hopefully move forward and make this country better for everyone.