Welcome to the Stone Soup Weekly Digest! This is where I share what I'm up to and some of my favorite things from around the internet. Subscribe to Stone Soup to get this in your inbox every week.
I spent some time this week with a piece I wrote during 2021 about identity and taxonomy. Do Hippos Count As Dragons is kind of a meta-essay in response to a prompt that asked me to weigh in on the titular question. In thinking about that question I couldn’t help getting all tangled up in my own leash — because ultimately, I just don’t find that much value in dividing things up into tidy categories. My answer to ‘does this thing count as that thing?’ is increasingly ‘why shouldn’t it? Sure, everything can be anything. Let’s make room.’
Do Hippos Count As Dragons is Hugo Award eligible, if you’re the nominating kind.
If you’re a paying subscriber and you’re interested, join me on Saturday at 11am Pacific for a co-working date! Right now I’m mostly working on trying to fix a book that I wrote very badly; the goal is for it to be good, instead. There’s a link to the link at the very bottom of this post.
Thanks to Nino Cipri’s recommendation, I’ve been meditating heavily on this piece from Porpentine Charity Heartscape in The New Inquiry. It’s a brutal read that shines a very bright light on the nature of community abuse disguised as safety efforts. Vital reading if you, like me, are working to excise what Heartscape calls ‘criminal-justice thinking’ from your personal and social frameworks.
“Feminist/queer spaces are more willing to criticize people than abusive systems because they want to reserve the right to use those systems for their own purposes. At least attacking people can be politically viable, especially in a token system where you benefit directly by their absence, or where your status as a good feminist is dependent on constantly rooting out evil. […] Punishment is not something that happens to bad people. It happens to those who cannot stop it from happening. It is laundered pain, not a balancing of scales.”
I love the look of Naseem Jamnia's debut novella, The Bruising of Qilwa. The cover (by Elizabeth Story) is gorgeous, and the excerpt tells me that this book is not going to be shy with the viscera. Sign me up.
Firuz-e Jafari is one of the fortunate ones who have emigrated to the Democratic Free State of Qilwa, escaping the slaughter of blood-magic practitioners in their homeland. They have a good job at a free clinic, and a kindly new employer, the healer Kofi. But a strange plague is spreading quickly through Qilwa, and the local government is quick to blame it on refugees. In order to survive, Firuz must break a deadly cycle of prejudice while finding a fresh start for both their blood and found families.
Absurdle (Wordle that fights back)
If you love Wordle but wish it would be a little meaner, can I introduce you to Absurdle? This version of the game actively tries to evade your guesses by eliminating as many options as possible, until the only word left is the winning one. I’ve been using rounds of this game to reward myself when my work has gotten especially difficult this week.
Dick Pig by Ian Muneshwar
Holy hell, this short story is spectacular. A terrifying home invasion, a dead relative’s house, and grindr come together to make one of the gutsiest things I’ve read in recent memory. This story has me rethinking my own approach to atmosphere and fear in storytelling, and I’d wager I’m not the only one.
I close Grindr and stand very still. My heart’s bolting against my chest like a hunted rabbit and all I can think is that if I stand very still whoever is in this house won’t hear me, won’t know where I am. This thought is so stupid it hurts—I have, after all, spent the morning slamming every door I could find—but I can’t even think about moving right now. The clock ticking on the mantle across the room is so fucking loud. I want to tell it to shut up, to just shut up for one minute because it’s covering the creaking sounds of the intruder crawling across the floorboards, the shuddering of the camera lens as it captures things I can’t see until they’re shown to me.
Gina Zwicky is easily one of my favorite Twitter follows.
Gina is a molecular biologist, naturalist, and wildlife photographer studying reptile immunogenetics. Following @GinaGoesOutside puts excellent photos like this one, which made my week better, on your timeline.
grateful to transparent glass for giving me the ability to view giant gecko toes pic.twitter.com/ZwPLHYnQHr— Gina Zwicky (@GinaGoesOutside) January 15, 2022
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
In Manhattan, a young grad student gets off the train and realizes he doesn't remember who he is, where he's from, or even his own name. But he can sense the beating heart of the city, see its history, and feel its power.
In the Bronx, a Lenape gallery director discovers strange graffiti scattered throughout the city, so beautiful and powerful it's as if the paint is literally calling to her.
In Brooklyn, a politician and mother finds she can hear the songs of her city, pulsing to the beat of her Louboutin heels.
And they're not the only ones.
Before the Mayflower by Lerone Bennett Jr.
After discussing the contributions of Africans to the ancient world, "Before the Mayflower" tells the history of "the other Americans," how they came to America, and what happened to them when they got here. The book is comprehensive and detailed, providing little-known and often overlooked facts about the lives of black folks through slavery, Reconstruction, America's wars, the Great Depression, and the civil rights movement.
Featured New Release: The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid by Matt Wallace
Max's first year of middle school hasn't been easy. Eighth-grade hotshot Johnny Pro torments Max constantly, for no other reason than Max is fat and an easy target. Max wishes he could fight back, but he doesn't want to hurt Johnny . . . just make him feel the way Max feels.
In desperation, Max writes to the only person he thinks will understand: imprisoned supervillain Master Plan, a "gentleman of size." To his surprise, Master Plan wants to help! He suggests a way for Max to get even with Johnny Pro, and change how the other kids at school see them both.?
Add The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid to your tbr here. Order it from your local independent bookseller, or order it via Bookshop.org to support independent booksellers throughout the US and the UK. For international shipping, you can try Barnes & Noble. If you prefer audiobooks, here’s a Libro.fm link. You can also request The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid from your local library — here’s how to get in touch with them. And if you need to order from the Bad River Website, here’s a link that will leverage your order for good.
Don’t miss Matt’s launch event on Wednesday at Copper Dog Books! Click here to register.
Bert & Calamity continue to grow at an alarming pace. They no longer fit side-by-side in the little bed at the top of their cat tower, which doesn’t stop them from trying to make it work. This week, they discovered the limitless wonder to be found in the process of going into a paper bag and rasslin around.
That’s it for this week!
If you’re a paying subscriber, come by the Stone Soup Supper Club for our weekly chat! The link for this month’s coworking date will be at the top of the post tomorrow — join me at 11am Pacific tomorrow for a couple of hours in which I’ll try to fix the book I broke.
See you there!