Where the Trains Turn November 19, 2014 Where the Trains Turn Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen His imagination runs wild. The Walk November 12, 2014 The Walk Dennis Etchison Creative differences can be brutal. Where the Lost Things Are November 5, 2014 Where the Lost Things Are Rudy Rucker and Terry Bisson Everything has to wind up somewhere. A Kiss with Teeth October 29, 2014 A Kiss with Teeth Max Gladstone Happy Halloween.
From The Blog
November 18, 2014
The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare’s Histories in the Age of Netflix
Ada Palmer
November 17, 2014
In Defense of Indiana Jones, Archaeologist
Max Gladstone
November 14, 2014
An Uncut and Non-Remastered List of Star Wars Editions!
Leah Schnelbach
November 13, 2014
Why Do We Reject Love as a Powerful Force in Interstellar?
Natalie Zutter
November 11, 2014
The Well-Lit Knight Rises: How 1960s Batman Shaped Our Bat-Thoughts Forever
Ryan Britt
Wed
Nov 12 2014 12:30pm

Rich and Strange: “Stalemate” by Rose Lemberg and “Bonsaiships of Venus” by Kate Heartfield

Lackington's Issue 4 A new issue of Lackington’s magazine, edited by Ranylt Richildis, went up this week, book-ended by two searingly beautiful meditations on the relationship between aesthetics and utility. This week on Rich and Strange, I want to talk about Rose Lemberg’s “Stalemate” and Kate Heartfield’s “Bonsaiships of Venus,” both far-future science fiction stories told in awe-inducing language. They’re also two stories that fit together in a way that delighted me into much-needed catharsis after a hard week of reading very upsetting fiction.

This week in Full Disclosure: Ranylt Richildis and Rose Lemberg are good friends and have both published me in their respective zines in the past (Lemberg edits Stone Telling), and I’m friendlily acquainted with Kate Heartfield.

[To the micro/macrocosm!]

Wed
Nov 5 2014 10:00am

Rich and Strange: “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” by Maria Dahvana Headley

Welcome to Rich and Strange, a weekly spotlight on short fiction I’ve thoroughly enjoyed! This week I want to look Maria Dahvana Headley’s “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White,” appearing in the inaugural issue of Uncanny Magazine.

It’s occurred to me that, given the permeable nature of professional relationships in our genre, I might change the name of this column to Full Disclosure, since I’m often hard put to find stories I love written by people or appearing in venues to which I have absolutely no connection. It’s a natural state of affairs in genre that we read a thing we love, meet the person who wrote it at a convention, strike up an acquaintanceship that becomes a friendship, and then find that we’re reading the excellent work of people we now chat with on a regular basis. So it goes – but I’ll always state those connections up front when they occur.

So for instance, this week in Full Disclosure, I reveal that I read “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” for Uncanny’s podcast (and was paid to do so); that I supported Uncanny’s Kickstarter; and that Headley once bought me a salad at Readercon. Personally what I think you should take away from this is that I loved “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” enough to tediously itemize the above because as we all know it’s actually about ethics in short fiction journalism.

[It was a tasty salad.]

Thu
Oct 30 2014 8:30am

Rich and Strange: “Witch, Beast, Saint” by C. S. E. Cooney

Grooming Earlier this autumn I was infuriated enough by a bigoted and incompetent review of a talented writer’s work that I decided to review it myself. The result was Rich and Strange, a commitment to review short fiction on a weekly basis, focusing on work in magazines that I’ve especially loved. I reviewed three stories—Sam J. Miller’s “We Are the Cloud,” Alyssa Wong’s “Santos de Sampaguitas,” and Kate Hall’s “The Scrimshaw and the Scream”—before taking Tor.com up on the invitation of running the column here.

Partly in honour of Liz Bourke’s Sleeps With Monsters column but mostly just because it’s dazzling, the first story I want to single out for praise in this venue is C. S. E. Cooney’s “Witch, Beast, Saint: an Erotic Fairy Tale.”

[Read More]

Tue
Oct 7 2014 1:30pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: The James Tiptree Award Anthology (Part 2)

James Tiptree Award AnthologyWelcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. In our last installment, we discussed some stories from the first half of The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1 (2005), edited by Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Debbie Notkin and Jeffrey D. Smith. As I noted last time, the Tiptree Award anthologies are a mix of nonfiction, novel excerpts, and short stories that, as the introduction says, “seduce or repel you. Instruct and surprise you. Push you around a bit. Take no prisoners. Make no apologies. […] stories for women. And stories for men. And stories for the rest of us, too.”

So, this week, I thought we’d finish off our discussion with the some stories from the second half of the collection: “Looking through Lace” by Ruth Nestvold and Karen Joy Fowler’s “What I Didn’t See.”

[Onward.]

Tue
Sep 23 2014 2:30pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: The James Tiptree Award Anthology (Part 1)

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. In our last installment, we discussed the final issue of Subterranean Magazine and were sad to see it go.

This time around, I thought I’d switch gears; we’ve been covering a lot of recent magazine publications, but less on the “not-so-recent stories” front. So, for the next two installments, I want to talk about some of the stories collected in The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1 (2005)—edited by Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Debbie Notkin and Jeffrey D. Smith, it collects a variety of stories that “expand and explore gender” along the lines of the titular annual award.

[Onward.]

Wed
Sep 17 2014 2:00pm

Devouring a Book from Cover to Cover: Monstrous Affections, Edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant

Monstrous Affections anthology review Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales is an original anthology edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant, containing over four-hundred pages of stories—some dark, some silly, some intense—that approach the theme of the “monster” from a variety of angles. It’s a hefty tome featuring popular names like Paolo Bacigalupi, Nathan Ballingrud, Holly Black, Nalo Hopkinson, Alice Sola Kim and more, as well as several folks who are fresh to me. It’s even got one short graphic story by Kathleen Jennings.

Link and Grant are a dynamic and talented editorial pair—their press, Small Beer, publishes books I love with a statistically significant success rate; their previous anthology work is also strong—and Monstrous Affections is a solid addition to their oeuvre. It’s equal parts playful and sharp-edged, fooling around with tropes and clichés here while weaving disturbing and intimate fictions there. And as a part of a conversation on the generic conventions of “young adult” fiction, this is also a fascinating text—in part a challenge, in part a celebration.

[A review.]

Tue
Sep 9 2014 11:00am

Short Fiction Spotlight: The Last of Subterranean Magazine (Summer ’14)

Subterranean Magazine final issue Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. In the last installment, I discussed a handful of flash stories from Daily Science Fiction; this time, I want to return to a publication I’ve discussed here a few times before—Subterranean Magazine. Except this turns out to be the last time I’ll be doing so, because the Summer ’14 issue is their last. It’s a real shame, since Subterranean tends to be a great purveyor of dark, weird fiction at lengths other places don’t tend to publish; I’ll miss it quite a bit.

But, as for this last issue: there are nine stories, one posthumous. More or less all of the names represented are regulars, the folks whose work I have looked forward to seeing in these pages—but, space and time being what they are, of the bunch I’ve chosen two stories: “West to East” by Jay Lake and “Grand Jeté (The Great Leap)” by Rachel Swirsky.

[Onward.]

Fri
Sep 5 2014 8:00am

Last Run: The Witch With No Name by Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison The Witch with No Name The thirteenth and final novel in Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, The Witch With No Name, returns one last time to the world of Rachel Morgan and her associates—and there are plenty of things to wrap up, from interspecies politics and survival to the more personal stuff like Rachel’s complex relationships with her chosen family. In this installment the question of vampires’ lost souls is finally on the table, while the conflict between elves and demons is also coming to a potentially catastrophic conclusion. As Rachel struggles to create a better and more inclusive world, or die trying, the threads Harrison has been weaving for years all come together.

The series’ first book, Dead Witch Walking, came out in 2004—so this has been a decade long journey for readers who’ve been around since the beginning. And, with the release of this book in September, it’s done. So, how’s it stack up?

[A spoiler-free review]

Tue
Aug 26 2014 9:00am

Unlocking John Scalzi’s Lock In

Lock In John Scalzi review

You know who’s going to love Lock In? John Scalzi fans. If you fit into that category, stop reading and just go buy the book. Read this article later. If, like me, your relationship with John Scalzi is complicated, keep reading.

Once, I loved Scalzi’s work. I found it witty and charming, with a perfect blend of action, humor, and drama. Once, I found his work indulgent and repetitive, with an overreliance on one voice and one perspective to carry the day. In both instances I was convinced I knew who John Scalzi was as a writer.

With Lock In, it’s time to reevaluate again.

[Unlocking Lock In]

Wed
Aug 20 2014 4:00pm

Short and to the Point: We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

We Are All Completely Fine Daryl Gregory review We Are All Completely Fine, recently released by Tachyon Publications, is a fresh novella from Daryl Gregory—clocking in at under two-hundred pages, it’s more or less an afternoon’s reading. The conceit of the piece is that the characters are all part of a therapy group for the “last survivor” (read: Final Girl, Final Boy) of supernatural catastrophe or violence; it’s a fairly metafictional mashup between a Lovecraftian universe and the more staid/predictable world of horror film.

I’m generally pleased to see presses—generally independent or small, like Tachyon—tackling the work of publishing stand-alone novellas; it’s an interesting length and form that doesn’t get as much show-room as it could use. So, while I’m perhaps outside of the general audience for much straight-up horror fiction, I thought I’d give this one a look; the story’s self-referential slyness and Gregory’s talented prose were also motivating factors.

[A review.]

Thu
Aug 14 2014 1:00pm

Life Experiences: Kaleidoscope edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios

Kaleidoscope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios, was one of the crowdfunding projects that caught my attention last year: it was to be a book of “diverse YA science fiction and fantasy stories,” dedicated to collecting otherwise less-heard-from voices and spotlighting minority narratives. And now, it’s finally out, containing fiction from names like Garth Nix, Sofia Samatar and Jim C. Hines as well as fresh faces like Alena McNamara.

The first thing I’ll note is that while Kaleidoscope is certainly a collection of stories about and for young adults, which I very much appreciate, it has a definite cross-generational appeal. The stories are strong narratively and affectively, and since most deal deeply in complex issues of identity—a pleasantly stunning variety of disabilities, sexualities, genders, and ethnicities all feature in this anthology—the overall tone is quite mature and nuanced.

[A review.]

Tue
Aug 12 2014 1:30pm

Pastoral Family Drama: The Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb Fool's Assassin

Oh, FitzChivalry. You self-flagellating, depression-suffering, and kindly-narcissist, I’ve missed you. Also, you infuriate me. Seriously, do you have any idea how angry it makes me to watch your turtle into your cocoon and wallow in self-pity, dragging down everyone you love and who loves you while you do it? Hulk angry. You would think thirty years later you’d be over some of your issues, but no… even into the silver years your wisdom is in short supply. If only you weren’t so damned interesting…

So begins my feelings on Robin Hobb’s most recent novel, Fool’s Assassin. Picking up many years after the end of the Tawny Man Trilogy, Fitz is living as Tom Badgerlock, the Holder of his daughter Nettle’s estate, with his wife, Molly. Her children and his are grown, leaving them with an empty nest and the duties of the estate to keep them busy. Of course, despite Fitz’s desire to isolate himself from the crown, Chade and King Dutiful seem to keep him on retainer as something of a consultant.

[Read More]

Tue
Jul 22 2014 11:00am

Queering SFF: Wilde Stories 2014, Edited by Steve Berman

Wilde Stories 2014 Lethe Press It’s mid-July, and that means it’s time for this year’s edition of Lethe Press’s long-running anthology of the year’s best gay speculative fiction, Wilde Stories. Over the years, I’ve appreciated being able to follow this anthology series (and have reviewed most of the past volumes in this space, if I recall correctly). Wilde Stories reliably introduces me to fresh voices doing interesting things in the world of gay sf, and its sister series Heiresses of Russ has begun to do the same for lesbian speculative stories.

So, of course I like to check up on each new installment and see what’s happening inside. This year’s volume is no exception: in fact, I was possibly extra-intrigued by the fact that none of the contributors for 2014 have appeared in the series before. A whole new slate of names—all writing gay spec-fic—is an interesting change, certainly.

[A review.]

Thu
Jun 19 2014 4:00pm

The Quick and the Dead: Lauren Owen’s The Quick

The Quick review Lauren Owen

Lauren Owen’s debut novel The Quick makes a concerted effort to not mention a certain word in its cover copy. The word rhymes with campfire, which ironically enough is something this rhyming word would rather want to avoid due to combustibility.

Why do they try so hard to avoid it? I can only surmise it’s because campfires are inherently silly and this novel is serious business! No sparkling campfires here fair reader of literary fiction. No sir. These are pale, long lived, and thirsty campfires, which are not magical, just grumpy.

[Read More]

Tue
Apr 29 2014 11:00am

Short Fiction Spotlight: Interfictions Online #2

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. In the last installment, I talked about Beneath Ceaseless Skies #144; this time around, I’d like to discuss a couple of pieces from the second issue of Interfictions Online, published in October of last year. I enjoyed this biannual journal’s first issue (discussed previously, here) and I continue to be interested in seeing what sort of work they’ll highlight, so even though it’s a bit late, I did want to spend some time on this issue before the third comes out.

[Onward.]

Tue
Apr 15 2014 1:00pm

The Retrospective: Mythic Delirium #30

Since it happens to be poetry month, the time seems more or less just right for talking about the transitional last print issue of long-running speculative poetry magazine Mythic Delirium. It’s issue #30, and in honor the magazine’s Kickstarter funded shift to digital publication and a new format, editor Mike Allen had gathered up a retrospective from the past fifteen years’ worth of issues—poems ranging from the first from their first issue, to the most recent MD poem to win a Rhysling Award.

It is an interesting sort of project, a goodbye to the old and a remembrance of the past that also happens to be signaling a fresh start for the magazine, with different guiding principles and a radically different format. I look forward to seeing what the Allens (Mike and Anita) do with the upcoming magazine, but for now, there’s the retrospective issue and the poems in it.

[A review.]

Tue
Apr 1 2014 11:00am

Short Fiction Spotlight: Recent Stories in Lightspeed

Lightspeed Magazine issue 46 Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. In our last installment, I talked about the winter issue of small magazine Ideomancer (12.4) and its three lyrical short stories. This time around, I’d like to talk about a few more pieces of short fiction, these from the most recent issue of Lightspeed Magazine: two original stories, “How to Get Back to the Forest” by Sofia Samatar and “A Different Fate” by Kat Howard,“ as well as one reprint, ”Turnover" by Jo Walton.

These three stories all share a structural similarity, though their thematic centers are quite different, and that’s their open-endedness paired with a particular sort of self-reflexivity. Each story is an exploration of an idea and/or occurrence without a concrete resolution; each is structured primarily around the protagonist thinking about or reflecting back on this thing, be it (in the case of the Walton story) an idea for the future or (in the other two) a haunting occurrence in the past.

[A discussion.]

Fri
Mar 14 2014 12:00pm

Queering SFF: Scruffians! by Hal Duncan

Scruffians Hal Duncan Scruffians! by Hal Duncan, releasing in early April from Lethe Press, is a wickedly entertaining collection of short fiction fantastical and queer in nature—full of “scruffians and scamps and sodomites,” with some pirates and fairies besides. These stories range from comedic romps to lyrical and meditative explorations on the nature of meaning-making, while Duncan’s engaging and clever voice resonates throughout as a strong thread connecting the various different sorts of pieces.

Duncan has published two chapbooks of short fiction—An A to Z of the Fantastic City (Small Beer Press) and Errata (New Sodom Press)—but Scruffians! is his first full-length collection of short stories, containing work published from 2005 onward. Two of the fifteen stories collected are original to the book: “How a Scruffian Gets Their Name” and “The Shoulder of Pelops.” The first several stories also form a neat group of their own, continually expanding and recursively building the mythology and potential of the titular Scruffians.

[A review.]

Mon
Feb 17 2014 2:00pm

Lady Sybil Trapped in Weird Colin Farrell Zombie Movie Called Winter’s Tale

Talking to strangers is totally fine, especially if those strangers are amnesiac Colin Farrells. With a friendly and dopily disarming gaze, Colin made us believe he was a brainwashed victim in 2012’s Total Recall. Now in 2014’s romantic zombie comedy—Winter’s Tale—he plays a totally convincing angel-zombie, who also isn’t sure what his name is or if he’s any good at robbing people. Here, Farrell with the help of Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil) brings home the most romantic Valentine’s Day message of all: Will Smith is Satan!

[Spoilers Ahead]

Tue
Feb 4 2014 5:00pm

Desire and Magic: Handsome Devil: Stories of Sin and Seduction edited by Steve Berman

One of Prime Books’ most recent collections, Handsome Devil: Stories of Sin and Seduction takes on the task of gathering together tales about incubi and other “handsome devils.” I often find these themed collections hit-or-miss, depending on the subject matter—I, for example, do not care much about zombie stories—but this particular theme seemed intriguing enough. As the collection’s editor, Steve Berman, notes in his introduction, this is a fraught but itself seductive topic for people from far in the past up to today.

These stories of seduction and “sin” range from the playful to the extremely dark; given the topic, it’s no surprise that a few of these stories cover uncomfortable territory in terms of consent and violence. For the most part, however, these are stories about desire and magic, stories where there is a cost for getting what you want—but sometimes it’s worth paying. And that idea, of the cost of magic, is a familiar one in plenty of fantastical stories.

[A review.]