The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn April 22, 2015 The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn Usman Malik He will inherit the Unseen. The Ways of Walls and Words April 15, 2015 The Ways of Walls and Words Sabrina Vourvoulias Can the spirit truly be imprisoned? Ballroom Blitz April 1, 2015 Ballroom Blitz Veronica Schanoes Can't stop drinking, can't stop dancing, can't stop smoking, can't even die. Dog March 25, 2015 Dog Bruce McAllister "Watch the dogs when you're down there, David."
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Aug 20 2014 5:00pm

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.]

Aug 19 2014 2:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: A Few Flash Pieces from Daily Science Fiction

Daily Science Fiction Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. For the past two weeks we’ve been talking about The Apex Book of World SF 3, but this time around, I thought I’d shift gears to a current digital publication—one that actually hasn’t popped up here yet: Daily Science Fiction. Thanks to their format—a story every weekday—I often end up overlooking them due to sheer volume of publication; it’s not like dropping in once a month to read a couple of pieces.

However, since they do publish so much, it seems a shame to not take a look at some recent stories from them. And since DSF publishes so much more flash fiction than other currently running magazines, I thought I’d focus on a few of those pieces: “’Ulder’” by Vajra Chandrasekera, “Do Not Count the Withered Ones” by Caroline M. Yoachim, and “Readymade” by Shannon Fay. The first two are tagged “magic realism,” while the third is tagged “virtual reality.”


Aug 15 2014 12:00pm

Building a Reference Library: Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts edited by Heather Masri

Heather Masri Science Fiction Stories and Contexts The guiding principal behind Heather Masri’s Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts (Compact Edition) is to offer not only a collection of significant short fiction—a sort of retrospective of the genre—but to simultaneously gather critical materials that are relevant to those stories. Each thematic section of the book, like “Alien Encounters” or “Artificial Life,” collects essays and material from theory and scholarship alongside the fiction itself to give a better idea of the surrounding cultural contexts.

It’s worth noting that this book is—as it says in the title—a compact edition of an already-extant collection (also called Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts) edited by Masri that was published in 2008. The primary difference between the two is that this edition has cut some 400 pages and dropped its price to $45; so, the majority of the table of contents is the same otherwise, but this one is more economical—which could be handy for both classroom and personal use.

[A review.]

Aug 14 2014 2:00pm

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.]

Aug 5 2014 1:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: The Apex Book of World SF 3 (Part 2)

The Apex Book of World SF 3 Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. Last time around we talked about two stories from the first half of Lavie Tidhar’s The Apex Book of World SF 3—each a fresh take on a familiar trope. This week, I thought we’d finish up with two more stories from the closing half of the anthology: “Waiting with Mortals” by Crystal Koo and “Three Little Children” by Ange. The first is originally written in English, while the other is translated from the French by Tom Clegg.

Coincidentally, there were also two other stories in this second half that I’ve discussed before here at “To Follow the Waves” by Amal El-Mohtar and “Brita’s Holiday Village” from Jagganath by Karin Tidbeck. So, as a whole, the last half of this anthology was certainly as strong as the first—all together a good showing, with plenty of variety in voices and styles from around the world.

[But on to today’s stories.]

Jul 22 2014 2:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: The Apex Book of World SF 3 (Part 1)

The Apex Book of World SF volume 3 Lavie Tidhar Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. Last week we discussed stories by N. K. Jemisin and Yoon Ha Lee from the most recent issues of Clarkesworld, but in this installment, I thought it might be high time to check out an anthology again. It’s been awhile. So, for the next two Short Fiction Spotlights—since it’s a whole book and all—I want to talk about The Apex Book of World SF 3, edited by Lavie Tidhar.

This is the third in a series of anthologies collecting international speculative fiction, both in translation and published originally in English. For the sake of convenience, I figured I’d divide the reading and discussion into halves—one for each week of coverage. So, this week, I’d like to talk about two stories from the first half of the anthology that stood out to me: “Act of Faith” by Fadzlishah Johanabas and “The City of Silence” by Ma Boyong.


Jul 22 2014 12:00pm

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.]

Jul 8 2014 1:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Stories from Clarkesworld #94

Clarkesworld issue 94 Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. Over the last two installments, I talked exclusively about the big June special issue over at Lightspeed Magazine (“Women Destroy Science Fiction!”)—so, this time around, I thought I’d shift attention to another recent publication: Clarkesworld #94 (July).

There were two stories in this issue that I found particularly compelling, one by N. K. Jemisin (“Stone Hunger”) and the other by Yoon Ha Lee (“The Contemporary Foxwife”). Both of these writers are familiar names, fairly well-discussed in the field, and their Clarkesworld stories this month make a solid case for why that is: they’re powerful and well-illustrated narratives that offer an engaging worldview.

[Also, hey, more speculative fiction by women. I sense a trend.]

Jul 1 2014 1:00pm

Back to the Laundry: The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross

Charles Stross The Rhesus Chart Laundry Files review Everyone knows vampires don’t exist—until a group of high-level data analysts messing around with some very suspicious math manage to come down with a case of V-syndrome, and Bob Howard has to deal with it. But there’s more to the outbreak than meets the eye, and in the end, Bob and the Laundry will have to face the possibility that something quite nasty indeed has been lurking in its own org charts all along.

The Rhesus Chart, fifth book in Charles Stross’s Laundry Files series, picks up some time after the events of The Apocalypse Codex (2012, reviewed here) and “Equoid” (2013, reviewed here). I’m always pleased to see a fresh story in this series, and I was particularly interested to see how vampires would fit into the Lovecraftian math-horrors of the Laundry universe—after all, the prologue opens with Mo pointing out all the reasons that traditional “vampires” couldn’t possibly be scientifically viable.

[A mostly-spoiler-free review.]

Jun 30 2014 2:00pm

Queering SFF Pride Month: Wrapping Up the Extravaganza

The month’s end is here—solstice has come and gone, the days are getting shorter again—and as June comes to a close, so too does our Pride Month Extravaganza (Redux). In this second run, the Extravaganza focused on introducing work from outside the genre to readers inside it, weaving together sometimes-disparate audiences and introducing stories that might not otherwise get noticed. The guiding mission could mostly be summed up as, “if it’s queer, and if it’s speculative—well, why not? Let’s talk about it.”

Over the course of this special series, we covered work from mainstream publishers, independent comic artists, small literary presses, and then some. If you missed a post—or if you’re looking for something quick to pick a fresh read—here’s a wrap-up recap. A Pride Month montage, if you will.

[The wrap-up.]

Jun 27 2014 12:00pm

Queering SFF Pride Month: Affinity by Sarah Waters

Affinity Sarah WatersThough we’ve mostly been covering stories published in the past several years, there are also a wealth of older books that fit comfortably in the “mainstream/queer/speculative” Venn-diagram—some by writers whose names are pretty well-known, like Sarah Waters. Waters has received quite a bit of recognition since her first novel was published in 1998; she’s been the Stonewall Award “Writer of the Year” twice, for example.

And when I was thinking of books to cover for this year’s Extravaganza, I definitely thought of Waters and one of her novels: Affinity, which was published around fifteen years ago.

Spoilers ahead.


Jun 24 2014 2:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: “Women Destroy Science Fiction!” at Lightspeed (Part 2)

Lightspeed Magazine Women Destroy Science Fiction Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. This is the second week we’ll be discussing Lightspeed Magazine’s June special issue, “Women Destroy Science Fiction!”—a huge collection of sf stories by women writers, some familiar and some upcoming. And, like I said last time, we’re still barely scratching the surface of this issue, which is rightly more of an anthology (and in fact can be purchased in print, if you were so inclined).

Since last week we only talked about one short story as well as a few pieces of flash fiction, this week I thought I’d focus on a couple more of the longer offerings that I found compelling: “The Unfathomable Sisterhood of Ick” by Charlie Jane Anders and “The Lonely Sea in the Sky” by Amal El-Mohtar. Both of these stories are available only in the for-purchase edition—which, let’s be clear again, has more than 850 pages of material—and on their own make it worth picking up.


Jun 24 2014 9:00am

Queering SFF Pride Month: Brainchild by Suzanne Geary

Brainchild suzanna geary digital comic

Of course, it’s not all traditional physical books here in the queer-and-speculative world. Exciting stuff is happening digitally, too, particularly in the world of webcomics—like Suzanne Geary’s Brainchild, which began publication at the end of January this year and is ongoing. The comic currently consists of a prologue and the majority of its first chapter, going regular-and-strong the whole time. The updates roll out on Sundays.

As the site informs us, “Brainchild is a story about paranormal phenomena, bad first impressions, wide-scale conspiracies, a whole bunch of mutants, and everything else your senior year of college can possibly throw at you.” This is Geary’s first major project, and so far, I’m hooked—definitely looking forward to seeing where it goes next.


Jun 20 2014 12:00pm

Queering SFF Pride Month: Kill Marguerite and Other Stories by Megan Milks

Kill Marguerite and Other Stories Megan Milks The past several featured books in our Pride Month Extravaganza have been from the last few years—recent, sure, but not super-recent. However, there are also fresh new books coming out that fit our bill of “speculative and queer,” like Megan Milks’s surreal collection Kill Marguerite and other Stories. This one, I think, has a strong link to the bizarro end of queer literature—the stuff that’s not comfortable or friendly, the stuff that plays with a keen edge of what one might call meanness or provocative aggression, the unreal and the too-real.

That’s what made me want to talk about it, here: the sense that it’s got its feet firmly planted in both speculative genres and queer genres, that it’s dealing with issues of gender and sexuality through frames that far exceed the simple “coming out” story or the like. For that matter, a few of these pieces aren’t even all that concerned with exploring a purely human sexuality: a narrative about the codependent relationship between a female wasp and a male orchid, for example.


Jun 16 2014 9:00am

Queering SFF Pride Month: The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson The Daylight Gate Next up in this year’s Extravaganza, we have a name that’s probably already familiar to readers of mainstream queer fiction: Jeanette Winterson, author of several novels including well-known past award winners like Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985) and Written on the Body (1992). She’s one of the better-recognized queer women writers working over the past thirty years, but she hasn’t exactly written much that would get her discussion in this end of the publishing field.

So, naturally, I was pretty excited to hear about her newest novel The Daylight Gate: set during the Lancashire witch trials of the early 1600s, it happens to have a touch of the supernatural that makes it a strong candidate for a speculative-fiction readership otherwise potentially unfamiliar with her fiction. And it’s got John Dee and Shakespeare in it.


Jun 12 2014 11:00am

Queering SFF Pride Month: The Summer We Got Free by Mia McKenzie

The Summer We Got Free Mia McKenzie When it comes to finding queer fiction that’s also speculative, there’s something to be said for keeping up with awards and journalism devoted specifically to the LGBTQ end of the publishing world. That’s how I happened upon our next featured book in this year’s Extravaganza: The Summer We Got Free by Mia McKenzie. This novel, which I otherwise might not have encountered, was the winner of the 2013 Lambda Award for Debut Fiction—and a deserving winner it was.

The Summer We Got Free is a ghost story and a family drama, an intimate portrait of love and loss that also explores the complex dynamics of race and sexuality in America during latter half of the twentieth century. Oh, and if McKenzie’s name sounds familiar, that’s probably because she’s also the creator of the well-known site Black Girl Dangerous.


Jun 10 2014 12:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: “Women Destroy Science Fiction!” at Lightspeed (Part 1)

Lightspeed Women Destroy Science Fiction Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. Last time around, which was a few weeks ago, we discussed the second issue of Interfictions Online—specifically, stories by Nikki Alfar and Molly Gloss. So, this week, I thought I’d turn to a more recent publication: Lightspeed Magazine, which for June has produced a special issue titled “Women Destroy Science Fiction!

This issue is huge—seriously, there’s more than 850 pages of material. It’s got tons of stories and essays, some as part of the free fiction that will go up throughout the month and some as part of the ebook version that can be subscribed to or purchased. There are familiar names all over it: Seanan McGuire, Amal El Mohtar, N. K. Jemisin, Carrie Vaughn, Maureen McHugh, Charlie Jane Anders… I could go on. There are also a host of names unfamiliar to me but who I suspect I’ll be looking for in the future.

And since it’s so big, I’ll be devoting two Short Fiction Spotlights to it—which barely even scratches the surface, really.

[For this week’s installment…]

Jun 9 2014 3:00pm

Queering SFF Pride Month: No Straight Lines edited by Justin Hall

No Straight Lines Justin Hall queer comics anthology Next up on the docket for this month’s Extravaganza, following Nicola Griffith’s historical novel Hild, is a totally different kind of book: No Straight Lines, an anthology of “four decades of queer comics,” published by Fantagraphics Books in 2012. The book opens with a brief history of the development of LGBTQ comics and then progresses through around 300 pages of excerpts and shorts, arranged by time period, that give a broad and engaging glimpse of the field as a whole.

As for its place here: there’s a fascinating overlap between comics and speculative fiction that goes back to the pulps—and that’s also true of queer comics, which often straddle a fine line between genres and audiences. The comic as an outsider artform, as a “genre” work, often stands alongside other, similar types of stories, like the ol’ science fiction and fantasy yarns we tend to enjoy. And, of course, some comics are themselves actually pieces of speculative fiction—superheroes, aliens, superhero aliens, and things like “transformation into other forms” are all pretty common tropes.


Jun 2 2014 12:00pm

Queering SFF Pride Month: Hild by Nicola Griffith

Queering SFF Hild Nicola Griffith The flap copy for Hild opens with scene setting: “In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, frequently and violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods are struggling, their priests worrying.” And into this historical milieu comes a young girl whose mother dreamt of birthing the “light of the world”—Hild, niece to the king, a brilliant child who will one day be recorded by the Venerable Bede as Saint Hilda of Whitby. This novel follows her childhood and growth into a powerful woman of her own right, filling in the gaps of history with a riveting narrative of kings and conflicts, omens and gods, loves and losses. Nicola Griffith also happens to be an author familiar in science fiction circles for her previous books (ex., Ammonite), most of which feature queer women of varying stripes.

So, when it came to choosing a book for the first installment of this June’s Pride Month Extravaganza series, Hild seemed like a good candidate—possibly even a bit of a soft-ball, since it’s certainly received some buzz in speculative fiction circles. There’s even been a previous review by Alyx Dellamonica here on Nonetheless, when thinking about “books that aren’t published as speculative but are queer and would totally appeal to an SFF audience,” I immediately landed on this one.

Probably because it’s also really, really good.

[A discussion.]

Jun 2 2014 12:00pm

Queering SFF: Pride Month Extravaganza! Redux

The sun is shining here, the weather’s warm-approaching-hot, and there are about to be parades and festivals and small personal celebrations all over the US. It’s June again, friends—and June means Pride. In honor of the Stonewall Riots that took place at the end of June 1969, this is the time of year when folks from various parts of LGBT communities take the time to remember history, to celebrate the present, and to look to the future.

Back in 2012, we ran a special bunch of Queering SFF posts in honor, too. “Pride Month Extravaganza” was a project designed to recognize a handful of books and authors and editors, some new and old, some genre and some not, that were speaking to and from queer people in exciting ways. That month’s special was devoted to developing a sense of history and a sense of progress in queer speculative fiction, and it was a lot of fun to tackle.

[So, this year, I wanted to do another special QSFF series for the month of June.]