SFF Shenanigans: January’s DNF

So we tried. We really did. However, January’s selection A Memory Called Empire for Hodderscapes’s was a bust for both Jessica and I. Not to despair, we did read something for January anyway, Nnedi Okorafor’s Broken Places and Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected for the Nonfiction by an SFF author category, which we’ll be posting about in a separate post. In this post though, Jess and I will be going through why we DNF’d this book and what our criteria for a DNF (Did Not Finish) is.


I DNF way easier than I used to. I have no real criteria. If I put it down and never feel the need to pick it back up…DNF. I figure I’m already going to die with books unread so why waste that time on books that don’t interest me. This is a long time in coming. I used to think I had to read all the books I ever picked up because we’re not supposed to quit, right? Take on a job of being a bookseller and that goes right out the window. There are deadlines for review publications, or newsletters, or just there’s always a new book coming out. I tried reading A Memory Called Empire not only in print, but also listening on audio. I couldn’t get through the first chapter. The pacing was just too slow for me. It felt clunky and disjointed.


A Memory Called Empire did a really specific thing that I don’t like in books -it tried to give us a way that another group of beings communicate. In this case, the aliens used body language that was super specific and very different from how the human characters do. I appreciate the effort, and I actually do like thinking about how communication would work between two groups that have different frames of reference for aspects of language that we take for granted (intonation, body language, facial expression, etc). That said, I didn’t think it was executed well. Every single time two characters interacted, we got at least a line or two about how and why communication was hard and how they were missing each other. It got repetitive and frustrating to read. (Another example of this done poorly, in my opinion, is Bel Canto by Anne Patchett, while The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers is one that does this really well.)

When talking about this blog post, Karena asked me to talk a bit about “the art of the DNF,” and that phrase has kind of stuck in my head. It is definitely something that I think of as more of an art than a science. The one feeling that I keep coming back to is – do I want to be reading this? If I noticed that I’m picking up my Switch more than my book or spending a lot of time on Instagram or putting on re-runs of old TV shows, then I’m probably just about to DNF a book. Of course, there are exceptions – if I get really into a new game or TV show or audiobook, then I like to lean into that. But if I’m spending a lot of time with my brain “turned off,” it’s probably because I’m not engaged in what I’m reading. I don’t like my brain turned off. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, so if I’m actively avoiding it, I put down whatever I’m reading. If I never come back it it, then it was likely the book’s fault that I wasn’t engaged, and I move on. All of that to say that I agree with Karena. There are too many books that I’m never going to read, so why waste my time with something I don’t really like?

Do you ever DNF? Do you have criteria you have to meet before you do? What was your last one? Have you read A Memory Called Empire? Let us know in the comments.

Task 17: A Collection of Poetry: Dragonfly Dance

I’m going to be honest here. I felt more trepidation reading Dragonfly Dance by Denise K. Lajimodiere, then the erotica romance earlier in the week.  Even though I went through an angsty period in high school writing poetry that my parents and friends pretended to gush over, I don’t really know too much about it. All my stuff was pretty self evident about what I was talking about. When I think of reading poetry, I worry that I’m missing some hidden message that smarter people are nodding at and applauding the poet’s use of metaphors.

Dragonfly Dance probably had some metaphors I wasn’t getting, however it seems most of Lajimodiere’s emotions could be seen on the surface, even by this Philistine. Among others there were poems about abuse, living on the reservation, and the white perception of Native Americans. My heart broke at times, but also it filled with tenderness. One of my favorites was “Grand Forks;” I lived there for 2 years and chortled at the line “how can anyone live here?” Another was “May 11, 1980” which was about a mom whose little girl tells her she wants to be white when she grows up because that’s all she’s seeing in magazines. That one broke my heart and continued to cement my belief that we have a long way to go in diversity in our media. The one that made me chuckle was “Kicking Thunder” because it’s about a little boy who is scared of the thunderstorm that’s happening, but only wearing a diaper he goes and gets his cowboy boots to go outside to “kick the thunder.” I have two little boys and it is something they would do.

I am going to try a bit harder to read more poetry. I definitely like Lajimodiere’s writing so her writing is something I’m  extremely interested in reading more of.

Anyone else intimidated by poetry? Any tips to work through the intimidation? Do you have a favorite collection? Favorite poet?