Damage January 21, 2015 Damage David D. Levine Concerning a spaceship's conscience. And the Burned Moths Remain January 14, 2015 And the Burned Moths Remain Benjanun Sriduangkaew Treason is a trunk of thorns. A Beautiful Accident January 7, 2015 A Beautiful Accident Peter Orullian A Sheason story. Kia and Gio January 6, 2015 Kia and Gio Daniel José Older Seven years ago, they went on a secret mission.
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Jul 1 2014 12:00pm

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 1:00pm

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 11:00am

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 1:00pm

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 8:00am

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 11:00am

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 8:00am

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 10:00am

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 11:00am

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 2:00pm

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 11:00am

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 Tor.com. 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 11:00am

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.]

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.


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.]

Apr 15 2014 11:00am

Short Fiction Spotlight: Beneath Ceaseless Skies #144

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. In my last installment we returned to Lightspeed Magazine to look at a few recent stories; this week, I’d like to shift focus to another magazine I haven’t talked so much about: Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Their April issue contains two stories, “Golden Daughter, Stone Wife” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew and “At the Edge of the Sea” by Raphael Ordoñez.

I feel like I keep running into stories by Sriduangkaew—I know I’ve covered at least a few in this column series! Seems like this is a good year for her work, too, because I have enjoyed the majority of those stories. A name I hadn’t encountered before, though, was Ordoñez, who according to good ol’ ISFDB is a fairly new writer (first professional publications in 2013). His work has appeared primarily in past issues of BCS.


Apr 2 2014 1:00pm

And the Skies Change: Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear

Steles of the Sky Elizabeth Bear In the concluding volume of Elizabeth Bear’s gripping and immersive Eternal Sky trilogy, following Range of Ghosts (reviewed here) and Shattered Pillars (reviewed here), the webs of alliances, betrayals, and enmities that have grown up alongside the complex and rather large cast of these novels must finally come to a head. Re Temur and his band of allies seek to defend his claim as Khagan against the armies of his usurping cousin and to end the havoc wrought by al-Sepehr across the myriad kingdoms of the continent—no short order for a somewhat ragtag group of wizards, deposed rulers, and refugees.

Steles of the Sky has a great deal of momentum and expectation to live up to, and ultimately, it more than fulfills those expectations: it’s a powerful, fast-paced, provocative conclusion that maintains the series’ delightful and unique balance between the epic and the intimate. Building on the strengths of the prior volumes—their diversity of cast, the rich tapestry of different characters and cultures that create this world; the grit and realism of suffering paired with the small and necessary pleasures of strong bonds (romantic and platonic) and shared experience; et cetera—this final installment concludes what is perhaps, to my eye, the most significant epic fantasy published in the last decade.

[A review.]

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.]

Mar 18 2014 4:00pm

Miso Soup at Midnight: Rhapsody: Notes on Strange Fictions by Hal Duncan

Hal Duncan Rhapsody Notes on Strange Fictions Hal Duncan, in Rhapsody: Notes on Strange Fictions, turns a critical eye to the genre of SF—considering not just the turf wars and definitional spats, but also the deeper functions and facilities of the “strange fiction” mode in literature. Employing sardonic and often cutting analysis delivered within convincing theoretical frames, Duncan deposes various received-wisdom ideas about the genre and offers in their place a well-reasoned, thorough conceptualization of what it is we’re talking about when we talk about SF.

Rhapsody, though it is Duncan’s first long-form critical work, is a strong and elegant—and sometimes wickedly crass—project, complexly argued and incisive while also managing to remain eminently readable and engaging.

[A review.]

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.]

Mar 6 2014 10:30am

Queering SFF Tidbit: Lambda Literary Award Finalists Announced

Lambda Literary Awards The 26th Annual Lambda Awards nominees have been announced, including the LGBT Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category. The Lambda Awards, as the press release says, “celebrate achievement in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) writing for books published in 2013.” The winners will be announced at a ceremony on Monday June 2, 2014.

All of this year’s nominees are published by small presses; four of the nominees by Lethe Press, whose books are often part of the Queering SFF conversation. Another, Mary Anne Mohanraj’s The Stars Change, was reviewed in this series last year.

[And the nominees are:]