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Five Series to Start While You’re Waiting for Star Trek Discovery to come back.

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By Jacob P. Torres

The summer is general a wasteland for TV which could make it a good time to advocate for some books to read. If you’re missing Star Trek: Discovery or SyFy’s (now Amazon’s) The Expanse as much as I am, you might like these books.

71kOSKVyobL All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
Martha takes the trope of the murderous A.I. and turns it on its head. An A.I. that occupies the body of a highly advanced robotic soldier armed to the gills suddenly finds itself with sentience and a freedom to disobey any order its given. First order of business? Watch some trashy soap operas. Oh, did I mention its name is Murderbot? Yeah, that’s what you get named when you accidentally kill your last owners because of a programming bug, but Murderbot isn’t going to let that happen again, it just wants to be left alone. 5 out of 5 Cups of Tea.

 

Dauntless by Jack Campbell  91H330c+PSL
If you need a series that will keep you occupied for a while Jack Campbell isn’t gonna let you down. The Lost Fleet series is 11 books long but it’s complete. Dauntless is the first book, it’s a little rougher than the ones that come after. Captain “Black Jack” Geary is a legend that everyone thought was dead. Everyone was very shocked then to find him alive in escape pod in the middle of enemy territory. No one more than Jack Geary, who finds himself suddenly in charge of a fleet and in horror at the hero worship everyone is giving him. Now he has to find a way to bring this fleet home when he’s hundreds of years removed from any of his family, and light-years from anything friendly. 3.5 out of 5 Cups of Tea.

 

 the-long-way-to-a-small-angry-planet-3 The Long Way to a Small , Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
In this series Chambers has created something that evokes the feel of Firefly, the space opera setting, and characters that you’ll fall in love with. This book follows the perspective of Rosemary Harper, the least like protagonist you’d imagine, the ship’s new clerk. The crew of the wayfarer will redefine your meaning of ragtag, but the book is full of heart, inventive characters and worlds, and a whole lot of fun. 4 out of 5 Cups of Tea.

 

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig Aftermath
After Disney acquired the Lucasfilm empire, Disney gave Chuck Wendig an impossible job, write the first book (and first trilogy) in the new canon for the Star Wars universe. Wendig gets a kind of unforgivable amount of shit from sad puppies on the internet about these books, because how dare he create new characters, have females or LGBTQA+ characters as protagonists, set the stage for Episode VII, and write a fun book. It’s not the best Star Wars book ever written but it’s really solid and should be fairly accessible to people who have only seen the movies. And its real obvious Wendig loves the franchise and had a blast writing it. 4.0 out of 5 Cups of Tea.

 

 SEEKERS_1_PREVIEW Star Trek: Seekers 1 – Second Nature
I couldn’t leave a Star Trek book off this list, so here we go. The Seekers series follows two crews over four books solving a typically Star Trek kind of adventure. This is a good starting on point for people that don’t read Star Trek books regularly and features a completely original cast of characters that you’ve likely not seen before. The crews of the Sagittarius and the Endeavor (which is captained by the first in series female Muslim captain) adventures are written by David Mack who has written a kind of ludicrous number of Star Trek books, including one with the Discovery crew which I can’t recommend because I haven’t read it. yet. 3.5 out of 5 Cups of Tea.

 

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The Best Books for World Book Day!

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23 April is World Book Day, so Bree and I thought we would take a moment to share some of our favorite books from different genres than we normally share! Read the rest of this entry »

ANNOUNCEMENTS! Site Updates

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This blog has been long in need of a revamp. Doing things solo can only get you so far and I’ve been fortunate enough in life to have friends who share my love of books and who, more specifically, love science fiction and fantasy. So, the TL;DR of this post is: I have a partner now and the site is revamping! <queue applause>

Who is this new dude?

Jacob Torres and I have been friends for almost a decade. We’ve been through ups and downs and have many things in common, but one of the biggest highlights of our friendship has been our shared love of all things geeky and most things bookish. I’m so glad to welcome him. But, I’ll let him introduce himself.

Meet Jacob!

Hi, folks of the internet! Like Bree said, I’m Jacob and I have a lifelong love of all things SciFi, Fantasy, and in between. Be it Movies, TV, Games (Video and Board), or most of all books. I’m happy Bree and I have decided to start doing this together so I can have an outlet for some of the many thoughts I have on the genre. I’m also a big tea nut. Hence this new branding is a match made in heaven. You can find more about me if you need more in our refurbished “Who Are We” section. Now back to Bree!

What are we going to see now?

First and foremost, you’ll see that the name of the blog has changed. About three years ago, Jacob and I started joking that we’d have a tea and bookshop filled with cats as a retirement plan. That plan is still underway, but we decided a while ago to call it “Low Tea Books” — because who needs classy when you can just have tea, cats, and books, right? We’ve kept the name and started early with this blog.

 

 

Why I’m trying this out

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If you follow me on YouTube, you know I decided to do a video every day this July (or at least, I’ve decided to try it). I wanted to provide some context because I think it explains a lot of things, especially why I’m doing this project and where I’ve been the last few months, other than lurking around the internet like a ghost.

I wish I could make this a video, but honestly I don’t know if I could handle it. I don’t really know if I’ll be posting this or if that post will stay up.

Three months ago, I lost my partner. He had a congenital heart defect and passed away. We’d been together for six years.

I’ve been, understandably, withdrawn since. The last three months have been pretty reserved.

I’ve joked for  a long time about having pre-hermit tendencies and, to be honest, resisting them has been hard. It’s been easy to withdraw and just spend my time quietly by myself cuddling kitten. I’ve been lucky on this front. I have a fantastic group of friends, both those near and far. My family and work have been supportive. My mother has been the goddess she’s always been. So, I haven’t totally withdrawn. But God knows, I don’t feel anything close to myself.

So, going into the next few months, I’m really trying to push myself.

I know I’m not going to feel great every day. It’s been hard to sit and enjoy reading. Part of me appreciates it as a relaxing quiet activity I can turn to instead of being social. Another part of me can’t concentrate, or doesn’t find the same enjoyment out of it right now. But, reading things I know I love is comforting.

I think doing a video everyday, in particular, is going to be very good for me. The structure and planning is a comfort, but it also encourages me to be creative and social. Those are two things I know I need right now. Moreover, they’re things I would typically not seek out. Hermit tendencies are running pretty high.

So, please be patient with me. I appreciate you. And, know that if I go off the radar, I’ll be back.

When people say… (or a Star Wars Ramble)

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Sometimes I feel sorry for Leia Organa. She got the short end of the stick. Don’t get me wrong. She’s got a good deal of privilege, but having Vader for a birth father and leading the rebel alliance wasn’t exactly a piece of cake.

But, in particular, I’ve thought for a long time that Leia doesn’t ever get to be a real person, no matter who’s talking to, at, or about her.

Take Note, Skywalker Boys (Force Awakens Spoilers)

People have been posting this picture left and right on my tumblr and twitter since December. Not going to lie, it’s been getting under my skin a little. I’m not going to talk about the tired Bikini Leia tropes, or about how her role is stunted after the first movie in a lot of ways. I’m going to focus on the alternate, newer trend in Leia love.

I’ll never dispute the badassery of Leia. The woman can take on The Man with the best of us. She’s gutsy and loyal. Her will is strong. As a kid, she was easily a favorite. But between the Leia as bad-ass sex icon and Leia as can-do-no-wrong purveyor of all things good, I can’t help but think we’re missing the point, all the points.

Preface to this: I’ve not read the extended Star Wars cannon. Though my wiki skills are on point, my first hand knowledge of the universe is limited to movies and the recent run of Star Wars comics. Since this is my place on the internet, I’m going to babble regardless. I promise to go get the newest Star Wars book this afternoon.

There seem to be a couple of fundamental errors in this statement, though, that have been under my skin.

We don’t know if Leia has the Force.

So, the Dark Side is a thing specific to the force, right? There are mundane helpers of the Dark Side and regular, every day employees of the Dark Side, but we all know the truth: if there is someone who can be actively tempted by the POWER OF THE DARK SIDE, they’ve got to be in touch with the Force.

But, I’ll give. I think her ability to sense Luke, her father, her son and husband are all pretty indicative of the force. We’ll save the no-training injustice talk for later.

Even if Leia does have the Force, are we really claiming she has never been tempted?!

Leia has lost a lot of stuff throughout her life.

Her family is dead.

Her planet is destroyed.

She’s had to wrestle for power in a system literally built to keep her from success.

Are we really so naïve as to claim that she’s never been tempted?

The true fact is, we don’t spend a lot of time with Leia. Her role in the story is to provide resources to the main male heroes and hopefully mentor Rey. Her story is not the focus nor has it ever been. She’s put through a lot and can be because we don’t have to follow her around. We don’t have to watch her cry the night Alderaan is destroyed. We don’t watch her rage at Vader or mourn the loss of the birth parents she’d never know. We don’t watch her struggle to come to grips with a leadership role she never asked for but can’t refuse.

Let’s not lie. All signs point to a Leia Organa who is just a bucket of rage and determination.

What we like to think as a fandom is that she can go throughout all of that without a speck of self-doubt or temptation. But, that’s certainly not the case.

And as we all know,

Luke is the obvious analog for Vader. He’s meant to be. Too young, too powerful, too uncontrolled.

But the same can easily be said for Leia. Ruler of a people without the guidance of others, fighting and mourning at the same time.

That her rage would never lead to a desire for destruction, to disproportionately wound those who have hurt her most? Let’s not be naïve. And if she does have the power, truly can be tempted by the Force, let’s not pretend that she hasn’t been. It’s easy to justify trying to change things from the inside. The whole point is that the Dark Side is a temptation to even the strongest among us. Temptation to give in to the pain, doubt, anger, is universal.

True fact: Leia isn’t strong because she’s never been tempted. She’s strong because she resists.

Woof.

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Image result for Bored dogs

 

 

I haven’t been overly concerned with the Sad Puppies this year. I’ve talked about this before, but the general level of vehemence and craze among the more moderate puppy group had seemed to die down a lot with the turn of a new Hugos cycle.

 

A few tweets went up regarding the Puppies list. I more or less ignored it. Lists happen, particularly with awards. It was a few days later that I noticed what was actually happening.

The Sad Puppies list was up.

Twitter basically exploded, albeit quietly compared to last time.

The Sad Puppies list this year is considerably different from their past years’ lists, including in some cases more recommendations that nominating slots on a ballot. Note that though the original intent claim was to post ten works per category this didn’t happen, with more or less believability depending on category. It includes the usual suspects (Jeffro Johnson, the expected over-representation of Baen and Castillia House), but also includes Okorafor, Leckie, and Scalzi. If the Scalzi thing doesn’t raise your eyebrows, you haven’t been paying attention.

In truth, the Sad Puppies list includes some authors really worthy of awards and beloved genre-wide.

Unsurprisingly, authors have been requesting removal and posting objections to association with the Puppy Slate, including Alastair Reynolds, Cat Valente, and Peter Newman.

Should the authors have been asked if they would like to be included?

This  is an interesting question. Normally, I would say no.

But, the Sad Puppies aren’t just any old blog. Affiliated with the Rabid Puppies, Vox Day, and GamerGate, and the epicenter of last year’s fiasco, I think they should have.

The Puppies’ lists and base are rooted in controversy. They know that. Last year’s slate led to withdrawal of nominees from the Hugo Awards ballot for the first time in decades. The desire to avoid affiliation with the Puppies runs strong and not without reason. While the Sad Puppies calmed their rhetoric a bit, it’s clear that the self-positioning as interlopers to SFF being kept out by “SJW” cliques is being maintained.

Frankly, a good faith effort should have been made to contact every author listed on the SP recommendation list, regardless of past affiliation, leanings, or talk. There’s too much controversy for that not to be a minimum consideration.

What was the response to those who asked to be removed?

Generally sarcasm and overreaction.

I understand that the admins are frustrated. I understand that there was some genuine effort to back off the rhetoric and open up the Puppies to more varied selection. And, some of the anti-Puppy folks can compete with Vox Day for vitriolic anger. But, you don’t become the Puppy ringleader without knowing that people don’t like what you’re doing or who you’re affiliated with.

So, let’s not pretend that people requesting to be removed from the list are the “special snowflakes” and “delusional” types that Sarah Hoyt has called them on her blog. Hoyt is one of the Sad Puppy 4 coordinators\admins. She’s compared anti-Puppy folks to the Third Reich.

The objectors have been noted with asterisk (leading to some laughter about revenge for the asterisk awards at the previous ceremony)

Frankly, she would have been MUCH better served by putting an editors note that there’s a list of people who have been removed, posting the raw data from the forums, and then highlighting those who have been removed on the raw data file.

Let’s have a quick caveat

I do think she has made a good, significantly more insightful point that people are giving her credit for. It’s hard to get past the anger and resentment in her post-reaction blog to see it, but she makes it clear: who’s really keeping women and minorities out of SFF? Publishers.

It’s true. If everyone who spent the energy to tweet Sarah, Vox, or the other vehement sector of the Puppies on Twitter had spent the time to tweet Harper Collins, St. Martin’s Press, or Simon and Schuster about the lack of diversity in SFF, we may eventually see a more substantive change in the genre.

By and large, the puppy ship is sinking. Maybe it’s time to focus on the people who control the genre more directly.

 

Post-Script Note: I’m not discussing the Rabid Puppy slate today. Mostly because it lacks a sense of taste and appropriateness.

Additional Note: The original post pointed to Nnedi Okorafor for having tweeted about the list. I was in error. My sincerest apologies.

 

 

5 Kickstarter Projects for Book Lovers

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So, I have a bit of a love affair with kickstarter. The platform is fantastic for independent projects and unique works that may otherwise not get produced. BUT, it can be a slog to sort through what’s out there to try and get what you like. So, here’s the deal: I like books; you like books; I saw these and thought of you (and also how cool it would be if they were funded).

 

Victoria Jr. Presents Little Prometheus by Manny Trembley

Cover to Victoria Jr. Volume One

Days left: 9 days

Amount Funded: 404% (into stretch goal territory!)

What’s this project about?

 

Victoria is a human girl adopted in to a loving family of monsters. Victoria Jr. was named by The Monster, after his creator, Victor Frankenstein. She lives in a world of fantastic monsters and creatures.

One day on her way to school, Victoria Jr. decides to capture the mythic “Spark of the Sun”. This is the same spark that the Greek Titan Prometheus stole to give fire to man. She thought maybe the Spark of the Sun could warm the undead hearts of her father, mother, and her younger brother.

Why is it cool?

Are you really asking me why a story about a little human girl living with monsters and trying to warm their hearts is adorable? Or why you should be all about a family-friendly comic?

Aside from the fact that the story sounds awesome, Victoria Jr. pays homage to the kind of stories that are fundamental to science fiction and fantasy. It’s sure to check boxes for SFF lovers and be a book to introduce children into the SFF world in a relatable, unintimidating way.

As a literacy tutor for ESL students, my favorite thing to give the kids I worked with was comics. They’re dynamic and visual, perfect for short attention spans. AND the embedded text makes the story feel like it isn’t work while still encouraging confidence in reading and significant vocabulary growth.

Who is behind it?

Manny Trembley is an indie comics artist with his own self-publishing line of comics. He’s run 6 successful kickstarter campaigns. This will be his second Victoria Jr. book.

What do I get at the lowest award level?

$6 gets you a .pdf of the comic

Bring Dinosaurs Back to Life by Zoobooks

Days left: 16

Amount funded: 66%

What is this project about?

Zoobooks are educational kids’ books about animals and ecology. Unfortunately, the last round of dinosaur books is pretty old. This project is going to update the books with new science and create a set of integrated apps.

Why is it cool?

Dinosaurs. Science. Zoobooks, what’s not to like? Zoobooks were a pretty big part of kiddom in the 90s and 00s. They’ve helped tons of kids learn about science using visuals and intriguing animal subject. They’re committed to keeping their books scientifically accurate, and are fairly accessible through most library systems.

Plus, dinosaur feathers drawings.

Who’s behind it?

Zoobooks, a 35 year old company with tons of books to their name and support from Wildlife Education, LTD.

What do I get at the lowest rewards level?

$10 gets you the app and a series of exclusive updates.

 

People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction by Lightspeed Magazine

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lightspeedmagazine/people-of-colour-destroy-science-fiction/widget/video.html

Days left: 16

Amount funded: 550%

What is this project about?

We believe in science fiction’s transformative powers, its ability to remedy the dreariness of our lives. People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! will exist, with your kind help, of course, to relieve a brokenness we’ve enabled time and time again by favoring certain voices and portrayals of particular characters. We won’t harangue you with guilt trips involving the importance of openly listening to the assimilated, the colonized, the misappropriated. That’s just not how we roll. What we aim to do, instead, is to challenge you: Join us because it is fun to do so. We don’t mean fun as a vehicle for trivializing centuries of injustice that resulted in the lack of representation for certain groups of people because power structures were skewed heavily in favor of a chosen few. We mean fun as the satisfaction we get in those light-bulb-in-the-head moments of our lives, the satisfaction we get from meaningful conversations that lend clarity, the satisfaction we get when we move past those feel-good-driven acts of tokenism, the satisfaction we get when we read stories that have palpable artistic and intellectual values that speak of our present time and most of all, our future.

 

Why is it cool?

The POC Destroy project is about raising the voices of marginalized groups in SFF. It includes a series of fiction and nonfiction writings written and edited by people of color. It includes art, flash fiction, novellas, and author spotlights.

The POC Destroy issue is set with a fantastic cast both of authors and editors including Nalo Hopkinson and Nisi Shawl. It’s also open to new voices in SFF. Basically, you need it.

Every extra dollar goes towards stretch goals that increase content.

PLUS it’s a project Lightspeed is committed to. They promised to publish the edition regardless of if they reached their funding goal. That’s pretty damn cool in my book.

Who’s behind it?

Lightspeed Magazine is a Hugo Award winning publication with a ton of experience and a whole series behind it. This project is in line with the DESTROY series which includes Queers Destroy Science Fiction, Women Destroy Science Fiction, and many others.

What do I get at the lowest rewards level?

$5 gets you an ebook version plus all electronic supplementals achieved in stretch goals

 

Worlds of Ursula K Le Guin by Arwyn Curry

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/arwencurry/worlds-of-ursula-k-le-guin/widget/video.html
Days left: 30

Amount funded: 111%

What is this project about?

In the film, we’ll accompany Le Guin on an intimate journey of self-discovery as she comes into her own as a major feminist author, inspiring generations of women and other marginalized writers along the way. To tell this story, the film reaches into the past as well as the future – to a childhood steeped in the myths and stories of disappeared Native peoples Le Guin absorbed as the daughter of prominent California anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and author Theodora Kroeber.

Ursula K Le Guin is a queen of science fiction. She changed the game radically. This project is largely already filmed, but needs a post-production budget. Part of the funding is contingent on non-NEH funding, so here we are.

Why is it cool?

It’s Ursula.

As a total bonus note, all the levels are named after characters from her stories.

Who’s behind it?

Arwyn Curry and her team have made a number of documentaries and written a number of articles for organizations like PBS, HBO, the New York Times, and Rolling Stone.

What do I get at the lowest rewards level?

$10 gets you shout outs and updates

 

Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party by Shipwrecked Comedy

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1029702011/poeparty/widget/video.html
Days left: 32

Amount funded: 29%

What is this project about?

Edgar Allan Poe invites all his buddies and loves to dinner. It includes  Hemmingway, H.G. Wells, Annabelle Lee. It’s a video series that will be hosted vlog style with some livestreaming options, over a series of ten videos.

Why is it cool?

This form of storytelling has really been catching on. The format lends itself to interactive audience participation, visible and marked character growth, and innovation in film and story adaptation.

Cast includes Mary Kate Wiles who you may recognize from the Lizzie Bennett Diaries where she played Lydia.

Who’s behind it?

Shipwrecked Comedy has run a number of past projects that have been done in a similar vein.

What do I get at the lowest rewards level?

$5 reward is a digital invitation and livestream shoutout