Friday, October 24th, 2014

October Horror-Themed ReadaThing Starts Today

It’s not too late to join in our Halloween week ReadaThing! All are welcome, and you don’t have to read for the entire week: the goal is to have a few people from around the world reading at any given time during the ReadaThing. As with all ReadaThings, you’re welcome to read whatever you like, though we’re aiming for a seasonal horror theme this time around.

This edition of ReadaThing will be kicking off at 12am (midnight) UTC on Saturday, October 25th (that’s 8pm Eastern, Friday October 24th), and will end at the same time on the following Saturday—12am UTC, November 1st (8pm Eastern, Friday, October 31st). You can see the full timeline here.

Sign up

Head directly to the October 2014 ReadaThing Wiki to sign up, or check out the announcement thread for more general information. You don’t have to pick a time slot in advance in order to participate! There’s a special place for readers who don’t want to commit to a specific schedule to sign up.

What are you reading?

Whether you’d like to check out what your fellow ReadaThing-ers are reading, or to share your own ReadaThing picks, head over to the What will you be reading? thread to see what books are slated. Remember: anything goes! You can read whatever you want, wherever you want.

Get ready to read

Once the ReadaThing is underway, keep an eye out for the “October 2014 ReadaThing: Log Book” thread, where you can document your ReadaThing experiences. Take a peek at the Log Book thread from our last ReadaThing in August/September, for examples.

ETA: The October 2014 ReadaThing Log Book can be found here!

If you’ve never done ReadaThing before, give it a try, and stay tuned to the ReadaThing group for updates. Thanks to LT member jjmcgaffey for organizing this ReadaThing!

Labels: readathon, reading

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Q&A with Mallory Ortberg

Some excerpts from our interview with Mallory Ortberg, which initially appeared in October’s State of the Thing newsletter.

Mallory Ortberg has written for Gawker, New York Magazine, The Hairpin, and The Atlantic. She is also—along with partner in crime/editing Nicole Cliffe—the co-creator of The Toast, a general-interest website geared toward women. Since its debut in July 2013, The Toast has developed quite a cult following.

Mallory’s first book, Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters (out November 4, 2014) is the next step in the popular Texts From series featured on The Toast. It is also a riot.

Loranne caught up with Mallory this month to talk about her work.

Your book is essentially what it says on the tin, but, in case anyone is unclear on the subject, could you tell the audience at home what Texts from Jane Eyre is all about, in a nutshell?

Sure. It is… it is slightly less gimmicky than it sounds, I think, because it’s really very specific jokes about very specific literary characters. The premise, you know, is pretty much “WHAT IF CELL PHONES BUT THE PAST,” but the phones aren’t really the point, the point is all the horrifically selfish behavior exhibited by some of our favorite protagonists throughout the Western canon. It’s jokes about books.

As someone who is hailed as the Queen of the Internet (or at least a very specific subset of the Internet) right now, why did you decide to turn Texts from Jane Eyre into a book? Was there a particular story or character the served as a jumping-off point?

Oh gosh, to be quite honest, I decided to turn it into a book because someone offered me money to do it. I mean, I don’t think the offer would have been made if the series didn’t seem viable, but basically someone said “I think this would make a good book and here is some money to prove it,” and I said “Thank you,” and wrote enough words to earn that money. Otherwise I’d probably just have kept on doing it for free on the internet, like a chump.

It started as just Texts From Scarlett O’Hara, but then I found myself thinking about so many other literary characters, and I didn’t want to stop. By Little Women, I think, I’d realized that this was something a lot of people were having fun with, not just me, and that it was the sort of thing that could go on for a long time.

You can see Mallory talk more about the beginnings of the Texts From series—and her inspiration for the book—here.

You seem to have a deep and abiding love for the source materials in a lot of Texts from Jane Eyre. Who were your favorite and/or least favorite characters to write text sessions for?

I DO. Oh, Lord, do I ever. I have no unfavorites in the book, any unfavorites were speedily culled from earlier drafts, but I think Jo March and Mr. Rochester have to rank pretty high. Maybe William Blake. The really creepy ones, who yell a lot, they’re quite dear to my heart.

See Mallory talk about Emily Dickinson and her other favorite characters to write about here.

Were there any planned characters or authors you wanted to include in this book that just didn’t work out?

Yes, but I don’t remember many of them. It was pretty clear, pretty quickly, what concepts weren’t going to work, and we ditched them early on. I think Faulkner fell by the wayside, as did Dante. I couldn’t always find the right hook for the characters.

In the process of writing Texts from Jane Eyre, did you go back and re-read any of the classics you used for inspiration?

I did! It was enormously fun.

I’m a huge fan of your work on The Toast, and—please don’t take this the wrong way—while Texts from Jane Eyre has its distinctly weird moments (William Blake is a personal favorite), it isn’t quite so out of nowhere as some of your other work. Where do pieces like “Erotica Written by an Alien Pretending Not to Be Horrified by the Human Body” come from?

THE ALIEN IS ME. Oh man, the alien is me. I find the entire world to be out of nowhere, and horrifying, and creepy as all hell. I mean, everything in that piece is true, you know? We use our mouths for breathing AND eating AND intimacy? Sometimes for more than one of those functions at the same time? We act like it’s normal because we’re used to it, but good Lord, that’s just bad planning. We put bits of ourselves into other people for prolonged periods of time, and that’s what sex is! It’s great, you know, and it’s perfectly normal, but if you stop to think about it for more than a few minutes, it can really throw you for a loop.

» For more from Mallory, check out our full interview here!

Labels: author interview

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

October catalog improvements

The last few days have seen three small improvements to “Your Books.”

1. Dewey Wording I’ve added a column for “Dewey Wording,” bringing the textual descriptions of your Dewey numbers (a.k.a. DDC, MDS) numbers into the catalog, if you want them. To get it, Edit your styles or click the “cog” (i.e., ) on the style control (i.e., Screenshot 2014-10-23 10.27.13) within your catalog.

Screenshot 2014-10-23 10.11.09

All the wordings are clickable, and like clicking a DDC number, they take you into the (awesome, but not often known-about) DDC mode.

Screenshot 2014-10-23 09.13.05

2. Faster LCC/Dewey Sorting. Sorting your catalog in Library of Congress Classification (LCC) or Dewey (DDC) is now faster for large libraries. Here’s a speed breakdown.

3. More sorts. You can now sort by three new fields: Private comments, LCCN and OCLC Number.

See also the Talk post about these changes.

Labels: classification, new feature, new features, Uncategorized

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

AllHallowsThing 2014

Today marks the launch of our 2nd Annual AllHallowsThing Contest!

“What is AllHallowsThing?” you ask? Last year, we asked you to send us pictures of your literary-themed Halloween costumes and pumpkins, and boy, were we impressed.Your submissions knocked our socks off.

Help us celebrate Halloween once again!

How to enter

  • Choose one (or both!) of the two categories.
    • Costume: Dress up as a character, object, etc. from your favorite book.
    • Pumpkin: Decorate a literary pumpkin!
  • Take photos of your costume/pumpkins.
  • Upload your photos to your member gallery.
  • Be sure to tag your photos. Tag them with “AllHallowsThing2014“. Yes, capitalization matters.
  • Go ahead and add a title, description, etc., detailing how you made your costume or creation.
  • Deadline: Be sure to submit your costumes and pumpkins by 6pm Monday, November 10th to be considered for one of our fantastic prizes!

Prizes

On November 11th, LibraryThing staff will have a top secret meeting in which we’ll choose winners for each category.

Grand Prize: One per category

Runners Up: Two per category

  • Your choice of a LibraryThing t-shirt, stamp, or CueCat
  • A lifetime LibraryThing gift membership

Fine print: You can enter as many times as you like, to either category, but you can only win one prize. By entering the contest, you certify that your creation is your own. All decisions regarding winners will be made by LibraryThing staff, and our decisions are final, damn it. LT staff and family can enter, but can only be honored as prize-less honorable mentions. We reserve the right to use your photo, but the copyright remains yours. You can release them under a copyleft license.

Questions? Comments? Post links and questions here on Talk.

Labels: AllHallowsThing, contest, contests, Uncategorized

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Interview with Gregory Maguire

Some excerpts from our interview with author Gregory Maguire, which initially appeared in September’s State of the Thing.

Prolific American author Gregory Maguire is best known for his adept reimaginings of classic children’s tales, like Snow White, Cinderella, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. His latest work, Egg & Spoon follows the adventures of a princess and a peasant girl—along with a host of interesting and absurd companions—in their home country of early 20th century Russia.

Maguire’s passion for children’s literature extends beyond writing, into teaching, as well as co-founding Children’s Literature New England, a nonprofit devoted to promoting awareness of the significance of literature in children’s lives.

Loranne caught up with Gregory this month to talk writing, reading, and witches, particularly Baba Yaga, who appears in Egg & Spoon (released earlier this month).

For readers who haven’t had a chance to read Egg & Spoon yet, can you give us the nutshell version of the story?

Egg & Spoon—imagining a high-concept spin such as they parody in skits about Hollywood—is The Prince and the Pauper, except with girls, meets Frozen, except everything is melting instead of freezing.

This book has stories nested within each other, much like the iconic, and, here, ubiquitous matryoshka dolls. Why did you choose to structure the narrative that way?

One instance of maturation, I think, is when the innocent untried soul comes to appreciate other ways of being, other peoples’ needs. Nesting stories one inside the other is a way of making sure that the characters have to grate against one another, often uncomfortably, as they accommodate themselves to ways of being that are foreign, unsavory, or just weird. This is part of how children grow up (and part of why reading about situations other than those you know perfectly well already is such a joy and offers such benefit).

Your Baba Yaga is full of anachronism, whimsy, and life. I read that you were a big fan of the Baba Yaga stories that were published in Jack and Jill magazine when you were younger. What other sources did you draw upon in conjuring such a vivid and timeless character?

A friend who read the book recently said that Baba Yaga reminded her of Phyllis Diller. I am glad I didn’t think of that myself… Though your question puts me in mind of other grotesquely egocentric characters. I shall restrain myself only to characters in literature, not in the political sphere… Baba Yaga, as I see her now that you ask, is a little bit of Vicki Lawrence’s Mama in those Carol Burnett skits; and a little bit of Barbra Streisand being Dolly Levi; and maybe Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles; and certainly Miss Piggy. But this is a review of influences after the fact: the witch just spoke herself to me with wit, with lacerating antagonism and iconoclasm, and with the loopy disassociatedness of someone on the edge of a mild mental disorder.

Many adult readers know you as the man who brought The Wicked Witch of the West to life, and now you’ve given us a Baba Yaga who is many things, including relatable. What is it about witches that draws you to them as characters?

I mostly love the fact that because of their power and their insularity, witches don’t have to answer to anyone nor to fashion their behavior to suit the proprieties of their neighbors. I myself am hopelessly accommodating. This makes writing about witches both therapeutic and inspirational to me. The next time I get another request to give to a good cause I’ve already paupered myself over, I can think, “What would Baba Yaga do?” and behave accordingly. And then make plans to go into the Witness Protection Program.

Egg & Spoon is narrated by Brother Uri, an imprisoned monk who sees events unfold through the eyes of birds. Who or what inspired Brother Uri’s character?

Another friend who just read the book pointed out that “Uri” is the way you pronounce the final two syllables of the name “Gregory.” Brother Uri is selfish, myopic, anarchic, but his intentions are good. I myself have worn glasses since I was six.

The book is full of axiomatic statements that, I felt, really rang true—”That’s the beginning of heroism, the decision to try,” “Liberty is costly, but so glamorous,” for example. Are these based on things you believe, or are they more the product of the nature of the story?

What a good question! Axioms like the ones you mention—they all come from Brother Uri—are dependent on the story for their resonance. And yet, as the story itself and its meaning derive from me, I suppose you could make the case that these statements are things I do believe in, or I wouldn’t have conceived of the plot points that would make those statements ring true.

»For more from Gregory, check out our full interview here!

Labels: author interview

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

October Early Reviewers

The October 2014 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 125 titles this month, with a grand total of 3,247 copies to give out.

If you haven’t already, sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing/email address and make sure they’re correct.

» Then request away!

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, October 27th at 6pm Eastern.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, Israel, Australia, France, Germany, and many more! Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Taylor Trade Publishing Lion Fiction Ashland Creek Press
Chronicle Books City Lights Apex Publications
Crown Publishing Tundra Books Henry Holt and Company
Raincloud Press Prufrock Press CarTech Books
William Morrow December House Crux Publishing
McBooks Press Cool Gus Publishing Firbolg Publishing
Penelope Pipp Publishing John Ott Seventh Rainbow Publishing
Quirk Books Algonquin Books HCI Books
Random House Spiegel & Grau Akashic Books
Eyes That See Publishing Minoan Moon Publishing Westchester Publishing
SkitterBird, LLC Dynamic Learning Organization Diagnostics, Inc.
Rockridge Press Bethany House HighBridge Audio
Recorded Books Human Kinetics Booktrope
BookViewCafe R.A. Reene Atlas Press
Elie Press, LLC Bantam Dell Ballantine Books
ForeEdge Vinspire Publishing, LLC Prospect Park Books
JournalStone Palgrave Macmillan Sfuzzi Publishing
Monkfish Book Publishing Company Penscript Publishing House EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers Orca Book Publishers Raven Reads

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Interview with Ann Leckie

Some excerpts from our interview with author Ann Leckie, which initially appeared in September’s State of the Thing.

St. Louis, Missouri native Ann Leckie is a woman who’s worn many hats over time, among them that of waitress, receptionist, and recording engineer. She began writing short fiction a number of years ago, but it is was with her 2013 debut novel, Ancillary Justice, that she added award-winning author to that list. In August 2014, it became the first novel ever to win the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

Loranne caught up with Ann this month to talk about the fascinating world she’s created, and new developments in the second installment of the Imperial Radch trilogy, Ancillary Sword (out October 7, 2014).

For our readers who haven’t yet had a chance to read Ancillary Sword, or its predecessor Ancillary Justice, can you give us the story in a nutshell?

Basically, the main character is the last remnant of a starship that’s been destroyed. She spends most of Ancillary Justice looking for revenge on the person who destroyed her, and in Ancillary Sword she is beginning to deal with the fallout of that revenge—including the very unexpected fact that she survived it.

Where did the Imperial Radch trilogy begin for you? What inspired this world?

I’m not sure there was a single thing. I spent a lot of time just playing with things, putting them together in different ways and seeing what they made, and eventually the world resulted from that process. Ancillaries—and the basic outlines of Justice of Toren’s fate—were pretty early in that process, though.

These are such fascinating books in terms of exploring identity and the self. In Ancillary Justice, we met protagonist Breq Mianaai (the solitary individual), One Esk (the single body as part of a whole military unit), and Justice of Toren (the ship itself) in all three incarnations. These latter two identities having been destroyed, it’s clear that, in Ancillary Sword, Breq is still grieving this massive loss. How did you find Breq continuing to grow as both a character and an individual in this novel?

Breq never did think she would survive the events of Ancillary Justice. I think for the twenty years leading up, it was as though she was walking on a broken leg. It didn’t matter much if it hurt, or if it got fixed, or if the injury got worse as she went along, because she had one thing to do and once she did it that would be it for her.

But having actually survived, and finding herself with a ship, and its crew, not to mention Seivarden’s clear loyalty to her, she has to find a way to navigate actually living a life, with people she isn’t just passing by on her way to some other ultimate goal.

Everyone in the Radch empire uses feminine pronouns to refer to other individuals. It’s a cultural distinction for the Radch: while it is clear that individuals present as one or the other of a gender binary, everyone is “she.” I read in another interview that you hadn’t originally planned this as you began writing Ancillary Justice. What led you to this decision, and did it present any challenges during the writing process? Did it change the way you viewed your own characters?

A number of things led me to my decision to use “she” for everyone. But basically, I had tried to write in this universe using all “he” and was really unsatisfied with the result. The more I thought about it, the more I decided that what I disliked was the way it reinforced the idea of a masculine default, and did nothing at all to make the world seem gender-neutral or uncaring about gender. It just made it sound like a world full of men, and how is that different from a zillion other science fiction stories?

Some time during the process of drafting Ancillary Justice I read Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, which features people who are ungendered, for whom she had decided to use the pronoun “he.” Later she wrote fiction set on the same world using “she” and the effect is quite different. That solidified in my mind my reasons for preferring “she” for Ancillary Justice.

It certainly did change how I viewed the characters. I had begun the very first draft assigning gender to characters and using “he” and “she” as appropriate. So characters from very early in the process were in fact assigned a gender—but as I rewrote them using “she” and as I got farther into the book, their gender and the way I visualized them began to slip around a bit in my mind, which I thought was interesting.

What was your favorite scene or character to write in Ancillary Sword?

Oh, gosh, that’s hard to say. There are several scenes that were high points during my writing, and many of them would be serious spoilers. Certainly I enjoyed writing Tisarwat, particularly the scene in Chapter 3, you know, that one. And Translator Dlique is a definite favorite of mine, she was very fun to write. And I definitely very much enjoyed writing the scene where, as you say, the chaos gets turned up to 11.

But very often, in general, I enjoy writing stress and mayhem. I remember while I was at Clarion West (which is a six week writers workshop in Seattle, you’re supposed to at least try to turn in a story a week, which is awfully fast paced for me) I was working on something particularly difficult and getting close to deadline, and I had gotten up early to try to get some work done. I came down to breakfast and everyone said, “Ann, you’re in such a good mood and it’s so early!” And I said, happily, “Oh, I just dismembered my protagonist!” And of course they were all writers so they understood exactly what I meant. (I eventually sold that story to Electric Velocipede, and it was reprinted recently by Tor.com, “Night’s Slow Poison,” and I’m still quite fond of that scene!) So with that in mind, you can probably pick out my favorite bits without my even naming them.

»For more from Ann, check out our full interview here!

Labels: author interview

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

New Feature: Comments Revamp

Today we’re unveiling a major upgrade in how LibraryThing handles comments.

» You can skip all this talk and just see your comments page now.

The old system—in place since the dawn of LibraryThing (back when MySpace was on top and Facebook was just for Harvard Students)—was simple: everyone had a “comments” section on their profile. But it had drawbacks:

  • Real conversation was nigh-impossible. Messages “lived” in two separate places, with Person A writing on Person B’s profile, and person B replying on person A’s profile. Context was non-existent.
  • Everything was a comment—real comments, notes to people looking at your profile, system notifications, Early Reviewer notifications, etc.
  • Administration was a pain. There was no pagination, making some profiles unwieldy and slow. Members “archived” messages to get them off their profiles.

The new system is designed to fix all these problems, and add some features:

  • Comments now have a dedicated page, available from your profile and on every page.
  • You can now see “Conversations” with other members–a view of all the comments you’ve sent back and forth. The member names that show up immediately below “Conversations” on the left-hand menu are your most recent conversations.
  • The left of the comments page shows recent conversations. Clicking “See all…” shows a rather complete overview of all the conversations you’ve had on LibraryThing, sorted by recentness or “most” (which conversations have the most comments). You can also see conversations by the first letter of a member’s name.
  • Replies “live” where they’re posted. Replying to a comment left on your “Wall” will both notify the other member of your reply, and also keep the two (or three, etc.) messages together, in context.
  • Your comments are split into your “Wall,” system notifications and social notifications. We’re going to be doing more with notifications, now that we can separate them from your “real” messages.
  • Early Reviewers notifications are separated out too, if you’re an Early Reviewer.
  • To round out the categories, there are also links to “Archived” and “All.”
  • Everything is paginated, so the pages are small and you aren’t scrolling forever.
  • Comments now allow Touchstones to works and authors, so you can type “[The Once and Future King]” or “[[Mark Twain]]” and it will turn them into links to that work or author.

Your “Comment Wall” still lives at the bottom of your profile. You can also get to your comments page from anywhere on LibraryThing by clicking the number in the upper-right corner next to your member name. When you have a new comment, that number will have a yellow background. You can also reach your comments page by going to http://www.librarything.com/comments.

In addition to separating out actual comments from system and Early Reviewers notifications, which each have their own , we’ve also added some header icons to these messages, so, if you’re looking at “All,” you’ll know right away what kind of comment you’ve got.

Below is a look at the “See all” page, which, in this case, gives you an idea of just how many conversations I have going. You can sort by most comments in a conversation, most recently updated conversation, or alphabetically by member name.

Click to enlarge

We’ve already got a lively discussion going on Talk: New Comments System.

Come tell us what you think!

Labels: new feature, new features

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Welcome Kristi

We’re thrilled to welcome Kristi (LT member kristilabrie) to the team, as our new Project Specialist for LibraryThing.com. Say “hi” on her LT profile or on the “Welcome Kristi” Talk topic.

Last month, LibraryThing began scouring the Portland area for a new Junior Social Media Specialist. We interviewed a number of excellent candidates, and after meeting Kristi, decided to take the job in a different direction. While Loranne will continue to run Early Reviewers, social media, etc., Kristi will be keeping tabs on site business like managing new feature requests, keeping track of progress, and following up on bug reports. Expect to see a lot of her on Talk!

About Kristi

Kristi’s passions are eating, cooking, exploring the outdoors, eating, travel, and eating (did we mention she loves food?). While studying for her B.A. in Zoology, Kristi spent a semester in Tasmania where she fed kangaroos, explored the rainforest, and interacted with Tasmanian Devils. In 2010 she graduated and moved to Portland for a summer with Environment America, U.S. PIRG, and the Human Rights Campaign.

Kristi fell in love with what the city of Portland had to offer and decided to start planting her roots. She worked as an administrator at an independent children’s school for a few years and cultivated her love for lifelong learning, systems, and general technology geekery. She just recently purchased her first home with partner Chris in the summer of 2013. They live in a lake house with their two Maine Coon cats and hope to soon add a Golden Retriever puppy named Duncan to their family. In her spare time, Kristi is learning to kick box, paint, and practice permaculture on her property—where she can harvest food to eat. She loves DIY books and sci-fi novels!

Labels: employees

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

September Early Reviewers batch is live!

The September 2014 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 97 titles this month, with a grand total of 2,540 copies to give out.

If you haven’t already, sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing/email address and make sure they’re correct.

» Then request away!

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, September 29th at 6pm Eastern.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, Israel, Australia, France, Germany, and many more. Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Taylor Trade Publishing Candlewick Press Chronicle Books
Prufrock Press Apex Publications Tundra Books
CarTech Books Ballantine Books Books to Go Now
Wild Flower Press Summertime Publications Inc Aspidistra Press
Firbolg Publishing Henry Holt and Company Akashic Books
Horrific Tales Publishing Random House Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Fog Ink Rara Avis Plume
Medallion Press Plough Publishing House Crown Publishing
ForeEdge University Press of New England Dartmouth College Press
Dragonwell Publishing Algonquin Books Human Kinetics
Galaxy Press Kurodahan Press BookViewCafe
Recorded Books Quirk Books Rockridge Press
JournalStone Palgrave Macmillan McFarland
Copper Bay Press First Life Publishing Secant Publishing
Prospect Park Books

Labels: early reviewers, LTER