The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue: Sounds Gay, I’m In

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(if you don’t get the joke, click here)

Two books came to mind while I was reading The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue: Meddling Kids and the Gemma Doyle trilogy (okay, that’s technically three books, but whatever). Meddling Kids I’ve talked at length about, mostly about how fantastically trope-y yet earnest it was as a pastiche/affectionate parody; there’s a similar vibe to that in TGGVV, which takes a decidedly Hitchhiker’s Guide/Monty Python attitude to genre conventions. Gemma Doyle I haven’t talked about, mostly because I read it way before I started this blog, but in essence it’s a YA series about secret magical societies and all-girls boarding schools in fin-de-siècle England. The Gemma Doyle connection is partially stylistic, but it’s also more thematic: both are YA period fiction, both have magic, both discuss how the past was real cool aesthetically but also awful for people who weren’t straight white cismen.

Mostly, though? The vibe I got was fanfiction. Continue reading “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue: Sounds Gay, I’m In”

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The Paper Menagerie: I Am Never Going to be Ken Liu, and I’m Learning to be Okay with That

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I don’t know why I held off for so long on reading Ken Liu. Actually, that’s a lie: I know exactly why it took me so long to finally read The Paper Menagerie, and it’s because I was, quite simply, jealous. When I first learned of Liu and The Paper Menagerie, it was in the context of “The Paper Menagerie” the short story, and the fact that it had just won The Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, which was unprecedented like what-the-fuck. And instead of being happy for him, glad that Asian-American writers were getting more recognition, I was pissed.

Here’s the thing. The Chinese American community is incredibly cutthroat, parents always pushing you to be ninety-ninth percentile because there was only so much room up at top, you had to the best or other it’d be game over, community college and a lifetime of disgrace for you. When I learned that Liu was a critically-acclaimed Chinese-American speculative fiction writer, my initial thought wasn’t wow, that’s cool, I’m so glad he’s doing that and I hope I can be like him one day; it was well, fuck, how the fuck am I supposed to compete with that? Continue reading “The Paper Menagerie: I Am Never Going to be Ken Liu, and I’m Learning to be Okay with That”

Short stories are rad: a listicle

Short story collections are a weird creature—plenty of writers write them, plenty of publishers buy them, but how many people actually read them? Enough, obviously, that they keep on being produced, but outside of MFA professors and particularly pretentious lit students, I don’t really know anyone who buys them. With a few exceptions—Alice Munro, George Saunders, Shirley Jackson—short stories are almost always seen as appetizers, the prelude to an eventual novel that will prove all these writer’s potential on display. Short stories are nice, but it’s novels we get excited about, novels we put in “top 10 lists” and make movies out of because novels are sexy, the strutting cool kids of the literary world. If you talk about buying a book and you’re a so-called “average American,” chances are you’re talking about buying a novel.

Which is a shame honestly, because short stories are, for a variety of reasons, kind of the shit. Continue reading “Short stories are rad: a listicle”