Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Books Multiply Like Rabbits

Last weekend (10/19 - 10/21), I attended MileHiCon, in Denver, Colorado. I'd love to sum it up in a single word, but that would require me being some kind of word magician like Lewis Carroll and creating a nonsense word that meant what I wanted it to mean due to other words not quite cutting the mustard. (That's a long sentence!)

There's a lot to tell! I cannot communicate to you how excited I am, or how - a whole week - I am still riding the high of being surrounded by authors of all gradients and immense talent. They are also full of splendiferous ideas and gracious hearts and humility and wonderful things of every sort. I've no doubt they are "just human" as well, which makes all the rest that much more sparkling.

I'm going to take a risk here. Let me explain:

Typically, I like the approach of "if I'm going to list/link some, I should do my best to list/link all" - but let's be honest here. That would be a MAMMOTH undertaking. What I will do, instead, is try to mention all of the authors to whom I listened on panels when I talk about their specific panels. For today, I wanted to talk about the big pile of books I bought.

I had the opportunity to meet and talk with each of the Guests of Honor (I even got to hang out with a couple of them, and engage a couple in earnest, if brief discussions). I'll admit it, even talking about it here, I am squee'ing inside. It's difficult to pick a place to start, so I'll go with... books!

I bought MANY books this weekend. And some of them have stories behind them.

Cherie Priest
I finally got to meet Cherie! A long time ago (about 12 years now), I had a LiveJournal (I still have it, I just don't use it so much), and through that LJ I met many wonderful people. Among them are more than a couple of ladies who have since become published and successful authors. (I feel there IS a difference between published and successful, I can talk more about that later if someone is curious.) Cherie is one of those ladies, and I've been so happy seeing her get her due from the publishing and reading world. As a result of meeting her, of being so excited to realize that she is as much of a genuine person in "real life" as she seems through her site & blogging, I purchased almost all of her books that I could find in print. Yeah. Major hetero-girl-crushing.
Books I bought and why:
These are the books that broke Cherie into the limelight. I'm pretty sure it's about time that I gave them a read.


Cherie's first Publisher's Weekly starred reviewed book. Seems like it didn't get its due, and I've been excited to read it for many years now.


Well, what can I say. She calls them her "Trashy Vampire Novels" but that's not what drew my attention. During a panel, she talked about the old vampire folklore that discussed one of the ways to escape the undead abomination was to throw grain or rice or sand or pebbles on the ground in front of the monster. It would then be forced to stop and count the discarded objects. All of this links to the notion of OCD, and Cherie said that her protagonist was "a vampire with OCD" - I was hooked. I've read the first chapter of the first book and am enjoying it.

CJ Henderson

What can I say? I've never been happier to be surprised. I went to the convention MAINLY to get a chance to meet Cherie and to HOPEFULLY sit in on some great panels. I didn't intend to have as great of a time as I did. In the course of things, I went to a panel that consisted of all of the Guests of Honor. At that panel, I had the opportunity to 'meet' CJ Henderson for the first time. His charisma and his no-bullshit attitude won me over in a heartbeat.

I am a living example of his belief that an author earns their fans one at a time. I didn't even really know who he was (I figured out later that I had done a lot of reading about his character Lai Wan), but after that... I had to read something of his. I browsed a local bookstore in the dealer room and found:

What You Pay For

Now, here's where things get even more amazing. Daring to dare, I went to the Autograph Alley and approached Mr. Henderson to get him to sign the book. Meek creature that I can be, I explained (apologetically) that I had not really known who he was, but he made such an impression, I had to pick up something of his from the store. I pulled "What You Pay For" out of my bag. He laughed - a short and surprised and utterly delighted sound. Turns out, the main character in this collection of stories... one of his first, and one of his favorites. Immediately, he flipped into the book and started reading to me, in Jack Hagee's voice. It was amazing; a lil mini reading just for me.

I've read a few pages (this seems to be a trend), and love it. I've always liked detective fiction (not mystery/crime, which I feel are SLIGHTLY different), and I think Jack Hagee and I are going to get along quite well.

Molly Tanzer
A Pretty Mouth

I saw Molly on a panel back at Denver Comic Con and immediately loved her hair. At MileHiCon, I got to meet her and even hang out a little bit (under the influences of some alcoholic beverage(s)). So very glad I did! As a result, I picked up her newly released book as well. I even got her to sign it! ...because why not? I've read a couple pages and am looking forward devouring the rest.
Eventually, my hope is to read and write at least a little review on all of this - as well as delve more into each of these authors' bodies of work. You know, and perhaps one day sit on a panel with them.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Banned Books Week

"The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame." - Oscar Wilde

Banned books. This week has been Banned Books Week. I know. I'm late. But it's never too late to read, and I can't imagine that extending awareness beyond this singular week is a bad thing at all. Brace yourself - there are a lot of links here, and I encourage you to share them, read them, absorb them all.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Library Association and a long list of other rather upstanding groups.

I've been reading a lot about the subject, and it's always been in my periphery. My awareness of "banned books" began in elementary school when I witnessed several books being thrown into the garbage by my public school's librarian. When I asked why they were being discarded I was told that they had been found inappropriate. I asked what that meant. Our librarian explained that either the books had been found inappropriate for elementary school students' age groups or contained content that was inappropriate in general. Amongst these books were several from the Guardians of the Flame series by Joel Rosenberg. A brief description of the series:
Guardians of the Flame is a long-running series by author Joel Rosenberg and is arguably his best-known work. The series is about a group of college students who participate in a fantasy role-playing game, and are magically transported to the world of the game by their gamemaster.
Ever the curious child, and familiar with the game of Dungeons & Dragons (as well as the cartoon series with a similar story), I asked what was wrong with those particular books. "They promote Satanism." I kid you not... Someone decided that Dungeons & Dragons was Satanic (lots of people still seem to hold this belief) and that any book about imagination, about people traveling to another world, overcoming disabilities, being challenged to do the Right Thing... was inappropriate because it would inspire children to Worship The Devil (I really thought these ridiculous theories about fantasy-genre books and games would die by the time I hit my 30's - but they persist).

To this day, there are books that suffer because of this kind of ignorance. Religious groups are not the only offenders. So are too-vocal parents who never bother to read literature and only latch onto one aspect of a book - often misinterpreting it - and then feed a mob mentality into getting a book censored.

In equal turns, I have seen a lot of people saying "These books aren't banned. I can go down to my local bookstore and pick up a copy right now." This is faulty logic, but it is powerful logic, and easily convinces many people that there's no such thing as banned books in the United States. That information flows freely and ideas are not censored. In comparison to other countries? in comparison to previous decades? This is true, but it's not the Truth.

When an institution that has the word "public" in it chooses to remove a book from its shelves or its curriculum because someone finds the use of a word or an idea in it offensive, that is censorship, and that is "banning" a book.

Here's an example:

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. This book has been challenged in locations and removed from some. Why? During a book burning in the story, one of the many tomes incinerated is the Bible. This put people up in arms. "It talks about burning the Bible! How horrible!" ...except the point of the book is that, yes, it IS horrible, but if you continue to ban literature that offends or inspires people, then the Bible is going to end up on that list eventually. What other offenses might Fahrenheit 451 contain? Questioning authority, individual critical thought...? The major themes of Fahrenheit 451 are exactly the themes of arguments made by people wanting to STOP book bannings in public (especially educational) venues. 

By the logic that bans books like Fahrenheit 451, movies like The Matrix and Equilibrium should be banned, too. (Of course, we just take care of the "appropriateness" factor with ratings on films. Equilibrium was rated R for gun-violence, some language, and "drug-use" - despite the "drug-use" in the film being mandatory according to law.)

If you think it's not a problem, then also consider the Harry Potter series. In the early 2000's, I was stuck in a town I will not name for a short time due to an alternator in the car in which I was traveling having died... There were signs for book burnings, calling for people to destroy any and all Harry Potter books & paraphernalia because it brought children to witchcraft. Yes, this was in the early 2000's A.D. in a town large enough to be called a city.

I've kind of started rambling, but I wanted to say this:

Just because a book may no longer be banned on a government level (thus, the best word to use would be "outlawed"), doesn't mean the history of banning is something we should forget. We need to be aware of the types of books that HAVE been banned - not just in the United States, but all over the world - and guard against letting these sorts of things happen in the future.

Do a Google (or search engine of your choice) search and explore the tons of blog and news articles about banned books.

Educate yourself on just what book censorship is, how it happens, why it happens, what is happening with it now and has happened with it in the past. Don't just say "I don't see it, so you must be making it up." And, before you write off Wikipedia links, check out the source references at the bottom of articles - people have done the research, respect that and make educated decisions based on what you find.

"Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it." - Mark Twain

"Censorship is the enemy of truth -- even more than a lie. A lie can be exposed; censorship can prevent us knowing the difference."  -- Bill Moyers (transcription, video)

Stephen King's thoughts, from 1992.

Here are some informational links, if you are curious about what books are banned, how and why, and where.

Book Censorship (defined)
Challenging Literature (what it means when literature is challenged)
Book Censorship in the United States
Most Commonly Challenged Books in the United States
Books Banned By Governments

And particularly: About Banned Books (from the ALA, explaining a lot of the details on how and why books are banned)