Top Ten Tuesday – My Ten Most Recent Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future weeks’ topics can be found here. This week’s topic is…

My Ten Most Recent Reads

Between working, studying, and preparing to publish a novel (six weeks until Other People’s Butterflies gets published!) I’ve not had much time for reading, and this list takes me right back to 2020.

Educated by Tara Westover

It’s not an easy read but, despite the brutality of Westover’s upbringing, this isn’t your average misery memoir. It’s hugely insightful, and sheds light on the type of rural, religious family that’s often reduced to a caricature.

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker

I’m a relatively “unschooled” writer, so I feel like I should be reading more books like this one. It’s an unstuffy writing guide that offers lots of helpful tips for making your writing snap. But some of the grammatical stuff is pretty intimidating!

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

I loved Anne of Green Gables as a kid, but wasn’t so keen on the other books in the series. Was this because the books decrease in quality? Or did I find “grown-up” Anne less easy to relate to than Anne as a child? Definitely the latter. Anne of Avonlea is beautifully written and an ideal comfort read. Also, it turns out that “grown-up” Anne is only 16!

Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass by Lana Del Rey

If you’re a fan of Lana’s music, this is a must-read. Her poetry explores similar themes to her lyrics, but in a slightly different (perhaps more vulnerable) way.

Desolation Island by Patrick O’Brian

Hooray for reliable escapism! This is the fifth book in O’Brian’s series and has sea battles, spies, and the ever-entertaining friendship between main characters Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin (who are basically an old married couple at this point).

Common Bonds by various authors, including me!

Obviously I read my contributor’s copy of Common Bonds – an anthology of short stories and poetry centred on aromantic characters and platonic relationships. Seriously, if you’re looing for aro representation, or heart-warming stories of friendship, family, found-family and platonic partners, this is the book for you.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

SPOILERS, but I kinda wish Little Women ended halfway through. Poor Beth! And poor Jo, marrying some guy who’s twice her age and calls her stories trash!

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein

I finally got around to reading this, and it’s not my cup of tea. I don’t mind a slow-paced story as long as there’s a lot going on inside the characters’ heads. But these guys just spend forever deciding where to walk.

The World for a Shilling by Michael Leapman

If I had a time machine, The Great Exhibition of 1851 would be my first stop. Technologies and treasures from all over the world – including a 16 foot telescope, rare diamonds, and a precursor to the fax machine – were displayed in a purpose-built “crystal palace”. The book gives a vivid impression of what it must have been like for visitors.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

A murder-mystery that wastes very little attention on the murderer and contains one of the oddest sex scenes in mainstream fiction. Come for the weirdness, stay for the heart-wrenching portrayal of loss and grief.

Okay, not a bad bunch of books. Have you read any of these? What are some of the best books you’ve read recently?

Four Quick Writing Tips from “The Sense of Style”

I recently read Steven Pinker’s excellent writing guide The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. It’s aimed at non-fiction writers and I read it for my Science Communication MSc, but it also contains a lot of useful stuff for fiction writers. Here are four quick tips from the book that fellow writers might find handy…

“Beautiful” is more beautiful than “very beautiful”

When I was a teenager, I used to cram my writing full of intensifiers like “very”, “extremely” and “exceedingly” (Exceedingly was my favourite – I thought it made me sound fancy). This is an easy trap to fall into, because we can all get a little over-enthusiastic when we’re trying hard to get a point across.

The problem is that intensifiers can actually undermine the point you’re trying to make. As Pinker explains, an adjective on its own tends to be interpreted categorically. Someone is either completely honest, or not. Someone is either entirely beautiful, or not.

If you add an intensifier like “very”, you turn this all-or-nothing thinking into a spectrum. Someone might be quite beautiful, very beautiful, extremely beautiful, etc. It muddies the waters and takes away the impact of the adjective.

Save the heaviest for last

If you’re writing a list, the longest or most important word or phrase should go at the end to maximise its impact. For example, if you’re writing about a burglar who stole a bunch of things, it should be “He stole a TV, a laptop, and 2000 dollars in cash,” rather than “He stole a TV, 2000 dollars in cash, and a laptop.”

Importance should generally be prioritised over length. For example, “He stole a TV, 2000 dollars in cash, and a baby” is better than “He stole a TV, a baby, and 2000 dollars in cash.”

Watch out for zombies!

Before reading this book, I’d never heard of a “zombie noun”, and probably used them without meaning to. It’s a noun that’s derived from a verb, such as “make an appearance” (derived from “appear”) or “put on a performance” (derived from “perform”).

When a verb gets turned into a noun, it becomes lifeless and zombiefied (yes, that’s a word). Too many zombie nouns will make your writing sound stuffy, so it’s best to avoid them.

Learn the rules, then go ahead and break them

One thing I enjoyed about Pinker’s style guide was its impatience with grammar Nazis and language purists. We’ve all been annoyed by seeing “your” and “you’re” used interchangeably for the millionth time, but someone who acts like their world is falling apart every time someone makes a small error really needs to get a life.

The book argues that language is constantly evolving. If a word or phrase is used “incorrectly” by 90% of the population, and has been used by respected writers, there’s not much point in labelling it “incorrect”.

Also, (whisper it) there are more important things than grammar. If a woman prefers the term “chairperson” to “chairman” or a non-binary person uses singular “they”, it’s a dick move to insist that the rules of grammar are more important than equality or identity.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Got any quick tips of your own? Please share them in the comments!

Other People’s Butterflies – Introducing the Characters

(I’m updating this because I forgot to include a rather crucial character!)

It’s now less than two months until the planned release date of my YA novel Other People’s Butterflies. I’m more or less done with editing and you know what? I still don’t hate this book! Usually, editing has me shaking my head and muttering “Who wrote this shit? Oh, right.” But despite my insecurities, I’m really excited to get this novel out into the world.

This is partly thanks to my excellent editor, who was kind enough to point out things he likes as well as things that need fixing. But it’s partly because I just love these characters. Maybe it’s big-headed to say that, because I created them, but I can’t help it. I have a lot of affection for them and I want readers to meet them.

So I’m doing a quick post to introduce my main characters, and I also want to hear about yours. Who are the star players in your WIP? What makes them loveable, hateable, or love-to-hateable? Introduce them in the comments!

Gwen (the protagonist)

  • Easily bored
  • Wants to understand everything
  • Understands very little
  • Makes questionable decisions
  • Aro-ace as hell, but doesn’t know aro-ace is a thing

Martine (Gwen’s bestie)

  • Shy
  • Always smiling (it’s a defence mechanism)
  • Will read every historical romance ever written
  • A dreamer
  • Overprotected

Angie (also Gwen’s bestie)

  • A tomboy
  • Boy-crazy
  • Won’t wear clothes without pockets
  • Pockets are always full of sweets and/or condoms
  • Good at sports

Ethan (a childhood friend who reappears and complicates everything)

  • Total nerd. Owns it.
  • Seventeen, and owns more toys and games than most seven-year-olds
  • Speaks slowly, which makes some people think he is stupid
  • Definitely not stupid
  • Wants to be “more than friends”

Lana Barrington (Gwen’s girl-crush)

  • Fictional (I know they’re all fictional, but she is extra fictional)
  • Badass spy
  • Very glam
  • Good people skills
  • Doesn’t like people

Top Ten Tuesday – Places in Books I’d Love to Live

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future weeks’ topics can be found here. This week’s topic is…

Places in Books I’d Love to Live

I’m currently living in a draughty room in a shared house. The kitchen is always messy and the bathroom is always occupied. So please allow me to indulge in a few fantasies of where I’d rather be living…

Bag End (from The Hobbit)

“It was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort.” The only drawback I can think of is a lack of natural light. Otherwise, Bilbo’s home in a hill seems perfect.

Manderley (from Rebecca)

I remember a guy from my old writers’ group describing Rebecca as “property porn”. I think it’s fair to say that the beautifully spooky country house, and its grounds full of blood-red rhododendrons, are described with more passion than the lukewarm love affair between the nameless protagonist and Maxim de Winter.

Mistlethwaite Manor (from The Secret Garden)

Creepy manors are ten a penny in classic literature, but this one definitely has the best garden.

Villa Villekulla (from the Pippi Longstocking stories)

Maybe it was the house, or maybe it was the childhood fantasy of living with a horse, a monkey, and no parents. Either way, I definitely wanted to live in Villa Villekulla when I was a kid.

Baba Yaga’s hut (from various folktales)

I first encountered Baba Yaga in a story called “Vasilisa the Wise”. Baba Yaga is a strange, ambiguous character with an equally strange house that walks around on giant chicken legs. You could escape from noisy neighbours and unwanted visitors at the drop of a hat!

The gingerbread house (from Hansel and Gretel)

Look how adorable it is! Child-eating witches always have the best houses.

Echo Lodge (from Anne of Avonlea)

Echo Lodge isn’t as well know as these other homes, but Miss Lavender’s house is the perfect place to become a cheerful, slightly batty old maid.

Neverland (from Peter Pan)

This one is a general place rather than a home, but I wouldn’t mind setting up camp here. Fairies, pirates, mermaids, no school, no growing up and having to pay a mortgage – the benefits are endless.

Wonderland (from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

You’d never get bored…

Wayne Manor (from the Batman comics)

Yep, comic books count as books. And who wouldn’t want to waltz about like the lady of the manor all day, then go down to the bat cave and get ready for a night of crime fighting?

So what do you reckon? Would you rather live in a cosy hobbit hole, a spooky manor house or a hut with giant chicken legs?

What to Read When You Don’t Have Time to Read

Grad school is kicking my arse at the moment. Juggling work and study is much harder this year because the structure of the course has changed due to COVID, and because the teachers are making up for the lack of face-to-face teaching by giving us extra homework. The end result is that I have very little time to read. A depressing state of affairs for any bookworm.

So, I’ve been thinking about the sort of thing a book lover can realistically read when she’s short of time. There’s not much point getting into a chunky historical novel or epic fantasy series, but here are some ideas for quick reads…

All the poetry! (But especially chapbooks)

Poetry can contain complex events, fully-formed characters or even entire worlds in just a few lines. Being short of time is the perfect excuse to indulge in poetry, particularly chapbooks.

In case you’re not familiar with chapbooks, these are short, pocket-sized poetry collections, often based on a specific theme. If you’re not a poetry afficionado, these are less daunting (and cheaper) than a full-length collection. Dancing Girl Press has some great ones, and they’re going to publish mine later this year. 😊

Short stories

Seriously, why don’t short stories get more love? There are some brilliant collections out there. Three of my faves are The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood, and Grand Union by Zadie Smith.

Middle Grade

MG novels are usually shorter than adult or YA novels, with brisk pacing that encourages a quick read. Trust me, some of them are every bit as good as you remember. Which brings us nicely to…

Re-reads

I’ve always found that re-reading is easy to do in short bursts. You know what’s coming next (unless you read it ages ago) so you’re less likely to read ten chapters at a time because you just have to know what happens.

Comics

It’s delicious to lose a whole afternoon to comics – getting lost in the artwork and enjoying the nuances of the story – but it’s just as fun to whiz through them like a nine-year-old who’s eaten too many Haribo.

I’m embarrassingly basic when it comes to comics, and mostly read superhero stuff (Marvel for the heroes, DC for the villains of course). Lately I’ve been loving The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá.

Audiobooks

Audiobooks must be the ultimate time saver, which is why it’s very weird that I haven’t listened to any since the 90s, when they were called “books on tape” and my mum played them to stop me complaining on long car journeys.

Now seems like the perfect time to start listening again, but I want to start with a really good one. In particular, I’m looking for something where the narration adds something to the story. Any recommendations?

A Good Thing, a Very Bad Thing, and a Poem

A Good Thing

So, I’ve not had the best week. But to start things on a positive note, I’ve been in touch with Rose Sinclair from Art Over Chaos, and things are moving along with my YA contemporary novel, Other People’s Butterflies.

It’s with the editor, and we’re aiming for a June release date, which is (checks calendar) three months away!!! There’s still work to be done, of course, but it’s all very exciting and I’ll be keeping you updated.

A Very Bad Thing

I rarely post personal stuff on this blog, which doesn’t make a lot of sense because my writing is full of personal stuff. Last Thursday, I got an unexpected phone call telling me that one of my oldest and closest friends had died. She was a truly incredible person in so many ways. She was also 32 and planning a wedding, and I can’t quite get my head around it.   

A Poem

I wanted to post a poem to honour her, but none of mine are good enough so I’ve borrowed one from Carol Ann Duffy:

“Miles Away”

I want you and you are not here. I pause
in this garden, breathing the colour thought is
before language into still air. Even your name
is a pale ghost and, though I exhale it again
and again, it will not stay with me. Tonight
I make you up, imagine you, your movements clearer
than the words I have you say you said before.

Wherever you are now, inside my head you fix me
with a look, standing here whilst cool late light
dissolves into the earth. I have got your mouth wrong,
but still it smiles. I hold you closer, miles away,
inventing love, until the calls of nightjars
interrupt and turn what was to come, was certain,
into memory. The stars are filming us for no one.

Wonderfully Weird Words

We’ve all known someone with a passion for quirky words, and for me it was my grampy. If a word was obscure, unusual or ridiculously long, he would hoard it like a treasure and drop it into conversation to amuse himself.

So I’m channelling Grampy today, and celebrating five unusual words related to books and writing…

  1. Librocubicularist

Are you a librocubicularist? I certainly am. It just means someone who reads in bed.

2. Hypergraphia

Hypergraphia is an overwhelming desire to write. So it’s basically the opposite of writer’s block.

3. Rhapsodomancy

This is the practise of divining the future by picking a passage of poetry at random. I tried this myself with a book of Dylan Thomas poems and got the following stanza:

Sing and strike his heavy haul

Toppling up the boatside in a snow of light!

His decks are drenched with miracles.

Oh miracle of fishes! The long dead bite!

So now I’m feeling slightly nervous about what the future has in store for me, especially with that last line.

4. Bildungsroman

This is a literary genre that focuses on the protagonist’s formative years. Think The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jane Eyre, or even the Harry Potter series.

5. Omnilegent

I hope to be omnilegent someday. An omnilegent person is someone who has read ALL THE BOOKS, or at least has an impressive familiarity with literature.

Got any quirky, book-related words to add to the list?

Does Fanfiction Encourage Bad Writing – The Case for “Yes”

Writing this post was more of a challenge than the previous one because I love fanfiction. I enjoy reading it, I’ve dabbled in writing it, and I’m strongly in favour of anything that turns fandom into something creative rather than just consuming a product.

But that doesn’t mean that fanfiction teaches good writing. I feel like there are genuine issues with developing your craft through fanfiction, and I hope you’ll bear with me while I explore those issues. Starting with…

Those characters aren’t yours

If you write stories about characters and worlds that have been created by someone else, then half the work has been done for you. This can be great if you’re just starting out, or if you want to focus on something specific, like maintaining a consistent character voice. But it won’t teach crucial skills like character development or world-building.

It also means that your writing is more likely to reflect the existing media landscape rather than changing it. Your favourite Hollywood blockbuster franchise might be a great starting point for a fanfic, but the voice of Hollywood executives is not your voice.

Tropes, tropes tropes

Avoiding clichés – anything that is overused or unoriginal – is one of the first and most obvious lessons for a writer to learn. But in fanfiction, these clichés are called “tropes” and positively celebrated.

The thing is, a lot of people read fanfic for comfort. If you’re looking for something to read that’s challenging and subverts your expectations, fanfiction.net probably won’t be your first port of call. But if you want something fun, soothing or heart-warming at the end of a hard day’s work, it might well be.

This means that familiar situations where the outcome is obvious are popular in fanfiction. But they aren’t so popular with publishers, and they may not be popular with someone who’s just spent £7.99 on a novel.

Bad romance

Being dismissive of fanfiction is often seen as being dismissive of genre fiction. Fanfiction snobs are all literary writers who don’t understand the joy of a good sci-fi or thriller, right? Well, if you look broadly at fanfiction – both at the quantity of fics and the most popular ones – there’s really only one genre that dominates, and that is romance.

Because “shipping” (pairing characters up with each other in a romantic/sexytimes way) is such a big part of fandom, every fantasy series and mystery drama seems to get turned into a smooch-fest.

Of course, if you want to learn how to write romance, this is ideal. But if you’re more interested in other genres, there are limits to what you can learn. I won’t blame fanfic for the way so many writers shoehorn lacklustre romantic subplots into stories, or use overly flowery language when describing appearance (“obsidian eyes”, etc.) but, honestly, I think it plays its part.

Queer stuff, hooray?

People often talk about fanfiction as a beacon of LGBT+ inclusivity, and it’s true that the most popular fanfics tend to be novel-length M/M romances. What better way to learn how to write complex and thoughtful queer stories, right? Well…

Unfortunately, LGBT+ content in fanfiction has a clear hierarchy. Stories about M/M pairings tend to receive more attention and feedback than F/F, and stories about trans or intersex issues are often undervalued. Asexual and aromantic stories aren’t popular either, because who wants to read about characters not hooking up?

Also, a lot of the M/M romance is written by women, many of whom are straight. And while this is a contentious issue (lots of women write M/M romance to help them work through queer feelings of their own) there are potential pitfalls to this.

For example, there’s a tendency to take two canonically straight male characters and make them fall in love with each other with zero exploration of queer identity. Nothing about coming out, dealing with prejudice or being part of a queer community. Regardless of how cute the love story is, this doesn’t reflect the reality of LGBT+ people.

Fanfic bad?

There are definite disadvantages to learning to write through fanfiction, but personally I’ve never met a writer who expected to go from fanfic to a bestselling novel in one swift leap. It’s just one tool for developing writing skills, and I still think it’s a valuable one.

Also, we need to stop pigeonholing fanfiction as writing practice. Many fanfic writers are already published authors of original work. Others have no intention of getting published – they just write for fun, or to be an active part of the fandom community, or because they think Bridgerton would be better if it was mashed up with Doctor Who.

So, what’s your thinking on learning to write through fanfiction? Do you think it develops vital skills? Encourages bad habits? Both? Neither? I’d love to hear your opinions and experiences in the comments.

Does Fanfiction Encourage Bad Writing – The Case for “No”

I’ll never forget the time when, in a meeting of my old writers’ group, we had to explain fanfiction to a writer in her seventies. We told her that sometimes people take the characters from their favourite films, books and TV programmes, and write their own stories about them. She seemed both baffled and charmed by the idea.

If you’re younger or nerdier than her, you probably have a passing familiarity with fanfiction and might even be aware of the small twitterstorm it provoked recently. Basically, someone said she was appalled that so many new writers were cutting their teeth on fanfiction, because it actively promotes bad writing.

An army of fanfic writers vehemently disagreed. And though I personally developed my writing the old-fashioned way (by writing stories about dragons in old exercise books) I was on their side. People who trash fanfic always seem to be writing snobs who think you need an MFA for your work to be worthy of attention.

But then I chewed it over for a while and realised her points weren’t all that easy to dismiss. I decided to explore this question – Does fanfiction encourage bad writing? – from both sides. I’m starting with “No” because, frankly, I’m a massive fangirl and this is my knee-jerk response. Here are some reasons why…

Instant audience = Quick feedback

The writing world is full of gatekeeping, much of it financial. Writing workshops can be expensive. A degree in creative writing is hella expensive, especially since it prepares you for a job that doesn’t have a salary. Writing groups are cheaper but can still be inaccessible for other reasons, e.g. if there aren’t any in your area.

Because of all this, it can be difficult to get any kind of meaningful feedback on your work. But if your story features Iron Man or Captain Kirk, you already have an audience for your work that is global, diverse and enthusiastic.

Granted, most of the feedback you get is likely to be along the lines of “OMG great story I love it!” but if you’re looking for more detailed constructive criticism, just ask and ye shall receive. Many fanfiction readers genuinely appreciate the free content and are happy to provide free critique in return.

Also, every “like” or positive comment is a little bit of encouragement, which is often what newbie writers need the most. Let’s face it, writing is hard, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting a little validation to keep you going on the long journey of developing your craft.

Learn the art of reader satisfaction

Many young or inexperienced writers think writing is all about self-expression. And sure, if you don’t plan on publishing, it absolutely is. But if you want readers, you need to give them something they’ll actually enjoy.

It sounds obvious, but so many writers talk about writing as if the whole point of it is to be very original and impressive and win fancy awards. If that’s your goal then fine, you do you. But traditional publishers want to turn a decent profit. Consequently, they’re unlikely to publish books that no-one will fall in love with, regardless of how elegant the prose is.

Fanfiction readers know what they want, and are well-placed to convey this to writers. If you write enough fanfic, it can help you learn important things like how to craft an interesting narrative, convey a relationship that’s intense yet realistic, and bring a story to a satisfying conclusion. These are all things that please readers and publishers alike.

The perks of anonymity

Most fanfiction is published anonymously, with writers keeping their fan identity pretty separate from their real-life identity. This anonymity gives writers freedom to take risks and write more courageously.

It’s a myth that all fanfic is light and fluffy. Many fanfic writers explore challenging topics like mental illness and childhood abuse, in an environment that’s much more welcoming than your typical online forum. And we can’t talk about the perks of anonymity without discussing…

Queer stuff, hooray!

So you’re a young (or not so young) LGBT+ person who wants to write queer characters and relationships. The idea of sharing your work in a “real life” situation is pretty intimidating, and I speak from experience here. What if you have to come out? What if your audience is hostile, or just doesn’t understand?

If you’re anonymously writing fanfiction, much of that pressure is removed. Fanfic websites are full of queer content, and frequented by people seeking that content. While you still risk the odd nasty comment, bigoted voices are likely to be drowned out by supportive ones.

The fact that you’re writing about familiar characters rather than ones of your own creation can also be useful. It allows writers some distance, which can make us braver in exploring feelings and experiences that we might not be ready to accept. It’s surprising and heart-warming how many people have figured out stuff about their own identity through fanfic.

Fanfic good?

Okay, I know I sound like an unabashed fan of fanfiction, but next week I’ll be exploring the flipside of the argument and the problems with learning to write through fanfic. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the pros of fanfic. Do you write it yourself? Has it taught you any important writing skills or lessons? Feel free to share in the comments.

Top Ten Tuesday – New-to-me Authors I Read in 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future weeks’ topics can be found here. This week’s topic is…

New-to-me Authors I Read in 2020

Since 2020 was such a clusterf*ck of a year, I did a fair bit of comfort reading. But amongst all the books by familiar old favourites, I did manage to find some new authors who I’ll be reading again.

  1. Gillian Flynn

I finally read Gone Girl and I feel like this is one of those occasions where the hype is justified. Sharp Objects is high on my TBR.

2. Lauren Groff

I read The Monsters of Templeton after my mum recommended it. Mother knows best, of course – Groff is a superb writer and the book is a great family saga with some subtle supernatural elements.

3. Nicholas Eames

Kings of the Wyld is one of the most purely fun books I read in 2020. Somebody please make this rip-roaring, daft-as-balls adventure into a movie. Or a TV show. Or both.

4. Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is one of the reasons I am determined to read more sci-fi in 2021.

5. Arthur Ransome

You’re never too old for a children’s classic, and Swallows and Amazons is as classic as they get. There are twelve books in the series and I expect I’ll be dipping into it again when summer arrives.

6. Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones is such a rare thing – a book that begins with a murder and DGAF about the murderer. More victim-focussed crime books, please.  

7. Hank Green

I’d read a couple of John Greens, but this year I read An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green and found it both an excellent sci-fi and a thoughtful exploration of fame, especially “internet fame”.

Since most of the authors I’ve mentioned so far are well-known, I’m going to narrow my focus a little. I read an anthology of fairytale retellings called Unburied Fables in 2020. And while I’m always up for a fairytale retelling, I particularly enjoyed these ones because so many of the stories feature characters who, like me, are asexual or aromantic or both. The stories also have lots of other forms of LGBT+ representation.

The authors all write beautifully, so which story you would prefer probably depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re after a sweet, grounded, m/m romance, I recommend The Last Lost Boy by George Lester. If you prefer sci-fi with richly detailed world building, you’ll like The Suns of Terre by Will J. Fawley. But three authors I really hope to read again are…

(SPOILERS for these stories)

8. Laure Nepenthes

No prizes for guessing which fairytale Handsome and the Beast is based on, but it’s the first story I ever read with a “happily ever after” ending for a platonic relationship.

9. Moira C. O’Dell

O’Dell’s story Satin Skirts and Wooden Shoes is a retelling of Cinderella. I’ll never get tired of aromantic characters using magic to wriggle their way out of unwanted marriages!

10. Minerva Cerridwen

Match Sticks is waaaay less depressing than the fairytale it’s based on, and a celebration of so many different types of love and relationships.