Saturday, 22 December 2012

Reading Challenges for 2013

Those of you who have been paying attention will have noticed that I've been participating in the Australian Women Writers Challenge this year. If you were paying particularly close attention, you might have realised that the reviewing component of the AWW2012 is what tricked me into led to me becoming a book blogger.

In 2012 I aimed to complete two separate AWW challenges: read and review 10 science fiction books by Australian Women — a tall order, given the paucity of science fiction by Australian authors generally — and to read as many (OK, originally I think I said 10, but I always knew it would end up being more than that) fantasy/other books by AWW as I could. And I did. I sourced some rather obscure SF books, used the challenge as an excuse to buy even more fantasy books and off I went.

But the fantasy part wasn't exactly a challenge. In almost all cases they were books I would have read anyway. I did discover some new authors through interacting with others doing the challenge, which I might not have heard about otherwise (or not as much), but mostly I read books I expected to read. I probably would not have gotten a Twelve Planets subscription if not for the challenge, but by the time the ebook subscription became available, I was already sold on the series. The main thing I can conclusively say is that without the challenge, I almost certainly would not have become a book blogger and probably would not have read as many books as I did this year.

In 2013, I'll definitely be continuing to post AWW reviews — I am in fact one of the curators, now, for the challenge's review archives for speculative fiction — but I feel like setting a specific goal for number of AWW books read generally is superfluous. 44% of ALL the books I read in 2012 were by AWW (and, if you're interested, 85% were by women generally).

Instead, I want to set two separate challenges for myself in 2013:
  • Read 5 horror books by Australian authors
  • Read 10 SF books by Australian authors
(Note that I've said Australian authors without specifying genders.)

The SF part should be obvious: I like SF and I want to promote what little of it comes out of Australia. I already have some books to start with since I didn't get around to reading all the books I sourced for 2012, finding instead some unexpected new releases to make up the numbers.

Allow me to explain the horror part further. When I was compiling my statistics about gender in Australian spec fic publishing (post 1, post 2), I saw that the overwhelming majority of spec fic published in Australia/written by Australians is fantasy. I have already addressed the lack of science fiction, but it is the lack of horror that is most stark. In 2011 only eleven horror books written by Australians were published (according to the Ditmar eligibility list). So few were published that there wasn't even an Aurealis Award given out in the horror category. Looking at the Australian Horror Writers Association's page for the Australian Shadows Award, no award was given out in the novel category for 2011 either. They have a reading list of eligible books for the 2012 award and there are only 7 novels on it so far (incidentally, I've read two of them already: Slights and The Price of Fame and one more is near the top of my TBR).

I don't read much horror, but I'm not against it, it's just not much of it crosses my path. So I want to branch out a bit and read more of it. I already have another two Kaaron Warren books lined up, the aforementioned near the top of my TBR pile book Walking the Shadows by Narrell M Harris (yeah, it just got pushed back into 2013, although I didn't think it was actually "horror" but we'll see), an anthology from Morrigan, Scenes from the Second Storey, assuming I remember to grab it when I'm back home, and we'll see what else the year brings. Five books is a modest goal, and I hope I exceed it, but given it's roughly half the yearly novel output of Australian horror writers, it seems reasonable.

I've made some banners for the purpose, too. If you want to use one or both of them on your blog, feel free, just please link back to here.


I'll be adding them to my side bar with counters once 2013 rolls around.

What reading challenges are you setting yourself for 2013? Will you be participating in the AWW2013? Do you want to join in on one or both of my SF and horror challenges? Let me know in the comments!


12 comments:

  1. There are not too many Aussie SF books by either gender because the big publishers won't do anything but fat fantasy trilogies. For SF you do have to go to small press, like Twelfth Planet and others of that ilk. And spec fic magazines such as Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine publish some SF as part of the balance. (Just so you know, there are at least two former ASIM members doing 12 th Planet.) Patty Jansen does SF ebooks, but has to self publish them. She knows her science, though, as does Simon Petrie, who writes for Peggy Bright Books( another very small Aussie press).

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    1. Thanks for turning me onto Simon Petrie — I'd heard of him but didn't realise he wrote science fiction. (Patty is a friend so I know about her stuff.) Have you read anything by Andrea K Höst? Her YA book And All The Stars (review) was really excellent — a bit Tomorrow When the War Began but with aliens — so I'm keen to read more of her books too. And there's still some Sean Williams and Shane Dix I haven't read.
      (sorry if you got notified of this twice — comment system issues)

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  2. And no, Narrelle's book probably won't count as horror fiction if it's a sequel to The Opposite of Life, which is basically a mystery novel with a vampire in it - a vampire in a Hawaiian shirt who is helping the librarian heroine...;-)

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    1. I didn't expect so: I read a short story with those characters in Showtime, her TTP anthology. Doesn't mean I don't want to read the book, of course, just that finding Aussie horror is less trivial than, for example, fantasy.
      (sorry if you got notified of this twice — comment system issues)

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  3. I was going to mention Williams Saturn Returns which I must get to this year (its on my read to enjoy list).

    I'd suggest Perfections for your horror list from Kirstyn McDermott which will probably be my last book for the AWW2012 challenge.

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    1. I enjoyed that series, although be prepared for weirdness. (And you have to read all three books for the character to fully come to terms with waking up as a woman.)

      I have Madigan Mine on my list. Will have to keep an eye out for Perfections as well.

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  4. Nice idea for a challenge. I'm not going to sign up officially because I've laready signed up fo 2 challenges this year - AWW2013 and one in which I read a translated book each month. But I'm hoping to release a spec-fic book myself this year so I'd like to see what else is out there. I like literary spec-fic, not hard sci-fi, for example, I enjoyed Meg Mundell's Black Glass - can you recommend anything else of that ilk?

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    1. I was going to suggest When We Have Wings but I see from your AWW review that you already have.

      Have you tried anything by Margo Lanagan? I haven't yet gotten to her latest novel Sea Hearts but I've read Tender Morsels, which is a take on the fairytale of Snow White and Rose Red, and some of her short stories (my review of her Cracklescape collection). She writes in a rather literary style.

      I've also heard that Kate Forsyth's recent Bitter Greens is quite literary in its style, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

      You might also consider Pamela Freeman's books (my review of Ember and Ash), but they're definitely more overtly fantasy (magic plays a big part, although it's also a metaphor) despite the literary style. If you want to give her a shot, I suggest starting with Blood Ties. The Castings trilogy is about colonialism (in a made up world).

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  5. I've just found your blog via the Australian Women Writers Challenge site, while I was recommending it to a friend - and you know how that goes, you click a link, and then there's another one, and now I'm reading your blog!

    And then of course, I saw this post. I've read a few of Sean Williams' works, and Andrea K Host's "And All the Stars", and now (courtesy of this post), I have a few new books to check out.

    There's a new eBook publisher based in WA who is specialising in Fantasy and Sci-fi, (Hague Publishing), which now has three published titles, with a fourth coming out in June. The title of the book being published in June is "Bonnie's Story: A Blonde's Guide to Mathematics." I've read the cover blurb and sample chapters, and am looking forward to including it as one of my AWWC reviews.

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    1. Hi Leonie, I hadn't heard of Hague Publishing, thanks for bringing them to my attention. I'll have to keep an eye out for some of their stuff.

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  6. They're very new, and only began publishing last year.

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