The Hell of It February 25, 2015 The Hell of It Peter Orullian What will he wager? Schrödinger’s Gun February 18, 2015 Schrödinger’s Gun Ray Wood Maybe in some other timeline it would have gone smooth. Acrobatic Duality February 11, 2015 Acrobatic Duality Tamara Vardomskaya The two of her are perfectly synchronized. The Language of Knives February 4, 2015 The Language of Knives Haralambi Markov They share the rites of death, and grief.
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Introducing the Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch
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Showing posts by: brit mandelo click to see brit mandelo's profile
Wed
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.]

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.]

Tue
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.]

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.]

Thu
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:]

Tue
Mar 4 2014 2:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Ideomancer 12.4

ideomancer magazine 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 two stories from the February issue of Clarkesworld Magazine—one reprint, one original to the issue. This time around, I’d like to shift focus to a small but long-running magazine that I haven’t yet talked about: Ideomancer.

Ideomancer has been publishing imaginative fiction quarterly since 2002, and is currently run by the inestimable Leah Bobet as publisher and editor alongside a team of associate and departmental editors. Volume 12 Issue 4 (from December 2013) features three short stories: “Thread” by A. Merc Rustad, “The Mammoth” by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, and “The Last Summer” by Michael Matheson. The issue also features poetry and reviews.

[Onward.]

Tue
Feb 18 2014 11:00am

Short Fiction Spotlight: Stories from Clarkesworld

Clarkesworld February 2014 Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. Last installment, we talked about a couple of recent short stories by Ursula Vernon and Benjanun Sriduangkaew. This time around, I’d like to talk about two pieces from the February ’14 issue 250 of Clarkesworld: one a reprint, “Infinities” by Vandana Singh, and one original to the issue, “Tortoiseshell Cats Are Not Refundable” by Cat Rambo.

The Singh story was first published in her collection The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet and Other Stories and also reprinted in several places including Dozois’s Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Seventh Annual Collection. This is the second time I’ve read it, and the first time—to my knowledge—it’s been available online. As for the Cat Rambo, it’s also science fictional, but in a very different sense; it’s interesting to see these two stories paired in the same issue (alongside other solid pieces as well by Natalia Theodoridou, An Owomoyela, and John Barnes).

[Onward.]

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.]

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.]