book review: all the birds in the sky

Charlie Jane Anders’ debut novel, All the Birds in the Sky is great. The main characters start off as a couple of weird kids, one who talks to birds and another who builds a two-second time machine, and the story is about how they, well, interact is a clinical word, but it’s an appropriate one. Each of them embodies a different way of looking at the world off-kilterly, one through nature-magic and the other through mad-science.

It’s really good, but don’t expect it to feel realistic. For the first third of the book I was unsure why this wasn’t marketed as a more science-fictional Eleanor & Park. As kids there’s an assassin sent to deal with them but he’s not allowed to directly kill minors so he becomes their guidance counsellor and becomes really well-liked in that role. Then there’s a time jump to adulthood and the fate of the world starts to become an issue (and it loses some of that YA romance feeling). Later in the book it feels much more like The Magicians, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Makers or Seveneves.

One issue might be its optimism in the face of the end of the world, like there’s going to be an escape valve that we’ll actually all be okay. I think it walked the line well, but your mileage may vary.

maker storytime booklist – #vmmf 2014

I made the trek to the mainland last weekend to do stuff at the BC Libraries Cooperative-sponsored Makerbrarians booth for the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire.

I had a heap of picturebooks that fit in with the idea of maker culture at our makers in libraries booth. I did get to do some storytimes, but I realized what a bad librarian I was when I didn’t have a booklist to give people. So terrible. But here’s one!

Booklist

I divided it into two sections, because there are a bunch of picturebooks out there about building stuff with tools, which is great, but while tools are important to makers I see the culture of invention (and the different paths we take to make things) as being even more important to tell stories about.

I haven’t labelled them for ages or reading levels because I really try to fit the book to the individual. They cover a wide range of complexities though.

Culture of Invention & Problem Solving

Building Things

There was loads of awesome non-librarian stuff going on at VMMF too. My buddy got a cheese-making kit. I got a collapsible cardboard soundstage with LED lights to make movies with. I did not ride the mechanical snake though.

organizing professionally

Tomorrow begins my first conference as an employed librarian. Sort of. I actually won’t get into the city in time for the opening keynote so I’m going to a Maker Education event as soon as I hit town instead. But a pile of library-folk are going to be there

I’ve been trying to do more to get involved and though the British Columbia Library Association may not be super high prestige, I know and like people who do stuff with it. Since March(ish) I’ve been blogging for the Information Policy Committee, and I’ve been polishing up at least one YA book review for each issue of the Young Adults and Children’s Services section’s quarterly newsletter (YAACING) since I graduated (here’s the most recent issue). I’m doing a couple of short writeups of conference sessions for the BCLA Browser too. I would have been presenting on the Hot Topics panel at the conference this year but my employers expressed a preference for me not to do that, so I was replaced by the awesome Tara Robertson, who will kill it, I am positive.

I’m looking forward to this conference. I’m growing to appreciate hanging out with people and shooting shit about issues I’m interested in. Last weekend I was at a birthday party (in Vancouver) that had a high percentage of information professionals and sitting there talking about what it means if libraries become pointers at info instead of holders of info, or the travesty that there’s no wikipedia/git repository of MARC records, brought home why people live in cities instead of off in the hinterlands. Clustering people with different ways of looking at things does seem to make for better thought, which may be obvious but my distrust of groups of more than like 6 people needs some evidence every once in a while.

Which isn’t to say it’s not fun being the lone voice talking about high concept issues in our library (branch). There’s not a lot of pressure to turn those kinds of ideas into something tangible, because the energy isn’t focused in that direction. It’s possible that if I were in a place where innovation and awesomeness were required I’d fall completely flat. Here, I’m impressive because I can work Excel, and the fact that no one comes to my non-storytime events isn’t a huge deal.

Anyway, going to this conference is the kind of thing I need. It’ll be nice to talk about library issues (beyond stock rotation) with people in person instead of through my keyboard.

book review: makers

I read Cory Doctorow’s Makers on the plane to China and early in my bakery hanging out time. It was the ebook version I got for free from his website and loaded onto my ereader, so it’s DRM-free.

So Makers is about these inventors who create new things and then move on. It’s sf in that it is the future and there are new technologies they use and make use of, but it’s a very recognizable near future. Some of the interesting things in the story are fatkins, a way of dealing with obesity by basically ramping up your metabolism so you need to eat 10000 calories a day. There’s a bit more to it than that. So there are these inventors and the first part of the book is them getting into business making cool shit. Then the next part of the book is about after their new economy sort of collapses in on itself, they get into the theme-park business. It’s Cory Doctorow, what can you expect. I still don’t get theme-parks but whatever.

The first part of the book is very explainy. “Here’s this neat thing and how it works and isn’t that cool?” but it gradually does build into a story that works. It’s no Little Brother, but it’s inspiring in its own way. Actually making stuff and then moving on seems like the way to run a business. Not just having your hand in the next person’s pocket. But you need to be wildly creative to do that and not everyone is.