#SixBooksSixPeople! I've talked about these books briefly over on Twitter, but they need more love:
David B. Berman | Do Good Design: I first heard David speak when I was volunteering for the agIdeas design conference in Melbourne, and it was a revelation: he talked about the importance of accessible design. Some of his comments in PrintMag:
“To raise the level of compassion, we need to increase awareness of the fact that most people regularly experience impairment,” Berman says. “When thinking about how to design for disabilities, we tend to dwell on acute cases—people who are blind or deaf since birth, paralyzed veterans—but most disability is less extreme. In fact, most of us have experienced it ourselves. For example, we are all color-blind when looking at a black-and-white printout of a color document; we are all visually-challenged after the ophthalmologist puts drops in our eyes; mobility-challenged when we’re holding a bag of groceries in one arm and trying to unlock the car trunk with the other; and hearing-impaired when four TVs are on at the gym, on different channels, sound-muted with closed-captioning.”
His book is about how design can change the world, about taking a sustainable approach to consumption and design. Now when I take up a project with the agency I consider: 1. is my approach ethical? 2. is it accessible to everyone? 3. is it sustainable? Not all clients will listen, but slowly, together we can push the needle.
Ken Liu's Paper Menagerie is still one of my favourite short stories of all time. The story is free to read online, but I recommend buying the anthology if you can. The first time I read the short story I was in public, on a tram in Melbourne. Big mistake. If you've never ugly cried on public transport over a book, I recommend reading this one out there.
Marjorie Liu's Monstress is one of the most beautiful graphic novels I've ever read. It's an ongoing series, and so complex that each time a new paperback comes out I have to go back and reread the earlier books. Delicious, gorgeously illustrated dark fantasy.
I first heard Shaun Tan speak at agIdeas as well, and he is a phenomenal, funny, compelling speaker. His art is beautiful -- I recommend reading The Rabbits as well -- and has such a unique visual style. Follow him over on Instagram if you haven't.
Sonny Liew actually rose to my attention after he got the Eisner: I completely missed the very local book drama in Singapore. Basically, officials withdrew the grant they gave him two years prior to his win because it “potentially undermines the authority and legitimacy of the government and its public institutions”. It's a must-read for Singaporeans and for anyone interested in Southeast Asian history.
Lady Murasaki Shikibu's Tale of Genji can be considered the world's first novel (or the world's first psychological novel, or the first modern novel... as usual, there are disputes). It's a beautiful book, one that I read first in secondary school. There's a new translation out that I might have to look into.
I buy far fewer physical books nowadays: I'm one of those few, weird people who prefer ebooks. Good for on-the-go and good for my small apartment. Sadly it does mean that my fave fiction books of the last couple of years can't end up in a meme like this... (and I can't get them signed, welp).
First time doing book promo events like readings and podcast interviews! Having a group reading with three other talented Melbourne authors made the reading a lot less intimidating. Hope everyone who tuned in enjoyed it, and I'm definitely looking forward to checking out everyone's stories [/add to my endless to-read list].
The podcast interview was with Cristina Querrer of YourArtsyGirl – check out her site and her diverse range of creators hosted. Cristina herself is a multi-disciplinary creator, a poet, a writer, an artist, a musician. The interview will be up soon. Was nervous as hell during it, hope it isn't too obvious. Cristina is awesome to talk to: we discussed trying to stay creative during the pandemic, pets, and inspirations.
There'll be an upcoming review of CRADLE AND GRAVE in June's issue of Aurealis Magazine, which will also have one of my short stories. In the meantime, you can still buy the book here or read more about it here. If you liked it and have the time, do rate and review the book on Goodreads or Amazon. Thanks for your support!
Russ is going for his 1 month check in tomorrow at the Cat Clinic in Prahran. It's been a stressful month for the both of us, having to give him pills twice a day and injections once a week. I'm afraid of needles: I'm one of those people who tends to start laughing hysterically before getting a shot. Confess that when the vet told me that Russ would need vitamin injections I nearly cried in the clinic. Strangely enough, Russ doesn't appear to care when injected (he doesn't feel it? or?). The pills are another matter though. The pill gun doesn't work well, but thankfully Russ is a gentle, patient cat who won't try to kill you when you repeatedly try and pop a pill into the back of his mouth. There was a brief period of time where he'd fake-swallow and then spit it out when I wasn't looking, but I think we're over that now. I hope.
Pascal is now 2! And posed next to his birthday present from Kmart, which Russ swiftly occupied. He shows no signs of slowing down. Some days I wish I could bottle and absorb Pascal's energy level. I'd have written 2 books this year by now. He's also going to have to go in to the Clinic on Saturday for a check up: he has a chronic ear infection ever since I got him from foster, and the ear drops from the housecall vet / Epi Otic ear cleanser doesn't work for long. He's on the monthly preventative so it's most likely not mites. It's going to be his first visit to a clinic as an adult, not sure how he's going to react...
I like to play games without spoilers, so in the leadup to FF7:R, I didn't read any reviews and only watched a couple of trailers. I've never played FF7 (didn't own a PS1) so most of the plot of FF7:R was new to me. That being said, I didn't realise it was only the first 6 hours or so of the original game (less than disc 1!!!). It's still a highly entertaining, complete game in its own right, but what even. At the rate this is going, it'd be PS7 by the final FF7:R instalment.
For people who complain about politics in games... isn't FF7 a highly political game? It's about fighting capitalism, about the destruction that corporations cause to the planet when sucking it of resources, of the misery caused when profit is prioritised over people. The game does assume that you've played the original: I didn't understand the point of the flashbacks until talking to a friend after finishing FF7:R. I did still enjoy it, so check it out if you're so inclined and have a PS4. The sound design and music is great. Russ kept watching it over my shoulder. The last game he paid this much attention to was Death Stranding.
Being home most of the time means watching more streaming services. By the way, did you know that you can now switch off autoplay previews on Netflix via Manage Profiles? A game-changer.
Ugly Delicious 2: I love this series, even though sometimes I find it a little confusing. Then I have to remind myself that it is, after all, an extremely American show that's played out through pretty much one person's perspective. Like the ep where Dave asks when Indian food would be mainstream. Coming from Singapore, living in Melbourne... how mainstream do you need it to be? Indian food in SG and Melb is ubiquitous on all ends of the food spectrum: from hawker style restaurants, to Michelin lists, to hipster reinventions by young Indian chefs. Gaggan was the top-ranked restaurant in Asia for years. Maybe he was trying to say that the world tends to only see a small aspect of Indian cuisine, which, fair. I'm still exploring it myself, and I'm grateful for the breadth in Melbourne. Looking forward to visiting my fave places again soon, and trying new ones.
The Last Dance: This was a strange watch for someone with almost no NBA knowledge and no interest in basketball. Not sure why I found it so compelling, but it is.
Castlevania 3: I see it took until this season for the show to go full Ellis in all its surreal ??? glory.
Hannibal: I can only handle this show in small doses. It's beautiful, though.
Things read in April:-
The City We Became by NK Jemisin: Gorgeously written, compelling narrative, even for someone like me who's never visited New York City and has only a vague idea of what each district is meant to be like. NK Jemisin is one of my favourite authors.
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi: Loving depictions of Parisian culture and food with intricate worldbuilding and a diverse cast of characters.
War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi: I read this in March but forgot to add it to the list. Nigerian SF&F about two sisters, sort of like a dark Black Panther story. Visceral read inspired by real world events that ties into the author's family history. I wasn't aware of the Biafran war. Have to do more reading.
Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi: Powerful, angry near-future dystopian American SF&F about institutionalised inequality, incarceration, race, and justice.
Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi: A modern fairytale about a family and its mysteriously powerful gingerbread recipe. Made me hungry. Best read when eating something sweet.
I have a couple of deadlines I'd like to try and meet this month, but other than that, I've been querying THE ION CURTAIN with a handful of agents. Grateful to those who expressed interest during the last DVPit, and to the DVPit people for arranging the event. It's been out on query since last year. I should probably get around to writing a new book as well.
Best of luck. Hope everyone's doing well.