Armchair BEA Day #2 – Blogger Development and Genre Fiction

IMG_0590Welcome to day two of Armchair BEA.  To the left is a picture of my armchair.  Of course, it isn’t an actual armchair, but rather a blue fuzzy mushroom chair that I got about seven years ago to put in my dorm room.  It is the perfect reading chair.

Today’s prompts are about blogger development and genre fiction.  For me, the two topics go hand in hand, because one of the main ways that I’ve grown and developed as a blogger is by expanding my knowledge of genre fiction.

When I first started blogging, I read mostly Russian literature, literary fiction, and historical fiction.  I didn’t really branch out much further than that.  While interacting with the blogging community, I stumbled upon three reading challenges hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings.  The Once Upon a Time challenge occurs in the early spring, and encourages bloggers to try out fantasy and fairy tales.  The R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril challenge occurs in the fall, and focuses on mysteries, gothics, and horror.  Finally, the Science Fiction Experience in the winter is a chance to immerse oneself in science fiction, both classic and modern.  Through these events, I expanded my horizons and discovered a love of speculative fiction.  I’ve read books by Brandon Sanderson, Frank Herbert, Neil Gaiman, Patricia Mckillip, and oh so many more, and they’ve become some of my favorites.

Speculative fiction is underrated, and I love the way that reading about other worlds makes one think about the problems of our own.  When I first began reading sci-fi and fantasy, I hadn’t realized that those genres were so rich or diverse.  Stereotypically, I assumed that pretty much all sci-fi and fantasy novels were written by old white dudes.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Reading books by authors like Octavia Butler, N.K. Jemisin, Ursula LeGuin, and Sherri S. Tepper made me challenge my assumptions about race and gender in SF/F, and I’ve been on a quest to review more books that highlight the diversity that’s present in genre fiction.  Here are just a few (in no particular order) that I’d recommend:

  1. “Wild Seed” by Octavia Butler –  This is the first book in the Patternist series.  It tackles issues surrounding race and slavery by telling the story of a man named Doro who tries to breed and control a race of telepaths.
  2. “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” by N. K. Jemisin – After her mother is murdered, a young woman named Yeine Darr allies herself with enslaved gods in a struggle for the throne.  Delightfully dark.
  3. “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. LeGuin – LeGuin challenges gender roles by describing a society in which gender isn’t so well defined.  People are androgynous unless it’s mating time, in which case they grow either male or female genitalia (but people get to experience both sides throughout their lives).  Very anthropological in style, and quite unique.
  4. “Crystal Singer” by Anne McCaffrey – A type-A overachieving girl named Killashandra Ree begins working on a planet that mines crystal.  She must adapt to a new and dangerous way of life.  This was one of the first sci-fi books that I ever read, and it’s one of my all-time favorites.
  5. “Dust Girl” by Sarah Zettel – YA fantasy about a biracial girl growing up in the Great Depression.  She also happens to be a fairy.

Have you read any books that made you challenge your assumptions about a genre?  If so, what are they?

Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Sci Fi | 63 Comments

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63 thoughts on “Armchair BEA Day #2 – Blogger Development and Genre Fiction

  1. Pingback: Arm Chair BEA Day #6 – Wrap-Up & Other Updates | Books Without Any Pictures

  2. Great list! You might also like Among Others by Jo Walton 🙂

  3. I should probably start expanding more genre-wise too, but I’m just a bit scared that it won’t turn out well. Although, I think I’ll check out the books you mentioned! 🙂

    Leanne @ Escaping With Books

  4. Russian Lit is one of the genres I hope to get to explore more of …someday… if I ever tame my TBR pile! I shied away from some of the YA lit until I read John Green, I’ve now read them all and would love to find other works like him! I also stumbled on Holly Black and tucked her work into my guilty pleasures pile! Love your shelves btw!!!

    • I haven’t read Holly Black yet, but my sister keeps telling me that she’s fantastic. I’ve been putting it off until my own TBR pile is tamed. Right now, it’s massive. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Armchair BEA Day #2 – Blogger Development and Genre Fiction … |

  6. I love your list! Crystal Singer was a book I read to pieces back when it first came out…

    • I’ve read it many times, and the two sequels were the first books that I bought on my Kindle. Anne McCaffrey is one of my all-time favorite authors.

  7. I think reading challenges are a great way to develop your book blog. they certainly have helped me expand my reading horizons. Hope you continue to have a great Armchair BEA. Here’s my Blogger development and favorite books by genre post if you’d like to stop by.

  8. Sci-Fi has always kind of scared me because when I think scifi, I think Star Trek and Star Wars, neither is really my kind of thing. But then I have to remember that Hitchhiker’s is really within that genre as well.

  9. I NEED to check out some of these books! I read Lathe of Heaven by Le Guin for a college class and really liked it and I’ve been meaning to read some more of her work.

    • I started Lathe of Heaven this past fall, just started getting into it, and then lost my copy. I finally found it again when I moved earlier this month, so I’ll definitely have to pick it back up. 🙂

      • I hate losing books when I’m reading them! Or at all, actually! I’m not actually sure where my copy is because I’ve moved a few times in the past few years. I keep thinking I’ve found all my books then I remember some I haven’t! I hope you enjoy it, though!

  10. I love reading challenges. This is the first year that I’ve participated in any other than my own bookish goals. But it’s great that you’re trying to get yourself out there and experience something new. You never know what you might fall in love with.

  11. Oh, I just love Carl and his events. They are a great way to get into the mood to branch out and read something different. Love!

  12. Love your reading space. Very comfy! (I was trying to read the titles on your shelves – how sad am I!!!)
    I loved the Emperor’s Soul.
    Will keep my eye out for the Ursula book you mention – I have to pick one of her books to read as part of WWE Women of Genre Fiction – I haven’t read any of Le Guin’s before so maybe this should be the starting point?
    Lynn 😀

    • Thank you! It probably doesn’t help that the books are arranged Jenga-style and aren’t organized by anything other than size. 😛

      The WWE challenge looks very interesting, and I’ve been considering giving it a shot. If I do it though I’m going to wait until my last class is officially over, which would be mid-July. There are a lot of really good female SF/F authors, and I’d love to read books by more of them!

      • It’s been a really good experience for me. I think sometimes you get into this place of reading all the authors that you know and already love and just sitting waiting for their next novel to hit the shelves. This took me out of that comfort zone and it’s been great. I never would have read Assassin’s Apprentice or Agatha H without this so I’m really pleased.
        Lynn 😀

  13. Great recommendations.
    Do you still read Russian lit?
    I try to get a few books which were translated or read them in the original language every year.

    • I do! Most recently, I read/reviewed Ludmila Petrushevskaya’s “There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories” and enjoyed it tremendously. I tend to mostly read translations, because my Russian isn’t terribly good, but I have a volume of Pushkin that pairs the Russian with a translation on the opposite page, and I consider that book one of my treasures.

  14. First of all, I love the title of your blog. It makes me ridiculously happy. Second, I love Neil Gaiman! I’m also reading Anna Karenina right now and loving it. I never thought I would like the Russians, but there you have it.

    • Thank you! I’m a big fan of Lewis Carroll’s writing. He was one of my childhood favorites, and even as an adult I’m continually impressed by his imagination.

  15. All those books you mentioned are intriquing. Nice how they question our world. I like that books can do that. The one questioning gender roles, sounds like a good read.

    • I love finding books that are both entertaining and thoughtful at the same time. 🙂

  16. I’ve had Ursula LeGuin recommended to me so many times and I’ve never read any books, but the books you described sound like stories I would love. Need to read them!

    • I love her writing because she always makes me think, and she creates beautiful and complex worlds. 🙂

  17. I loved this post! I am very new to sci-fi/fantasy, so all of your recommendations have gone straight on to my wishlist 🙂

  18. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Left Hand of Darkness are SUCH GOOD BOOKS! I’m really glad to hear how much you’ve come to like sci-fi and fantasy 🙂

    • I got to meet N.K. Jemisin last year at BEA, and she was super nice. I’m planning on reading more of her books in the near future, because she’s a spectacular writer.

      I used to be intimidated by sci-fi, and I have no idea why. Now it’s one of my favorite genres!

  19. I recently read Code Name Verity, an historical fiction book, and it reminded me that I really need to start branching out into other genres. I used to read more historical fiction when I was younger, but mostly read YA or SF/Fantasy now. It’s nice to find well written books in other genres that remind me that I should expand my reading list.

  20. I just recently got into Russian literature and love it! There’s soooo much of it, how will I ever get through? I’m doing the Classics Challenge which is making me look at authors I’ve avoided most of my life. And I like to be challenged. I keep hearing Ursula Le Guin’s name. Must get to her at some point too…

    • There’s still so much that I haven’t read. The Russians wrote a lot of really good books! I used to read a lot more classics, but haven’t really been lately because I’ve discovered so many different genres, and I want to experience more of them.

  21. I really liked Dust Girl! I can’t wait for part two, which will be released this year 🙂 It’s great how you expanded your reading genres!

    Development + Fiction – Mel@thedailyprophecy.

    • The idea of Great Depression-era fairies was really neat, and was something I didn’t ever expect to see. I can’t wait to see where Sarah Zettel takes the series.

  22. I just got Unnatural Creatures that’s by Neil Gaiman I think. or it’s like short stories he’s selected, but I’m excited to try it because I hear he’s great. That’s awesome that you’ve branched out so much since starting

    • Oooh, neat. I read one of his short story collections, “Fragile Things,” and enjoyed it tremendously. I’ve seen “Unnatural Creatures” in stores but haven’t picked up a copy yet. 🙂

  23. I love Sherri S Tepper. The Fresco is my favorite of hers for the description of both Earth’s first contact with aliens and a treatise on the role of religion in society all in the same book.

    • Oooh, I’ll have to look for that one next time I go to my favorite used bookstore!

  24. I have a reading chair like that. Actually I should say, I had one. My dog, Miles, has taken it over and now considers it his bed. Now it stinks of dog so I never read there. But it was the perfect reading/napping chair.

  25. I am too. Just picked up a copy of his new teen novel, The Rithmatist. Looks promising, even if it does appear to be just the first book in another series. You’ve read The Emperor’s Soul, right?

    • I have, although I haven’t written a review yet. It was my favorite book that I’ve read so far this year. 🙂

  26. That is interesting how you expanded out genre wise and a very good model too. I am going to take note of Crystal Singer and put it in my TBR pile. Thanks for the suggestion.
    My Blogger Development

    • You’re welcome! It’s a fantastic book. Strangely, I didn’t like the protagonist for the first half of the book, but she really grew on me. 🙂

  27. Great post!! I wish I had shelves like that!! Great meeting you!!

  28. Wow, this is exactly why I enjoy hosting these events, to expose others to how great genre literature can be. It has been such great fun getting to know you through blogging and group reading events. I look at your list of favorites and cannot help but remember some of the books that I would probably not have read yet if it had not been for these interactive experiences, including two books that I know consider favorites: Dune and The Way of Kings.

    Love seeing your bookshelves and reading chair. Love even more than you are a part of the book blogging community.

    • Thank you so much for hosting them! They’ve opened my eyes to so many new books, and everyone is extremely supportive and laid back. Dune and The Way of Kings are among my favorite books as well, and I’m impatiently waiting for the next Stormlight book to come out so we can all read it together. 🙂

      • Me too! Rumor was a November release but I was talking to the cover artist, Michael Whelan, at SFAL2 a week ago and he said Tor has yet to final approve the cover designs he has sent so he hasn’t even started painting the cover at this point and he doesn’t believe the book will come out until next year.

        • I’m gonna keep my fingers crossed, since Brandon Sanderson seems to write very quickly. I need more spren in my life.

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