#2131

Reading Master and Commander, or: Meet Your New Fandom

Last winter my father told me to read Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian. This might not seem very odd or momentous to you, but my father has been dead for eleven years. However, when I dreamed of us walking through a bookstore, looking for this exact title, I took the hint and grabbed the book off his shelf where the series has sat untouched all that time. I figured even if I didn’t like the book, I would read it in his honor and move on. Certainly I wasn’t going to attempt reading the entire 20-book series! I know next to nothing about the Napoleonic Wars, the British navy circa 1800, or Georgian society – while I might like the book okay, I just couldn’t imagine liking it enough to read the rest. So I started it with some trepidation… …and then my mind exploded and I developed a new and undeniably intense obsession. Hello, new fandom!

I’m here now to pass on the favor by telling you why you should read what is quite possibly the best western historical fiction of the 20th century, if not western fiction in general. But let’s start at the beginning. I’m betting most of you have no idea who Patrick O’Brian is or what Master and Commander is about, but you may know more than you think. Remember Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, that boat movie that came out in the early 2000s, the one with Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany as BFFs Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin? If you don’t, ask your dad – I think the movie is required viewing for all fathers. Either way, I will try with my mediocre literary powers to convince you why you should read this entire series right now. So here we go!

The Setting

Master and Commander throws us into a world at war – it’s the year 1800 and Napoleon is fucking shit up all over Europe, much to the chagrin of the British Navy and her allies. Against this historical backdrop we are taken all across the world, from the icy waters of the Arctic to the blazing deserts of Africa, from the prim and proper society of Georgian England to deserted tropical islands beset by pirates, and everywhere in between. Many books take you to other places but this series does so with a depth of detail and historical accuracy that will leave you feeling like an expert historian.

But I don’t know anything about that time period! you say. Never fear! You don’t particularly need to. Look, high school history class failed me too – I know more about Napoleon from Assassin’s Creed: Unity than I do from any teacher I’ve ever had. Thankfully O’Brian understands the need for accessibility and flawlessly weaves any necessary explanations or information into the text in a way that educates without boring. As for the immense amount of nautical terms thrown back and forth, the reader is comforted in knowing Stephen Maturin has no idea what they mean either. However, I promise you that upon completing the series you could convince anyone that you’re an expert in early 19th century naval history, social status and etiquette, biology, ornithology, entomology, hydrography, naturalism, mathematics, astronomy, religion, medicine, imperialism and colonialism, and just about any other topic you could think of. The amount of research O’Brian had to do to make these books so believable is absolutely mind boggling.

The Characters

This series is most commonly referred to as the “Aubrey/Maturin novels” or the “Aubreyad”, as the two main characters are naval captain Jack Aubrey and doctor/naturalist/spy Stephen Maturin. Theirs is one of the most beautiful, realistic, and enduring friendships I’ve encountered in any form of media and forms the true heart of the series. These two are such utter dorks that you can’t help but fall in love with them and turn eagerly to their next set of adventures.

Jack Aubrey

On the outside Jack Aubrey is an ambitious naval captain who passionately loves the navy, his crew, and doing anything to foil Britain’s enemies by sea. On deck he’s a dashing master of his ship, called “Lucky Jack Aubrey” for his skill in battle and his frequent taking of prize ships. He bears a number of nasty scars as evidence of his firm belief that a captain must lead, not direct from the sidelines as his men head into danger. Even more, Jack is a man who sees the silver lining in every bad situation and always manages a smile in the face of danger or disaster. His seemingly endless fount of optimism endears him to the reader immediately, especially since we are offered glimpses of the emotional turmoil beneath which he hides not from pride but from the necessity of leadership. I would sail into battle with this man in a heartbeat.

On the inside, however, Jack Aubrey is a big squishy teddy bear and the king of dad jokes (even before he becomes a father). This man finds puns so funny that he laughs at his own before he says them, and laughs even when he can’t think of one to fit the situation. He’s just so tickled by puns and it’s adorable. He’s also quite fond of food and good alcohol, as well as a talented amateur violinist and astronomer. Jack appears at first like our usual dashing hero, eager for battle and flirting with all the pretty ladies, but this James Bond facade masks a dorky, good-humored man with a heart of gold who loves his family and friends fiercely. I love him so much it hurts.

Stephen Maturin

On the outside Stephen Maturin is a singularly intelligent and talented surgeon and famed naturalist with a focus on ornithology (i.e. a huge fucking dork). He’s the most hopeless landlubber ever to fall into the ocean while trying to board a ship, his mastery of multiple languages no help when it comes to naval jargon, and the crew of the HMS Surprise has to constantly keep him from dying at sea. Stephen will go to extreme lengths to observe a particularly interesting bird and can happily monologue for hours about a new species of beetle. He’s your classic nerd: cranky, socially and physically awkward, unkempt, and simultaneously unbelievably smart and totally oblivious to everything around him. He’s everything I want to be.

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On the inside, however, Stephen is a man driven by love of his home countries, Ireland and Catalonia, and his resulting abhorrence of all forms of colonialism and oppression, especially slavery. This leads him to become a valuable member of Britain’s spy network to stop Napoleon. Few characters know his secret but the reader is gifted with insight into Stephen’s activities and we come to understand just how dangerous an enemy he can be and how valuable an ally. Stephen’s nerdiness and clumsiness lead to some of the best laughs in the series, yet he can be colder and scarier than any other character. What he is at his core is a good man driven by higher principles and a truly exceptional love for weird birds.

Everyone Else

Jack and Stephen might have stolen my heart by the end of the first paragraph (in which they get into a fight at a musical concert because Jack won’t stop air conducting), but the secondary characters are where this series truly outshines its contemporaries. Every single side character is as richly developed and complex as our protagonists and will capture your heart just as easily. From Jack’s loyal crew and officers to Stephen’s odd collection of wayward souls (many of whom are ex-slaves), both men manage to form an extended family of lovable and loving characters. One of my personal favorites is Tom Pullings, one of Jack’s young officers whom we watch grow from little midshipmen to captain of his own ship. His utter adoration for Jack is so sweet it makes me want to throw my book across the room:

“…All except for Pullings, who had the watch, and was walking the quarterdeck with his hands behind his back, pacing in as close an imitation of Captain Aubrey as his form could manage, and remembering, every now and then, to look stern, devilish, as like a right tartar as possible, in spite of his bubbling happiness.”

The Writing

I know what you’re thinking. That’s great, but this just isn’t my genre. I know I’m gonna be bored. I need magic/sci-fi/paranormal-whatever. And you know what? That is FALSE. Look, I have extremely high standards for my fiction and while I’m a sci-fi/fantasy girl at heart, I’m drawn primarily these days to queer speculative fiction. Historical fiction set in 18th century England is not at all my cup of tea (pun intended)… or so I thought. But please understand the gravity of the following statement:

I have never read a more beautiful, well-written work of fiction than this series in my entire life.

It’s true! In just one book Patrick O’Brian surpassed Ray Bradbury as my Biggest Writing Hero Ever and every single book in the series is as fantastic as the next – how often does that happen? The prose is flawless, at once accessible and laden with historical accuracy, a fast-paced read rich with minute detail. What O’Brian does best, though, is his weaving of subtle humor into every scene; a reader paying close attention is rewarded with some truly humorous, one might even say silly, little scenes and asides. I have to share my two favorites, though they’re a little long:

“The sloth sneezed, and looking up, Jack caught its gaze fixed upon him; its inverted face had an expression of anxiety and concern. ‘Try a piece of this, old cock,’ he said, dipping his cake in the grog and proffering the sop. ‘It might put a little heart into you.’ The sloth sighed, closed its eyes, but gently absorbed the piece, and sighed again.

Some minutes later he felt a touch on his knee; the sloth had silently climbed down and it was standing there, its beady eyes looking up into his face, bright with expectation. More cake, more grog; growing confidence and esteem. After this, as soon as the drum had beat the retreat, the sloth would meet him, hurrying towards the door on its uneven legs: it was given its own bowl and would grip it with its claws, lowering its round face into it and pursing its lips to drink. Sometimes it went to sleep in this position, bowed over the emptiness.

“In this bucket,” said Stephen, walking into the cabin, “in this small half-bucket, now, I have the population of Dublin, London and Paris combined: these animalculae – what is the matter with the sloth?” It was curled on Jack’s knee, breathing heavily: its bowl and Jack’s glass stood empty on the table. Stephen picked it up, peered into its affable, bleary face, shoot it, and hung it upon its rope. It seized hold with one fore and one hind foot, letting the others dangle limp, and went to sleep.

Stephen looked sharply round, saw the decanter, smelt to the sloth, and cried, “Jack, you have debauched my sloth.””

And from the very first book in the series…

“‘I was contemplating on the Pongo,’ Stephen said aloud as the door opened and Jack walked in with a look of eager expectation, carrying a roll of music.

‘I am sure you were,’ cried Jack. ‘A damned creditable thing to be contemplating on, too. Now be a good fellow and take your other foot out of that basin—why on earth did you put it in?—and pull on your stockings, I beg. We have not a moment to lose. No, not blue stockings: we are going on to Mrs Harte’s party—to her rout.’

‘Must I put on silk stockings?’

‘Certainly you must put on silk stockings. And do show a leg, my dear chap: we shall be late, without you spread a little more canvas.’

‘You are always in such a hurry,’ said Stephen peevishly, groping among his possessions. A Montpellier snake glided out with a dry rustling sound and traversed the room in a series of extraordinarily elegant curves, its head held up some eighteen inches above the ground.

‘Oh, oh, oh,’ cried Jack, leaping on to a chair. ‘A snake!’

‘Will these do?’ asked Stephen. ‘They have a hole in them.’

‘Is it poisonous?’

‘Extremely so. I dare say it will attack you, directly. I have very little doubt of it. Was I to put the silk stockings over my worsted stockings, sure the hole would not show: but then, I should stifle with heat. Do not you find it uncommonly hot?’

‘Oh, it must be two fathoms long. Tell me, is it really poisonous? On your oath now?’

‘If you thrust your hand down its throat as far as its back teeth you may meet a little venom; but not otherwise. Malpolon monspessulanus is a very innocent serpent. I think of carrying a dozen aboard, for the rats—ah, if only I had more time, and if it were not for this foolish, illiberal persecution of reptiles … What a pitiful figure you do cut upon that chair, to be sure. Barney, Barney, buck or doe, Has kept me out of Channel Row,’ he sang to the serpent; and, deaf as an adder though it was, it looked happily into his face while he carried it away.”

Also, there’s literally a chapter in one book where our heroes escape from France by buying a recently skinned bear, turning it into a costume, and tricking everyone into believing Stephen is a traveling entertainer and Jack is his pet bear. They walk hundreds of miles to the freedom of the Spanish border over harsh terrain, sometimes acting for pennies in the town square, as Jack just suffers in this stuffy, slowly spoiling meat suit and no one suspects a thing. IT’S THE BEST.

These books aren’t just about laughs, though. They elicit emotions across the spectrum from joy to sorrow, anger to triumph, disbelief to nerve-wracking anticipation. They utterly captivate the reader from page one – twenty books won’t be enough once you get caught up in the Aubreyad! I’ve never read a series that made me want to simultaneously hug and throw my books as often as this series and I truly will be bereft when I finish the last book. This is a stunning example of “genre” fiction raised to the very heights of literature and a must-read for anyone who appreciates complex characterization and masterful prose. You will not be disappointed, I can absolutely promise you that.

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#2126

I could swear I was there. The distant glittering stars, the glassy black water, the last violin strains of Nearer My God to Thee hovering in the cold air – they are clear as memory. Was I just that weird child, obsessed with death and nature’s might? Am I just that weird adult, expecting the worst in every situation? Or is there something more? I never dream about water so cold it kills; I cannot claim evidence from past life readings or inexplicable historical knowledge. Yet something binds me to that place, to that night, to that terrible disaster so much it feels like a homecoming. Like I belong there. I read the names of those lost and think I know you, I remember you. I want to tell them it wasn’t your fault, you couldn’t have known, no one could have known. Do the Titanic’s wayward ghosts reach beyond their world to those they know will tell their stories or relieve their guilt by solving the nagging unknowns? Perhaps over the years the spirits of fifteen hundred people, at the mercy of trade winds and deep water currents, have scattered across the globe to wash up on far foreign shores. Maybe some small child collecting seashells and beach glass brought something bigger home with them. Or maybe those souls passed on and even in new bodies, even living new lives, that night’s chill remains in their blood and cries out for resolution.

#2046 – 2017 Book List

2017 wasn’t my best reading year ever; I blame that whole planning-a-wedding thing. Still, I managed to read a total of 65 books (okay, books AND comics), including 31 with queer characters or content and 42 by non-male authors. Also, I read Atlas Shrugged, which I think should be counted as a feat unto itself (it’s good! but also hella looooong).

  1. Wilde Stories 2016: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction – ed. Steve Berman
  2. Bedtime Stories for Cats – Leigh Anne Jasheway
  3. Catfantastic Vol. 2 – Andre Norton and Martin Harry Greenburg
  4. Catfantastic Vol. 3 – Andre Norton and Martin Harry Greenburg
  5. Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics – Jason Porath
  6. Your Magickal Cat: Feline Magic, Lore, and Worship – Gerina Dunwich
  7. Great Speeches on Gay Rights – Ed. James Daley
  8. Catfantastic Vol. 4 – Andre Norton and Martin Harry Greenburg
  9. Catfantastic Vol. 5 – Andre Norton and Martin Harry Greenburg
  10. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
  11. Heiresses of Russ 2016: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction – Ed. A M Dellamonica and Steve Berman
  12. The King of the Cats and Other Feline Fairy Tales – ed. John Richard Stephens
  13. The Tribe of Tiger – Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
  14. Summer in Orcus – T. Kingfisher
  15. Mystery Cats – ed. Lilian Jackson Braun & Patricia Highsmith
  16. Toad Words and Other Stories – T. Kingfisher
  17. The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry – ed. Rose Lemberg
  18. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke
  19. A Song of War: A Novel of Troy – Stephanie Thornton et. al.
  20. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories – Susanna Clarke
  21. Keeper of the Dawn – Dianna Gunn
  22. Arcane Perfection – ed. Pat Mosley, et. al.
  23. An Alphabet of Embers: An Anthology of Unclassifiables – ed. Rose Lemberg
  24. Tailchaser’s Song – Tad Williams
  25. A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s Rebellion – E. Knight et. al.
  26. Watership Down – Richard Adams
  27. Jackalope Wives and Other Stories – T. Kingfisher
  28. Paradise Lost – John Milton
  29. The Wicked and the Divine, Book 5: Imperial Phase I – Kieron Gillen
  30. Summerwode (The Wode Book 4)  – J Tullos Hennig
  31. The Miseducation of Cameron Post – Emily M Danforth
  32. The First Time She Drowned – Kerry Kletter
  33. Iron Peter: A Year in the Mythopoetic Life of New York City – Charles Ortleb
  34. Lumberjanes Vol 1: Beware the Kitten Holy – Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
  35. Dreadnought: Nemesis Book 1 – April Daniels
  36. The Price of Salt – Patricia Highsmith
  37. Two Boys Kissing – David Levithan
  38. Scourge of the Righteous Haddock – Ashley Schwellenbach
  39. The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part 1 – Irene Koh et. al.
  40. The Wheel Diver – Ashley Schwellenbach
  41. Through the Woods – Emily Carroll
  42. Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel – Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  43. Lumberjanes Vol 2: Friendship to the Max! – Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
  44. Lumberjanes Vol 3: A Terrible Plan – Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
  45. Lumberjanes Vol 4: Out of Time – Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
  46. Mystery of the White Lions: Children of the Sun God – Linda Tucker
  47. Lumberjanes Vol 5: Band Together – Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
  48. Lumberjanes Vol 6: Sink or Swim – Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
  49. The Steel Remains (A Land Fit for Heroes) – Richard K. Morgan
  50. A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
  51. Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat – Gwen Cooper
  52. Journey from Yesterday – Roma Niles Burke
  53. Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami – Gretel Erhlich
  54. The Cold Commands (A Land Fit for Heroes) – Richard K. Morgan
  55. The Dark Defiles (A Land Fit for Heroes) – Richard K. Morgan
  56. Psychic Abilities for Beginners: Awaken Your Intuitive Senses – Melanie Barnum
  57. How To Meet & Work with Spirit Guides – Ted Andrews
  58. Mostly Void, Partially Stars: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 1 – Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  59. Master and Commander – Patrick O’Brian
  60. The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 2 – Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  61. Intuition: Knowing Beyond Logic – Osho
  62. Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian
  63. H.M.S Surprise – Patrick O’Brian
  64. Yeshua’s Loom: A Tapestry of Cats (Yeshua’s Cats Book 5) – C L Francisco
  65. The Essential Rumi – trans. Coleman Barks

#2022

So I was digging around my old Tumblr posts and stumbled across something of which I inexplicably have no memory. It was tagged #dreams, so I suppose it was inspired by a dream I had, but even that is drawing a huge blank. Anyway, I was clearly amused by the idea of Mage as Haytham Kenway’s (Grand Master of the Templar Order’s Colonial Rite, duh) daughter and I can’t believe I didn’t do anything more with it. This doesn’t really count as writing, but it needs to be immortalized somewhere.

[Mild Assassins Creed spoilers below]

Just imagine!

Mage as Haytham Kenway’s legitimate daughter, which would basically make her Templar royalty.
Mage wrecking shit up during the Revolutionary War.
Mage killing Assassins for Fun and Profit.
Mage being the child Haytham is super proud of, though even the Templars are a little scared of her.
Mage saying “May the Mother of Understanding guide us” just to piss off the crusty old Templar dudes.
Mage with a British accent??
Mage breaking like every lady’s etiquette rule of the time, much to the offense of almost everyone except for Haytham.
Mage being on the side of the Templars during the Seven Years’ War, yet also highly amused whenever the Assassins accidentally destroy another city.
Mage as captain of the Jolly Roger, fighting alongside Shay on the open sea.
Mage and Shay not really getting along, but playing nice around Dad.
Mage defeating Connor in battle to avenge her father’s death.
Mage becoming Grand Master in Haytham’s place because the other colonial Templars are all useless or dead.
Mage and Haytham father/daughter bonding time: interrogating people and then killing them when they’ve given you all the useful information they know.
Mage in Georgian/Industrial Revolution era clothing, but all black and piratey. Possibly even some sort of hook hand that doubles as a hidden blade?
Mage in Haytham’s kickass cape.
Mage hearing about Haytham shooting Achilles in the knee and being like “my dad is such a softy :)”.
Mage being such a daddy’s girl, but it’s totally understandable because her dad is HAYTHAM MOTHERFUCKING KENYWAY.

#1870 – 2016 Book List

[ I read a lot of fantastic books this year, especially in the realms of non-fiction (29 books), queer fiction (15 books – rather low for me), and just about anything featuring cats (19 books). I challenged myself with Guns, Germs, and Steel near the end of the year, and will be picking up Atlas Shrugged on January 1st. Then maybe I’ll just read comic books for the rest of the year… (joking!)]

  1. The Outlaw Varjak Paw – S.F Said
  2. Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo – Lawrence Anthony
  3. Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia – Jean Sasson
  4. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban – Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
  5. The Good Man of Nanking: The Diaries of John Rabe – John E. Woods
  6. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War – Karen Abbott
  7. Ten Days in a Mad-House – Nellie Bly
  8. The Demon in the Freezer: A True Story – Richard Preston
  9. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. One: The Faust Act – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  10. Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation for Women – Sylvia Brinton Perera
  11. The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony – Will Tuttle
  12. In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture, and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth – Tikva Frymer-Kensky
  13. Unit 731 Testimony – Hal Gold
  14. Outsider in the White House – Bernie Sanders and John Nichols
  15. Survivor – Chuck Palahniuk
  16. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach
  17. Ashes and Snow – Gregory Colbert
  18. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. Two: Fandemonium – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  19. My Sister’s Keeper – Jodie Picoult
  20. In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom – Yeonmi Park
  21. Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America – Jon Mooallem
  22. Prisoner of Tehran: One Woman’s Story of Survival Inside an Iranian Prison – Marina Nemat
  23. The Art of Forgetting: Rider – Joanne Hall
  24. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. Three: Commercial Suicide – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  25. Geisha: A Life – Mineko Iwasaki
  26. The Art of Forgetting: Nomad – Joanne Hall
  27. The Wild Road – Gabriel King
  28. Vestal – Ashley Schwellenbach
  29. Nimona – Noelle Stevenson
  30. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – JK Rowling
  31. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – JK Rowling
  32. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – JK Rowling
  33. The Raven and the Reindeer – T. Kingfisher
  34. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – JK Rowling
  35. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – JK Rowling
  36. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – JK Rowling
  37. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – JK Rowling
  38. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir – Felicia Day
  39. Sharp Ends: Stories from the World of the First Law – Joe Abercrombie
  40. Catfantastic: Nine Lives and Fifteen Tales – ed. Andre Norton and Martin H. Greenberg
  41. Beast of Never, Cat of God: The Search for the Eastern Puma – Bob Butz
  42. The Golden Cat – Gabriel King
  43. Shadow Cat: Encountering the American Mountain Lion – ed. Susan Ewing and Elizabeth Grossman
  44. North of Hope: A Daughter’s Arctic Journey – Shannon Huffman Polson
  45. Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess – Betty De Shong Meador and Judy Grahn
  46. The Scourge of the Righteous Haddock – Ashley Schwellenbach
  47. Swallow You Whole – Jasper Black
  48. The Red Tent – Anita Diamant
  49. Delphi Complete Works of Sappho – Sappho of Lesbos
  50. The Sign of the Cat – Lynne Jonell
  51. Suicide Watch – Kelley York
  52. Sinful Cinderella (Dark Fairy Tale Queen Series Book 1) – Anita Valle
  53. Part of the Pride: My Life Among the Big Cats of Africa – Kevin Richardson and Tony Park
  54. Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper – JL Bryan
  55. Tarot: Plain and Simple – Anthony Louis
  56. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – JK Rowling
  57. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books – Azar Nafisi
  58. The Ghatti’s Tale, Book One: Finders-Seekers – Gayle Greeno
  59. Heiresses of Russ 2015: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction – ed. Steve Berman and Jean Roberta
  60. The Ghatti’s Tale, Book Two: Mindspeaker’s Call – Gayle Greeno
  61. The Tygrine Cat – Inbali Iserles
  62. The Ghatti’s Tale, Book Three: Exile’s Return – Gayle Greeno
  63. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. Four: Rising Action – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  64. Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories – ed. D. Alexander Ward and Doug Murano
  65. Egyptian Paganism for Beginners: Bring the Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt Into Daily Life – Jocelyn Almond
  66. The Gayer-Anderson Cat (British Museum Objects in Focus) – Neal Spencer
  67. Cat Born to the Purple: A Sequel to Yeshua’s Cat (Yeshua’s Cats Book 4) – C. L. Francisco
  68. This Is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death – ed. Ryan North, et. al.
  69. The Girls of No Return – Erin Saldin
  70. BaneWreaker: Volume 1 of The Sundering – Jacqueline Carey
  71. Godslayer: Volume 2 of The Sundering – Jacqueline Carey
  72. The Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell
  73. Moth – S.E. Diemer
  74. Julie of the Wolves – Jean Craighead George
  75. The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly
  76. To Reign in Hell: A Novel – Steven Brust
  77. The Call of the Wild – Jack London
  78. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies – Jared Diamond
  79. White Fang – Jack London
  80. Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake

#1864

Do you think the Oracle at Delphi ever wanted to just say Fuck, man, I don’t know or maybe You know, I’m just not really feeling it today, can you come back tomorrow? Think she ever got so overwhelmed she almost yelled Shut up! or Go away! or I do not fucking care about your shitty prophecies but bit her lip until it bled just to keep the air of mystery until the last travelers left? How hard it must have been, maintaining that mask of aloof omniscience when the incense was giving her a headache and the gods weren’t being forthcoming. How tired she must have become by the end of the day, sitting straight and tall for hours on end when all the world’s futures weighed on her shoulders. I’m sure at the end of the day there were temple attendants to help her to her chambers, to serve her wine and cheese and massage her feet, but did any of them ask about her day? Did any of them tell her stories or jokes to take her mind off being the axis of destiny? To that end, did anyone even bother to ask her what she saw in her own future, and if she was afraid?

#1843

Sometimes history’s repetitions are comforting, the knowledge that others have come before to fight this fight, to suffer this suffering, to stand with arms linked until the tanks or the tear gas or the water cannons mow them down. Sometimes it is enough to know this moment’s horrors aren’t unique, that we will never be the first to want these things and can never be the last to die before they are won. Sometimes being able to stand back and watch the great wheel turn, turn, turn through all of humanity’s existence offers the necessary perspective, the needed distance to see the wisdom of the larger picture.

And sometimes the wheel’s inevitable turning crushes us beneath its rim, presses us into the mud to join the bodies of those who came before. Sometimes knowing the wheel spins in place, ever turning and yet going nowhere, is a cruelty we cannot bear. Sometimes fighting the same old fights, suffering the same old sufferings, facing the same old tanks and bigots and bullets is just too much, and we wonder if there’s any point when those who come after us will face these things as well. Maybe we haven’t figured out how to learn from history yet – or maybe as long as the wheel spins in place, we can’t help but repeat the past.