Flying so close to the Sun their duct tape and bailing wire melts and their headphones explode, John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson return this month for our lucky thirteenth episode! Not only have we seamlessly spliced together two different recording sessions (thanks to said duct tape and bailing wire), but we are joined by one of SF Signal’s most prolific irregulars Sarah Chorn as we spelunk the depths of the genre to discuss overlooked works of fantasy and science fiction that deserve more attention.

If your wallet survives that list, we once again bring you a list of books (and other things) that we’ve consumed since last month that may finally tumble Mount ToBeRead down upon your heads!

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MIND MELD: Disabilities in Speculative Fiction

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Sarah Chorn’s highly successful Special Needs in Strange Worlds column…the recent Kaleidoscope anthology…the upcoming Accessing The Future anthology… Fiction focusing on discussions of disabilities, different abilities, special needs and different needs are increasingly important in the speculative fiction community.

With that in mind, here’s what I asked our panelists:

Q: What are some examples of speculative fiction titles where disabilities and disabled characters have been handled the right way? Are there specific disabilities that you’ve yet to see written into a speculative fiction story in a positive way?

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In episode 255 of the SF Signal Podcast Patrick Hester and Jaym Gates bring together Kate Elliott, Tad Williams, Laura Resnick, Felix Gilmanand Sarah Chorn to discuss Epic Fantasy!

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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This week we asked our participants about their reading habits:

Q: How long do you have a book before you read it? We, as biblioholics and voracious readers often accumulate books at a greater pace than we can read them. What is the longest you’ve had a book before you’ve read it and/or how long do you typically let a book sit before you read it?

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Books have the power to make us laugh, cry, and everything in between, and there are those books (you know what I’m talking about) that can actually change the way we think and influence us in very powerful ways, even changing the course of our lives. I asked our panel this question:

Q: As authors, and readers, what book or books have affected you in a profound way, and why?

Here’s what they had to say…

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MIND MELD: Books You Eat Like Candy & Books You Savor

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Many readers have different gears when reading books. Some books are ones in which you luxuriate and spend time with, others are such a ride that you turn the pages rapidly, carried along through them at warp speed.

We asked this week’s panelists about this phenomenon:

Q: What books do you savor? What books do you eat like candy? What makes for you a book that you savor, or speed through?

Here’s what they said…

Sandra Wickham
Sandra Wickham lives in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and two cats. Her friends call her a needle crafting aficionado, health guru and ninja-in-training. Sandra’s short stories have appeared in Evolve: Vampires of the New Undead, Evolve: Vampires of the Future Undead, Chronicles of the Order, Crossed Genres magazine and coming up in The Urban Green Man. She blogs about writing with the Inkpunks, is the Fitness Nerd columnist for the Functional Nerds and slush reads for Lightspeed Magazine.

As a fitness professional, I have a hard time comparing books to popcorn and candy. I’m sorry. It goes against my nature. Is it all right if I call them fruits versus vegetables? Fruit is yummy, quick to eat and always fun. Vegetables can be yummy, are a bit more work to eat but you know they’re extremely good for you.

I always read because I want to be entertained and I admit I don’t always read because I want to learn something, or broaden my mind. Sometimes, I really just want to have fun and read an entertaining book. That’s when I turn to the fruit.

The fruit books I grab for a quick, fun read are urban fantasy. Give me a Kim Harrison, Kelley Armstrong, Diana Rowland, Kat Richardson, Kevin Hearne (the list goes on and on) and I’ll disappear. I’m not saying that urban fantasy can’t be mind expanding or explore important issues, when they’re well done they certainly do that, but I don’t need to rethink my entire life to read them.

I’d also list horror books under this category, though it depends on the author. Some of those are a mix of fruits and vegetables with a side of bloody dip.

My vegetable books tend to be fantasy that take after the Tolkien mold. These are the stories I want to dive fully into, to be immersed in the world the author has created and linger there, enjoying every aspect of the characters, the setting and the story.

I’m interested to see other people’s responses on the books they savor, because I know I need more vegetables in my reading diet.

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I have a huge soft spot in my heart for hurricane victims.

About six weeks after Hurricane Katrina, I flew down to Mississippi where I spent the next six months living in a town that was about 98% demolished and roughly ten miles east of where the eye had passed. Before that experience, hurricanes were sad, and the people who lost everything to them were tragic, but it was abstract. I’d care for a few minutes before my own life made me forget about it. I never realized just how tragic and how horrible it all was until I toured a completely leveled city with people who had spent their entire lives there.

My experience with Hurricane Katrina changed my life forever. I wasn’t much of a humanitarian before I spent my time in Mississippi, but now I have a bleeding heart. I watched strangers help each other fix roofs, protect each other, feed each other, donate clothes and medical supplies, help clean up demolished property, help each other deal with loss and so much more. I saw how much one person could change a community and I saw how important the effort of one individual was in the face of such calamity. Now I can’t seem to stop myself from participating in humanitarian efforts, especially ones focusing on hurricane relief.

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MIND MELD: A Look at Genre Reviews

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Book reviews have been as contentious since the days of mimeographed fanzines. In the age of the Internet and an explosion of blogs, Amazon, and more, reviews are more important than ever. But what makes reading and trusting a review worth it?

So we asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What does a good review of a piece of genre work do well? Where do reviewers fall down on the job? How can reviewers improve their craft for the benefit of readers, writers and fans?

Here’s what they said…

Rachel Caine
Rachel Caine is the author of more than twenty novels, including the Weather Warden series. She was born at White Sands Missile Range, which people who know her say explains a lot. She has been an accountant, a professional musician, and an insurance investigator, and still carries on a secret identity in the corporate world. She and her husband, fantasy artist R. Cat Conrad, live in Texas with their iguanas, Popeye and Darwin; a mali uromastyx named (appropriately) O’Malley; and a leopard tortoise named Shelley (for the poet, of course).

Most often where reviewers go astray for me is when they forget their core mission. I’ve read a lot of reviews that were more about the reviewer’s wickedly sharp language skills than about what they were critiquing … it becomes form over substance, and while it may be entertaining, it isn’t informative, and it doesn’t help the reader decide whether or not the book (or film, or music) would be right for their needs.

Every book (or film, or concert, or album) is a personal experience, so it’s fine to talk about how the work moved you, and why. But please, reviewers, if you consistently have a burning, fiery hatred for what you’re seeing in the genre (or medium) you’re reviewing, maybe you’re just burned out, or the style has moved past you …(it does this for writers, too, you’re hardly alone). Rather than just become the surly curmudgeon, find another thing to be passionate about — in another genre maybe. You’ll feel better, and so will your readers.

And on the flip side, if you love everything you read/see/hear, maybe you’re not quite critical *enough.* Being a critic isn’t about making friends, it’s about telling the truth even when it’s a harsh truth. Don’t be faint-hearted. You won’t last long if you are.

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