Where Gillian is Peeved

Every time I am invited to a Christmas party, I have to decide whether I should go. If it’s a friend asking me to share their celebration of their Christmas, I accept with joy. If it’s a public or professional event that’s called a “Christmas Party”, one of the implications is that if I don’t accept Christmas as a part of my life, then I am not really acceptable as I am, with my own views and culture, in that environment.

Not that the organisers articulate it in this way. Recently, when I asked a professional group what they meant by “Christmas” they explained that it was secular. While this was perfectly acceptable for them, they demonstrated that a secularised version of a religious celebration was seen as acceptable for all shapes of religion and belief because they explained to me (and they know I’m Jewish) that it was secular for me, too. This tells those of us without Christian backgrounds that there is a certain way we should live our lives.

How the lead-up to Christmas is depicted in Australia is related to this. There is an “Advent” book box being advertised right now. It takes the word “Advent” (which refers to a very particular coming birthday) and one can open one wrapped book a day from 1 December until Christmas Day. I’m told it is, also, not religious. But there are never any book boxes for the festivals of other religions. Instead, we are all asked to accept the redefined religious words for Christianity.

Whether these explanations work for me, for you, for someone else, depends on our background.

For me, it creates a disjuncture between the home and the outside world. The values in my home are Jewish, and my parents taught me that I should not celebrate others’ festivals for myself. Why? It’s an acceptance that their religion takes precedence over my own. In their homes, that’s a sign of respect. In my home, why don’t my own traditions and belief take precedence? In public events and shared places, explaining that a thing is secular not only sets the Christian festival as something that is shared by everyone (when it, frankly, is not) but it also rubs it in that my views do not matter.

The fact that someone explaining Christmas to me as secular shows how they set their own atheism in a cultural context. It also demonstrates that they’re not listening to people who have different contexts.

Cultural respect and religious respect involve understanding how the person we’re talking to sees the subject we’re talking about. This entails accepting multiple interpretations of an event. Do you leave someone out of a group because they can’t eat peanuts? Or do you make sure that there is shared food everyone can eat?

This is my annual rant on the subject. Shorter than usual because it’s 1 am here and bed beckons.

I shall skip the Christmas party, because I’m not convinced the person organising knows much about Christianity. Also, I won’t buy the books. Instead, on the day of the party, I shall tell anyone who wants to hear my two favourite miracles for St Nicolas (the children and the bones, for anyone who has had to suffer my tale-telling) for the party is on his holy day and he’s the bloke who became Santa Claus. I need to practise what I preach, in other words. If you who want to hear about the pickled children and how they are Santa’s backstory, please ask.

On the book-front, I’m doing my own thing. I will send book parcels on behalf of anyone who wants to give presents to friends and family in Australia. This is actually not my response to the religion issue. It’s my response to books being a bit difficult to buy and to international mail being a lost cause. If you know anyone wants to give presents to anyone in Australia over the next few weeks, check here: https://gillianpolack.com/sale-until-18-december-or-until-the-books-run-out/

I have nothing against presents (I adore presents), after all. My objection is to people who insist that my own background doesn’t matter a jot.

Two Things

It’s been a difficult fortnight. Every time this happens all I want to do is cry in a corner. Alas, for me, I’m not really a crying in corner kind of person. I’m a “What can I do?” person, mostly. (If I’m not, you know there is something really, really, REALLY wrong.) This means I’ve done two things this fortnight that are over and above my usual. One is to do with writers and the other is to do with a book.

The book is probably the best thing I will ever work on. I was wondering why I hadn’t heard from the publisher in years. We sorted out what had happened and all is well in terms of communications, but I looked at the sales and realised that the word never got out about this book when it was published in the US. It sold nicely in Australia, then was taken up by a US press then fell into a black hole. This happens to a surprising number of books. This one volume, however, is special and needs to emerge from its black hole.

So what is this mysterious book? It’s an anthology called Baggage, and I was the editor.  Let me give you a link.  

I work (a lot, and for many years) on the subject of culture. I’m not only an ethnohistorian, I’m passionate about how we depict and share culture. When I told some of Australia’s best science fiction, fantasy and horror writers that I was interested in them writing me stories that explained cultural baggage… this book was the result. In a perfect world, I’d also edit one for, say, US writers, and French writers and Polish writers and more and we’d all have a marvellous ongoing conversation through short story about how fiction can explain cultural baggage. That was my dream. My reality, now, is that I’d be happy if these wonderful stories in this very Australian volume were read. I want everyone to enjoy everything from the sentient glacier to the way societies can fall apart and the way we can carry our history with us everywhere.

The second thing is that Australian science fiction circles are ready to deal with the ongoing affects of people being cut off from each other, and I’m a part of how we’re handling it. Prior to this some of us meet once a month, but it’s private. Now the Australian Science Fiction Foundation is setting up a room online where writers can meet up once a week, just to chat. Most of the writers interested so far are in rural and regional Australia, which may make this a longterm proposition. All our other ideas (“our” being the Australian Science Fiction Foundation, of course) will appear in due course, but our chat starts this Thursday.

This is another type of dream, I think. I want people to have more tools for talking about culture and about heritage and place in society, and the best short story writers give us those tools. I want people to be less isolated, full stop. The pandemic has given us all sorts of capacities we didn’t have earlier that help along these lines. In my perfect world having a bad fortnight, or living far from people, or having physical limitations due to disabilities should be an excuse for pulling together, not falling apart.

I’m still dealing with the effects of my bad fortnight, but at least I’m up to the pulling together stage.

There Be Dragons, Yes, Dragons in the Stars!

Dragons everywhere! Dragons in the Stars: A Novel of the Star Rigger Universe has just appeared in its first new print edition in… well, I don’t want to think how many years. Never mind that—here it is! If you’re one of those people who likes paper books better than ebooks, look no further, because I think this is a pretty frickin’ nice edition, if I do say so myself. And presentation aside, dragons roaming the interstellar Flux is just not something you see every day. Continue reading “There Be Dragons, Yes, Dragons in the Stars!”

Cavalcade of Audiobooks

The Infinite Sea audiobook coverI didn’t start out thinking I would discount the entire Chaos Chronicles series in audiobook format. But when Chirp Books approved a special promotion on The Infinite Sea (just $2.99! right now!), one thing led to another. They suggested I steeply discount some of the other books in the series to keep the hoped-for wave of sales going, and I thought that sounded like a fine idea. By the time I was done, I’d put the entire series on sale! Even Blackstone Audio, which publishes the first book, Neptune Crossing, has graciously joined in.

That’s six audiobooks, all discounted at up to 80% off list price. All narrated by the incredible Stefan Rudnicki. Limited time, folks. Limited time only. These prices will never be lower!

If you’re not familiar with Chirp Books, it’s an audiobookstore owned by Bookbub, and they offer daily super-deals of really good books, just like Bookbub. Except in the case of Chirp, they actually sell the books, and don’t just advertise them. (You need the Chirp app to listen to them. But it’s a good app, similar to the Audible app. I use it myself, all the time, because I like deals on audiobooks.)

SNAP THEM UP NOW

Seriously, though, why am I doing this? With these discounts, I won’t make much on any individual sale. But it can help put these books into the hands (ears?) of lots of readers. And that’s the real reason. I want people to be able to download, and enjoy, the whole series without spending a fortune. And, I hope, the resulting momentum and reviews will spur further sales—and help me earn back the cost of producing these books within my lifetime.

So, if you try these books and you enjoy them, please do me the return favor of posting reviews. It really makes a difference!

By the way, probably because I’m out of my mind, I’m also applying a similar special promotional discount in the Apple store. So all you Apple purists, come on down!

While supplies last, limited time only!

Science Fiction Story Bundle from SFWA!

SFWA Story Bundle - book covers

A terrific new Story Bundle has just been released, and I’m part of it! It’s called the The Expansive Futures Sci-Fi Bundle, and it’s curated and sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). It’s a great way to get a big pile of great new books for almost nothing, and support a good cause in the process. It’s a terrific deal. https://storybundle.com/scifi

I’m going to let Amy Duboff explain it. She’s the one who oversaw the curation of the package: Continue reading “Science Fiction Story Bundle from SFWA!”

Etsy and Me, and Coffee* Makes Three!

Chaos 1-4 Tor hardcovers

Back in the day, I used to sell autographed copies of my books from my website, by way of a simple pricelist page that could be printed and mailed to me. I didn’t sell a lot, but it helped me connect with some readers. Then the web got more complicated, and sales tax got more complicated, and I gave up on that model. Now, I’m selling autographed books through Etsy! Yes, that place you go to (statistically more likely if you are female) to buy crafts and things. It turns out you can sell books there, too, and a number of authors and booksellers do just that. Now I am, too.

Here’s what I’ve got in my StarRiggerBooks store so far:

All autographed and personalized as requested. Great gift ideas, right? Come and be my customer! Or share it with a book-loving friend!

*You didn’t think I could build an Etsy store without the help of coffee, did you?