Long time no see, blog fam!
I wish I could blame the COVID-19 situation for my lack of posting so far this year, but in fact I’ve had very limited energy at all this whole year, and indeed going back into most of 2019 as well. The pandemic did cancel my trip to Montreal, where I was going to attend the World Figure Skating Championships (at least I got my money back — those tickets are not cheap). But even before that, I had a fairly long thing I was trying to write back in mid-January about how we can take the next steps to fix our transportation system. That post has, as we say, been overtaken by events, and now it’s going to be a struggle to get people back onto public transit, and the state legislature has completely failed to demonstrate leadership in the face of cratering oil and gas prices, just as they failed to do in the 2008–9 financial crisis.
I’ve posted twice before (both posts in 2016) about the Canadian fantasy writer Graydon Saunders’ “Commonweal” series. I’ve been trying to get more people to read these books, which have a lot of big ideas, ever since I first read the first two titles (The March North and A Succession of Bad Days) three and a half years ago. Since then, three more books have come out: Safely You Deliver, Under One Banner, and released just this past January, A Mist of Grit and Splinters. I have a great deal of difficulty writing about literature in the best of times (have some sympathy for my high-school English teachers) and these books are particularly difficult to describe: they’re all secondary-world — or perhaps post-apocalyptic, it’s unclear — fantasy, but March, Banner, and Mist are all military adventures told from multiple perspectives (principally senior officers’), whereas Bad Days and Safely are sorcerer-school stories told mainly from the perspective of the students. That is not the interesting part, but it may influence which books are interesting to which readers. (It’s all one contiguous story, but books 1, 2, 4, and 5 are all reasonably entry points.)
The interesting part is an exploration of an egalitarian alternative to the traditional, feudal or at least strictly hierarchical social structure of most secondary-world fantasies. How does such a society defend itself from outsiders who would enslave them? How can the needs of military discipline be compatible with strict equality? How does any society deal with the prospect that some people may, through innate ability or experience, have several orders of magnitude more productivity than others, while maintaining adherence to the principle of “no fixed hierarchies”? There’s a lot there for people to engage with, and I’ve been pushing people on Twitter to do so. Obviously there are many differences between the world of the Commonweal and our world today, notably the fact that we don’t have working sorcery and they do, but these are definitely books that are trying to engage with issues present in our world, not just wish fulfillment.
So a week ago I launched a book giveaway on Twitter. I promised to give up to 50 copies of either The March North or A Succession of Bad Days away to anyone who responded. Sadly, only three people responded, and one of those turned out to be in a territory where the book was not licensed for sale. So I’m inviting my blog followers to do the same. If the description above made you think you might be interested in reading this book, send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org before 11:59 PM EDT on April 30 (0359 UTC on May 1) and tell me which book you’d like to get, and I’ll send you a Google Play gift code which can be redeemed for a downloadable copy.
Terms and conditions: limit one book per recipient, and you must have a Google account activated in a territory where Google Play Books is available and this book is licensed for sale. Not responsible for email delivery delays.