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.
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In Defense of Indiana Jones, Archaeologist
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An Uncut and Non-Remastered List of Star Wars Editions!
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Why Do We Reject Love as a Powerful Force in Interstellar?
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Showing posts by: brit mandelo click to see brit mandelo's profile
Tue
Feb 4 2014 11:30am

Short Fiction Spotlight: Stories by Sriduangkaew and Vernon

Apex Magazine Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. Last time around I discussed the novella Cry Murder! In a Small Voice by Greer Gilman, published by Small Beer Press. For this week, there are a couple of recent short stories I wanted to talk about: “Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew in Clarkesworld (Dec. ’13) and “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon in Apex (Jan. ’14).

Benjanun Sriduangkaew is a Thai writer whose name has been coming to my attention more and more, recently—in fact, I discussed one of her stories from Clockwork Phoenix 4 in a previous SFS post. She often writes complexly gendered characters in equally complex science-fictional settings, and “Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade” is another of these sorts of stories. Ursula Vernon, on the other hand, is a familiar name to many already: she’s the person behind the comic Digger, which won a Hugo in 2012 for Best Graphic Story. “Jackalope Wives” is a prose piece—traditional short fiction, if you will—and it also deals with gender and the cost of wants, though in a different way.

[Onward.]

Fri
Jan 31 2014 11:30am

Chosen Families: The Undead Pool by Kim Harrison

The Hollows Kim Harrison The Undead Pool Rachel Morgan is back in the penultimate volume of Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, older and wiser after the large-scale catastrophes of the past several books. The Undead Pool begins with a cluster of problems: magic is misfiring with deadly repercussions in waves across Cincinnati, the undead vampire masters are asleep and not waking up, and tensions between humans and the other species—not to mention between those other species themselves—are on the rise. And then there are Rachel’s personal issues, her relationship to elf Trent Kalamack and her standing in the ever-after as a demon not the least of them.

Harrison’s Hollows novels are some of the better urban fantasy offerings out there. The world-building is complex and solid, decidedly science-fictional despite its supernatural aspects, and the cast of characters is immensely engaging. Though sometimes comedic or playful—these books are often adventurous romps—Harrison maintains a core concern with the ongoing growth and development of the characters and their world.

And, on those scores, The Undead Pool doesn’t disappoint.

[A review]

Mon
Jan 27 2014 2:00pm

Queering SFF: Red Caps by Steve Berman

Red Caps Steve Berman Being a queer teenager can be tough—particularly when you have to deal with strange magic, or vampires, or trying to make a relationship work in the complicated ecosystem of high school. The stories in Red Caps, all queer YA and some speculative, deal with these issues and more. Red Caps reprints much of Berman’s work from 2007 onward, including stories originally appearing in Ellen Datlow anthologies such as Teeth and The Beastly Bride. There is one piece original to the anthology—“A Calenture of the Jungle”—as well as illustrations by various artists scattered among the thirteen tales within.

Berman is often recognized for his role as head of Lethe Press (there’s an interview with him from the early days of QSFF, here), or as editor of anthologies such as Heiresses of Russ: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction and Wilde Stories: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction. However, as regular readers of young adult fiction in the genre will know, he also writes quite a bit; his novel Vintage: A Ghost Story was a nominee for the Andre Norton Award in 2008, and he has also published two shorter collections of stories prior to Red Caps.

[Onward.]

Tue
Jan 21 2014 3:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Cry Murder! In a Small Voice by Greer Gilman

Cry Murder! in a Small Voice by Greer GilmanWelcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. In the last installment we discussed a few short stories published throughout 2013 that I hadn’t yet had a chance to talk about. This time, I’d like to discuss a novella, published as a chapbook in September by Small Beer Press: Cry Murder! In a Small Voice by Greer Gilman. In simple terms, Cry Murder! follows Ben Jonson—yes, that Ben Jonson—as he attempts to solve and stop the murders of player-boys in London.

In more complex ones, it’s about transformation, trauma, and the supernatural; gender, the stage, and the ghosts of history. It’s probably no surprise that I adored it. Between the richly realized setting, the clever haunting of the text with the poets and playwrights who loom large in the English tradition, and the stunning prose, I was enamored from the first—and my appreciation didn’t dwindle as I kept reading.

[Onward.]

Fri
Jan 17 2014 12:30pm

Once More, With Feeling: Red Delicious by Kathleen Tierney

As Red Delicious makes abundantly clear from the start, Siobhan Quinn the werepire has a lot of problems: monster hunting ex-priests, succubi, and her own mile-wide self-destructive streak to name a few. When her handler and keeper, Mr. B, tells her to look into the missing daughter of one of Providence’s oldest necromantic families, things do not go well, possibly because she’s no detective and possibly because there’s far more at stake than the apparent disappearance. The story that follows is, of course, of questionable provenance—as Quinn frequently reminds the reader, she lies constantly—but it is entertaining.

Red Delicious follows on the heels of 2013’s Blood Oranges (reviewed here), of which I was fairly fond. These novels are a fine balance between parodying urban fantasy and being urban fantasy: a little grim and a lot tongue-in-cheek, Quinn as narrator never allows the reader to forget for particularly long that they’re reading a book, with all of the regular fourth-wall breaking that that implies.

And she’s not particularly fond of the genre that her book falls in, either.

[Read More]

Tue
Jan 7 2014 12:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Stories from Kat Howard, Indrapramit Das, and John Chu

Short Fiction Spotlight John Chu The Water that Falls on You from Nowhere 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 recent novelettes from Lightspeed (one by Christopher Barzak and one by Ken Liu). In this installment, still looking at the wide world of short fiction periodicals, there are a few more stories I’d like to draw a little attention to: “Stage Blood” by Kat Howard, “Karina Who Kissed Spacetime” by Indrapramit Das, and “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu.

When I say recent, of course, I’m being slightly generous: the Chu story was published on Tor.com in February, while the Howard and Das pieces are both from this past summer (in Subterranean and Apex Magazine, respectively). But as the season nears for recommended-reading (and awards ballots) I’ve been doing some brushing up on pieces from earlier in the year. These were the ones, out of the bunch, that I most wanted to chat about this week.

[Onward to the discussion.]

Wed
Dec 18 2013 9:00am
Original Story

The Writ of Years

Few things can be as terrible as to get your heart’s desire.

This original short story was acquired and edited for Tor.com by senior editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

[Read “The Writ of Years” by Brit Mandelo]

Tue
Dec 17 2013 12:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Two Lightspeed Novelettes

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. Last time around we discussed a new Ted Chiang novelette, “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling.” To continue that theme, this week I’d like to talk about two more recent novelettes—both, in this case, published in Lightspeed—that have caught my eye: “Paranormal Romance” by Christopher Barzak and “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” by Ken Liu.

Generally, I’m fond of the novelette. It’s a length that seems to lend itself, as plenty of people have argued before me, to speculative fiction: long enough to explore, short enough not to sprawl. These are both on the short end of the novelette spectrum, of course, but I think they’re also both solid stories—though in somewhat different ways.

[A discussion.]

Tue
Dec 3 2013 2:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” by Ted Chiang

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. While we’ve been discussing quite a lot of anthologies, recently, the periodicals have continued publishing great work—and this week, I can’t resist talking about a story that has been attracting plenty of well-deserved attention: “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling,” by Ted Chiang, published in the Fall 2013 issue of Subterranean Magazine.

Chiang, winner of multiple Nebula Awards (as well as Hugo Awards, Locus Awards, and a fistful of other accolades), is not a remarkably prolific writer—so, it’s always a delight to see a new piece of work from him. The fact that this novelette is free to read online is doubly nice. And, triply-nice, it’s also very good.

[A discussion.]

Thu
Nov 14 2013 3:00pm

Story Creatures: Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer

Wonderbook Jeff VanderMeer First released in mid-October, Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer is a fascinating mélange of straightforward exploration of craft topics (plotting, characters, revision, etc.), strange and lovely art, sidebar interviews with popular writers, exercises and experiments, fantastical diagrams, and more—including a digital compendium off of the page at WonderbookNow.com. It’s an ambitious project, with a lot going on between the covers (and beyond).

Of course, the concept of a multimodal writing text snagged my interest straight away, particularly considering that I also appreciated VanderMeer’s earlier writer’s guide Booklife quite a lot. I was not disappointed, having taken the time to peruse and play around with Wonderbook. The sense of this book as organic, sprawling, and multiply voiced makes it one of the most “fiction-like” fiction writing guides I’ve ever seen; it also productively prods at the varying levels of the imagination involved in the process of writing instead of relying solely on naked words.

[And the multiple modalities of the text aren’t just for fun]

Fri
Nov 8 2013 2:00pm

We All Tell Stories About Her: Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor

Kabu Kabu Nnedi Okorafor Named for the unregistered taxis of Nigeria, Kabu Kabu is the first collection of short fiction from Nnedi Okorafor—author of the World Fantasy and Carl Brandon Kindred Award-winning novel Who Fears Death as well as several books for young adults. The collection includes seven previously unpublished stories—one, the titular “Kabu Kabu,” co-written with Alan Dean Foster—while the rest have been previously published in various venues from 2001 onward.

These stories are often set in or around Nigeria, or revolve around characters with origins in the region—whether that’s in the past or in the future. The sense of place in Okorafor’s work is strong, supported by vivid yet concise descriptions as well as the various voices and viewpoints of her narrators/protagonists. There is no danger, in Okorafor’s short fiction, of a bland tale; though she renders the particular details of daily life with the same precise attention she gives the fantastical happenings, she also imbues both with an energy and personal intimacy that keeps the reader engaged.

[A review.]

Wed
Nov 6 2013 5:00pm

Tapestries of Community: The Stars Change

The Stars Change Mary Anne Mohanraj Jack Kotz Another book that’s the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign—I seem to be talking about a lot of those recently, don’t I?—Mary Anne Mohanraj’s The Stars Change is an illustrated short SF novel set on a colonized planet where humans, genetically modified humans, and aliens interact in the universe’s own university. The unique thing about this book, however, is that its plot builds through a series of encounters with characters and their intimate, sexual lives; though that plot is one of interspecies galactic conflict, the preludes to war, and other “large scale” issues, it is resolved through a tapestry of the individual, personal interactions of people.

This patchwork story, shifting between a large cast of characters in the predominantly Indian human community as well as various aliens from across many worlds, is an interesting take on the cultural, personal, and social relevance of the erotic: how something so simple as sexuality webs together various people and communities. In this sense, the actual “plot” is more a framework for exploring the characters and their lives.

[A review.]

Tue
Oct 29 2013 11:00am

Short Fiction Spotlight: Clockwork Phoenix 4, edited by Mike Allen

Clockwork Phoenix 4 Mike Allen Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. Last week we dipped into the realm of online magazines and discussed Charles Stross’s creepy novella “Equoid.” This time around, I’d like to talk about another recent anthology of original stories: Clockwork Phoenix 4, edited by Mike Allen. Following in the footsteps of three previous anthologies—all well-received—the fourth Clockwork Phoenix came from a Kickstarter campaign after the original publishers encountered financial difficulties.

The funding went well, and the end result—the book I just read—was released in early July. The Clockwork Phoenix anthologies generally tend toward, as Allen says in his introduction, “the trends variously described as interstitial, new weird, [and] slipstream, as well as other types of strangeness.” Furthermore, as he says, “I wanted stories that were bold in the style of their telling and also emotionally satisfying; experimental yet coherent and engaging.” It’s not often than an editor comes so clean with their criteria, and I found that a pleasant introduction to the stories that followed—a sort of framework through which to appreciate them.

[Onward.]

Wed
Oct 16 2013 11:00am

Doing Damage to the Text: Gender in Neil Gaiman’s Coraline(s)

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is a remarkable book. Naturally, given its appeal to children and adults as well as its handsomely creepy narrative, somebody was going to make a movie out of it—and that movie was Henry Selick’s Coraline (2009). I went to see that film in theaters, and though I initially loved it—it was gorgeous, certainly—after a little while something began to itch at me. Something didn’t seem right. There had been quite a lot of revision in the adaptation, but that’s par for the course in making a movie. The text has to be adapted to fit the screen, sure. But then the real problem occurred to me, and it wasn’t that Selick’s version had made changes. I don’t much care about that on principle.

It was that those revisions had turned the initial text into its opposite, retaining the general shape of the plot but gutting the thematic content.

Neil Gaiman’s novel Coraline is a coming of age story; it’s participating in the tradition of stories in which a youth overcomes a trial to develop their identity. The book is about independence, identity, and development. The significant thing is that it is really very much concerned with having a girl as the protagonist, a girl who is fully rounded and develops on her own as a stable, coherent individual subject.

[Henry Selick’s adaptation is firmly not.]

Tue
Oct 15 2013 11:00am

Short Fiction Spotlight: “Equoid” by Charles Stross

Charles Stross Equoid

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. For the past couple of installments we’ve discussed recent anthologies—a favorite source of short fiction for me—but plenty of magazine issues have been released in the interim as well. So, for this column and the next, I’d like to do a little overview of some new short fiction that’s caught my eye across various periodicals. This week, there’s only one story to chat about—because it’s a long one: “Equoid” by Charles Stross.

While generally I leave the short fiction that appears here on Tor.com for the readers to enjoy on their own, the appearance of a Laundry Files novella proved too tempting to resist. In the past, I’ve written about the Laundry Files books under the umbrella of genre investigation here; I’ve also reviewed the most recent installment in the series, here. Needless to say, I’m a fan. The books do quite a lot of things I enjoy, and they’re also darkly entertaining. This story was perhaps more on the “dark” side than usual—I’d go so far as to say gruesome/deeply icky—but it also had its compulsively-readable quotient in play.

[Onward.]

Thu
Oct 10 2013 9:00am

A Shift in Tone: RASL by Jeff Smith

RASL Jeff Smith RASL, released by Cartoon Books in late September, is the complete one-volume collection of Jeff Smith’s most recent project, which initially ran in single issue comics from 2008 to 2012. Smith is renowned for the long-running series Bone, winner of several Eisner Awards, which ended in 2004—but this is a rather different sort of story. RASL is best described as a scifi noir, and it follows a parallel-universe hopping art thief/ex-military engineer (whose tag is the titular anagram, “RASL”) through his trials and tribulations.

RASL presents an obvious shift in tone and subject matter for Smith, whose books are generally kid-friendly. The protagonist, Rasl, has a violent streak, drinks far too much in order to deal with the side effects of universe-hopping in the Drift, and has several “on-screen” sexual relationships with different women; the plot is concerned with physics, the military-industrial complex, and a general theme of personal responsibility for complex problems. So, not the usual fare.

[A review.]

Tue
Oct 1 2013 11:00am

Short Fiction Spotlight: Glitter and Mayhem, edited by John Klima, Lynne Thomas, and Michael Damian Thomas

Glitter and Mayhem Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. Last time around, I discussed the newest installment of Steve Berman’s Wilde Stories collections. In a similar vein, this week I’d like to look at a recently released short fiction anthology: Glitter & Mayhem, edited by John Klima, Lynne Thomas, and Michael Damian Thomas. This anthology—funded by a Kickstarter campaign and published by Apex—has a very particular theme, as the tagline on the back makes clear: “Welcome to Glitter & Mayhem, the most glamorous party in the multiverse.”

The stories here primarily feature roller derby, disco, parties, and a stunning number of night clubs, rendered in vivid detail by writers like Christopher Barzak, Seanan McGuire, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Maria Dahvana Headley and Amal El-Mohtar. Glitter & Mayhem cultivates a high-energy tone of risk, reward, and delight—it’s not what you’d call a serious book, though it does have its moments of darkness and contemplation. It’s also, and this should come as no real surprise based on the list of contributors, a fairly queer anthology; many of the stories herein deal with gender and/or sexuality in various forms.

[A review.]

Tue
Sep 24 2013 1:30pm

Alternative Relationships in YA: Inheritance by Malinda Lo

Inheritance Malinda Lo The sequel to last year’s Adaptation (reviewed here), Malinda Lo’s newest near-future science fiction novel for young adults—Inheritance—continues and completes the story of Reese Holloway, her friends, and the Imria. This duet of novels is firmly rooted in issues of politics, identity, and conspiracy; as I said last time around, it’s quite the X-Files homage, except with queer teenagers. Inheritance takes the reader deeper into the conspiracy behind the June Disaster, Reese and David’s adaptation, and the society of aliens that have made contact with humanity. Where Adaptation left off quite suddenly with a cliffhanger ending, Inheritance picks the threads right back up.

However, as a book Inheritance is less concerned with mystery-solving and more concerned with the developing and complicated relationships between Reese, David, and Amber—as well as their relationship to the world at large. Adaptation answered the question of what had happened to Reese and David; Inheritance works out the greater significance of that answer. But, it’s still got heaps of conspiracy, from ancient aliens theorizing to a legitimate series of government cover-ups.

[Spoilers follow]

Tue
Sep 17 2013 11:00am

Short Fiction Spotlight: Wilde Stories 2013, edited by Steve Berman

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. We’ve had a little delay on my end, but this week we’re back with a discussion of one of the collections I look forward to each year: Wilde Stories, edited by Steve Berman. The Wilde Stories series collects the year’s best gay speculative fiction, alongside sister volume, Heiresses of Russ, which collects lesbian sf.

I look forward to this book because it always seems to give an intriguing snapshot of the field in the preceding year: where gay speculative fiction was being published, by who—that sort of thing. Additionally, since Berman tends to seek out stories not just from the obvious sources, I frequently find myself encountering new voices through these books. This year’s collection, as Berman notes in his intro, seems to have a connection to bodies of water: plenty of lakes and oceans to be found. I’d also note that it seems to have a second theme: coming of age stories, stories about young men finding themselves and sometimes love.

[A discussion.]

Tue
Aug 20 2013 11:00am

Short Fiction Spotlight: Interfictions Online, Issue 1

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. For the past few weeks, I’ve been talking about chapbooks and short collections. This time, I’d like to shift back to current magazines—in particular, Interfictions Online edited by Sofia Samatar, Christopher Barzak, and Meghan McCarron alongside executive editor Delia Sherman. The first issue, released May 2013, contained four pieces of fiction alongside several poems and pieces of nonfiction.

[A discussion.]