Review: Rocket Fuel or the most amazing anthology ever!

Hello people! I hope you all are safe and happy, and that you are having a great time! Today I am here with a review, but it would be a strange one, I am warning you. Because this is a review for a non-fiction book, and an anthology of essays about fiction at that. So, I would try my best, because, little spoiler ahead, I loved this book, and I want to share it, because it really deserves to be known and read, but I am not sure about how to go about it so… I’ll try and hope for the best!

Title: Rocket Fuel. Some of the best from Tor.com Non-Fiction
Editors: Bridget McGover & Chris Lough
Pages: 291
Publication Date: July 17th, 2018

A collection of some of the best feature articles from Tor.com’s 10 year history as an online sci-fi/fantasy literature magazine. Read:

– An intimate moment under the covers that bloomed into a lifetime lived through sci-fi/fantasy.
– A fierce defense of fan fiction.
– The history of Wheel of Time author Robert Jordan, and the story of the reader who had her future rewritten in turn.
– A deeply unwise thought experiment that explains how centaurs eat.
– The story of one writer’s amazing day, starting out on her last dime and ending with her somehow hugging her idol, Terry Pratchett.
– And much more!

Rocket Fuel: Some of the Best From Tor.com Non-Fiction features essays from Seanan McGuire, Ursula Vernon, Jo Walton, Nisi Shawl, Kate Elliott, Becky Chambers, Kai Ashante Wilson, Sarah Gailey, Grady Hendrix, Judith Tarr, Lish McBride, Emily Asher-Perrin, Ryan Britt, Leah Schnelbach, Natalie Zutter, Molly Templeton, and more!

So, when I started it I was mildly curious but the biggest thing I was feeling was relief. I decided to read this one for Bingo, and I discovered it thanks on a recs on a thread on readdit. The only book that I own and that could have been right for the square (read a non fiction related sff book) was a dictionary of the world of Tolkien. And I really wasn’t in the mood for it, so the opportunity to read something else was just amazing (and the best part is that this book is free on Amazon, so what are you waiting for????). So I was quite happy about reading it, but I didn’t know what to expect. And it was love at first sight. Really!

This is really a book for readers by readers. You can really feel the passion and the love behind every single essay in this book. And there are so many topics in there, and so many different books/authors/series/movies and more mentioned in there. I think that everyone would find something of interest in there, and it is always amazing when you can really see the passion shine from the words. And this is the case. It was a wonderful experience.
And again, you can really find everything in there, from essays about the passion that link us as bookworms, to essays about the representation in books. From advice on how to write characters to characters examination in series and movies. From the amazing experience that reading something good give us to what we can really take away from books. And it was glorious.
I have not loved all the essays, but I loved most of them, and this is a record in itself. And I loved not only the ones that were speaking about books or authors that I love, but also the ones about books or authors that I don’t like. And again, this was glorious!
I think that I would try and talk really really shortly about all the ones that for me were 5 stars pieces. To make them justice I should write a proper review for each of them, but… sadly, I haven’t the time so I’ll try and do my best!

Under the covers with a flashlight: Our Lives as Readers by Emily Asher Perrin. The title says it all, really. This short article has brought me back when I first discovered reading. The magic of it, the marvel and the wonder of it. And of the time spent with my new friends when I should have been sleeping. It is something that I think it talks at the little bookworm that we all have been.

Sometimes, Horror is the Only Fiction That Understand You by Leah Schnelbach. This is an essay about King and about the importance that this author and his books had on the author when she was growing. I am not a fan of King. But I loved this article for a lot of different reasons. The minor one is that thanks to it I learned something more about King as an author, and as a person too, and it was mighty interesting. And the major one is that the author talks to us about the importance of having the right words to express what you are feeling or what you are experience. And this is one of the best gift that books can give us. A way to express, and hence elaborate and really make a part of our life that we can manage, something that is happening to us. Because making all that we experience, feel and do a part of our life, of our narration as people, is what make us able to cope. And this short essay was amazing and deep and interesting. And I think that it should be read everywhere!

The Bodies of the Girls Who Made Me: Fanfic and the Modern World by Seanan McGuire. I am not a fan of fanfiction. I don’t have anything against it, but I never read it. I get that in theory fanfic is right up my alley, because fandom are an amazing thing, and spending more time with characters that we love is a great thing. But I prefer to read books and even if I keep telling myself that I should read some fanfic, I never do it. But this essay was really interesting. It talks about the importance of fanfic as a way to find/write a representation right for you. Because it is true that in books you always see the same kind of hero (and okay, lately things are getting better because we don’t get to see always the same kind of MC), and not everybody felt represented by him/her. To be honest, the majority is not properly represented by it, but society presses us to identify with that model. And fanfic is a way, a fantastic way, to rebel to society and to this unjust pressure. And it was a point of view that I never considered but that it is just so on point! There is more to this than just that, obviously, and the fanfic community seems to be not so inclusive as it should be, and this is really a shame. And this article really made me think.

Writing Women Characters as Human Being by Kate Elliott. What she wrote about women characters in there is brilliant. On one hand what she wrote is something that, at least in some parts, should be obvious, but seeing representation of women in books, it isn’t. I am not a writer, but I am a reader, and what she wrote made me pause and think. And it was good.

Meet My Alien Family: Writing Across Cultures in Science Fiction by Becky Chambers. This was precious. We get to see where Chambers get inspiration for her amazing characters. And it is just good!

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (and why you should read it) by Leigh Butler. This was just so so interesting! I have started Jordan’s series ages ago and then life happened and I dropped it. It was just for a bit but… the bit became years and years. And so here I am. But I hope to go back to that series soon. And in the mean time I have consoled myself with this beautiful piece. It is deep, and interesting and it is also informative. I loved it, and if you are a fan of the series or if you are interested in starting it, you should read this one!

Robert Jordan: The American Tolkien by Michael Livingston. If you should read the previous one, you must read this one. Absolutely! It is interesting, a lot, and it would give you some new food for thoughts! It was an experience that I enjoyed a lot!

Good Idols: Terry Pratchett & the Appropriate Hug by Lish McBride. I may be a bit biased here, because I love Terry Pratchett, but it is a really intimate article about a lot of things. Even if it was more on the human side, and about the fact that authors are people and it is a personal anecdote, it was a feeling good reading.

The Peril of Being Disbelieved: Horror and the Intuition of Women by Emily Asher-Perrin. This was horrifying because it was so true, and I never saw it before. And it was quite… wow! How could I have missed it? And it is pretty on point. I think this is another one of those that everyone should read. For personal growth, at least, and to get a new point of view on something so mainstream.

What Rape Apologists Need to Learn From Jessica Jones by Natalie Zutter. I have never watched a Jessica Jones episode, and I never read the comics. But this is another essay that everyone should read. It is something pretty ordinary, at least, to me and to a lot of people (luckily), but it is not enough ordinary for other, or so it seems. And we need to read this. And everybody need to read this. Because “Rape Apologists” are two words that should never go together.

In Defense of Villainesses by Sarah Gailey. This one was my favorite. Without any doubts. (And keep in mind that all the pieces in this list are pieces that I have rated 5 out of 5!). This was so empowering, and so true. And just so so good.

Apologize to No One: V for Vendetta is More Important Today Than It Ever Was by Emily Asher-Perrin. Sometimes it is strange to see how something that was a critic for something in the past is so acutely actual today, too. To me sometimes it felt like in all our progress, in all our going forward, we really didn’t go anywhere. And this is one of those time, but we have also hope in there, and this is as important as all the rest!

Nobody Gets Mad About Hamlet Remakes: Why Superheroes Are the New Cultural Mythology by Ryan Britt. I didn’t agree on all it was said here, but it was interesting all the same. Nothing exceptional or life changing, but I enjoyed reading it, and it gave me some new POV. And this is worth something!

Not Saving the World? How Does That Even Work? by Jo Walton. This is a short essay, but it has a point. It is also informative, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. I know this is not really a comment at all, but the title is self-explicative!

Bouncy Prose and Distant Threats: An Appreciation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (or Sorcerer’s) Stone by Mari Ness. This piece took me back in time, when I first discovered Harry Potter. The magic of it, and the feeling that all was new and amazing. It was precious, that’s for sure!

In this anthology there are 34 essays. And I have rated of them stars. A lot of the others to me were or 3.5 stars, and just a couple of them didn’t interested me. This is something huge! And as I was saying before, to really make them all justice, every single one of them deserves a proper review. I hope to have at least interested you in this book, and I really hope for more people to read it (or to read the essays on Tor.com) because, really, there is something for everyone in there, and feeling in all of them the love for books, words and stories was something priceless!

What about you? Did you know this book (and the other like this one)? Are you interested?? Let me know!

Happy reading!
S.

13 thoughts on “Review: Rocket Fuel or the most amazing anthology ever!

  1. Tammy says:

    This really sounds good, and I’ve never heard of it so thanks for sharing. I occasionally read essays by SFF writers online, but its great that these are all collected in one book.😁

    Liked by 1 person

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