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." The Museum and the Music Box March 18, 2015 The Museum and the Music Box Noah Keller History is rotting away, just like the museum.
From The Blog
April 17, 2015
Spring 2015 Anime Preview: The Hellish Life of a Pizza Delivery Boy
Kelly Quinn
April 16, 2015
The Disney Read-Watch: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Mari Ness
April 15, 2015
Recasting The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Stubby the Rocket
April 15, 2015
The 10 Strangest Transports in Non-Driving Games
N. Ho Sang and Peter Tieryas
April 14, 2015
An Open Letter to HBO from House Greyjoy
Theresa DeLucci
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Apr 14 2015 4:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Clarkesworld #103

Sleeping Giant Clarkesworld Julie Dillon

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. Last time around we revisited some Bradbury stories; this time I thought I’d check back in on a familiar haunt, Clarkesworld Magazine, and their most recent issue. With the recent change in format, here, we’ll be discussing all of the April issue’s fiction—both originals and reprints, six pieces in total.


Mar 31 2015 3:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Some Classic Bradbury

Bradbury Stories Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. It’s been a while since we’ve tackled the “not-so-recent” portion, and as the spring starts to—well, spring—here in Louisville, I’ve felt a little nostalgic. Standing in front of the bookshelves, then, it seemed inevitable to pick up some Ray Bradbury; who else fits so well with that particular pleasant ache for the past?

The collection Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales is a hefty book, and certainly we won’t be talking about one-hundred pieces of short fiction in this column. So, instead of choosing particular stories to read (or re-read), I thought I’d just flip through and see where that led me—one piece here, another there, and the end result is a satisfying range of reading. The four stories I ended up perusing were “The Drummer Boy of Shiloh” (1960), “Another Fine Mess” (1995), “The Cold Wind and the Warm” (1964), and “The Witch Door” (1995).


Mar 17 2015 4:30pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Stories 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. With our fresh new format, we’ll be discussing a larger handful of stories this week. Since it’s been a while since our last look at then, this time around I thought a good focus would be recent work at Daily Science Fiction—five days’ worth of pieces from various authors whose work I hadn’t seen before.

Those stories are: “Everything’s Unlikely” by James Van Pelt, “The Vortex” by Aniket Sanyal, “A Domestic Lepidopterist” by Natalia Theodoridou, “Best Served” by L.C. Hu, and “Tall Tales about Today My Great-great-granddaughter Will Tell” by Sean Williams. All five are relatively short, either flash fiction or hovering close to it, as is much of what DSF publishes—their daily schedule necessitates a lot of content, after all, most of it at brief lengths. These pieces ran from March 9th to the 13th.


Mar 3 2015 11:00am

Short Fiction Spotlight: A New-Format Smorgasbord

Clarkesworld 101 Atilgan Asikuzun

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. While the format has been the same for the past forty-something columns from me in the series, we’re switching things up a bit based on reader feedback: from here on out I’ll be talking about more stories at less length, so we’ll be covering more than just a few things per month. This means more coverage of more folks, which is something people have been looking for, so—here we are for a fresh take on a familiar project.

Stories this installment come from various publications, though as this new format goes forward we’ll also often cover whole issues of one magazine (or chunks from a single anthology) as well. This time around, I looked at pieces from Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, and Weird Fiction Review.


Feb 22 2015 9:00am

Dear Joanna Russ: A Letter for an Inimitable Writer

Joanna Russ birthdayWhile researching for We Wuz Pushed: On Joanna Russ and Radical Truth-Telling, I developed a passionate engagement with Russ’s astounding, provocative body of work—and I had intended, at the time, to write her a letter upon completion of the project to thank her for her contributions to feminism, science fiction, and queer scholarship. Unfortunately, on April 29th 2011, Joanna Russ passed away; I had not written or sent that letter.

So, I go back to that initial desire now, to celebrate Russ’s birthday and the imprint her writings left on me, the SF genre, and the wider community of scholars and critics in which she participated.

[Read More]

Feb 9 2015 5:00pm

Closing Up Shop: Cherry Bomb by Kathleen Tierney

Cherry Bomb Siobhan Quinn Caitlin Kiernan Kathleen Tierney Recently released from Roc, Cherry Bomb is the last installment in the Siobhan Quinn novels—Caitlin R. Kiernan’s parodic urban fantasy arc, written under the pseudonym Kathleen Tierney. Following on the heels of the satirical and engaging Blood Oranges (2013, review here) and its sequel Red Delicious (2014, review here), Cherry Bomb is a ghoul-infested and horror-inflected closer.

Quinn has been out of the paranormal loop for some time, lying low in New York, until she meets and gets involved with a young woman—Selwyn Throckmorton—who’s got a world of trouble coming down on her head. Another eldritch artifact and planes of being far beyond (or below) the basic mortal sprawl are unfortunately involved, and Quinn’s stuck once again in the middle.

[A review.]

Feb 4 2015 5:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Apex #68

Apex Magazine January 2015 Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. In this installment, I’d like to take a look at last month’s issue of Apex Magazine, issue #68. There are a couple of good stories here, and this magazine has been shifting through some editorial changes, so it’s also interesting to get a sense of the directions that it might be going in.

The two pieces in particular that stood out to me, here, were Ursula Vernon’s “Pocosin” and Samuel Marzioli’s “Multo.” Both are stories about the supernatural or spiritual that lurks on the edges of mundane life; both deal with particular cultural milieus and the sorts of other-worldly things that exist (or don’t) in each. It’s a good pairing, and the stories appear alongside other pieces by Andy Dudak, Allison M. Dickson, and E. Catherine Tobler.


Jan 28 2015 3:00pm

Sewing Machine Battles: Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Karen Memory Elizabeth Bear reviewElizabeth Bear’s newest novel Karen Memory takes a different direction than her last several projects: it’s a steampunk romp set on the west coast during the late 19th century, narrated by the titular character, a young woman who works as a “seamstress” in a high end bordello.

One night, she helps (along with her housemates) to rescue two young women who have escaped the crib brothels down by the port—one the rescuer, one the rescue-ee. The incident brings the already-strained relationship between our antagonist, Peter Bantle, and the house’s Madame to a head; and, not long after, murdered women begin appearing around the city—also bringing to town the Federal Marshal Bass Reeves.

There are also dirigibles and steam-powered sewing machines like exoskeletons, of course, and the wider conflict over the future of the West lingers in the submerged layers of the narrative as well. There’s a mix of actual history and invented, real places and people and imaginary, that adds a certain depth to the fun—plus, there’s also a diverse cast, from our protagonist’s love interest Priya to the Marshal and his posseman.

[A review.]

Jan 22 2015 6:00pm

Delicate and Sincere: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the Forest review Holly Black In her newest stand-alone young adult novel, The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black returns to familiar and exciting territory: faeries and dark magic at the crossing between human and nonhuman worlds. Most folks are familiar with Black’s series “A Modern Tale of Faerie” (Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside) which ran from 2002 to 2007; that series set up Black as a daring and clever writer of young adult stories that tend to feature queer kids and deal honestly with complex emotional and social issues.

The Darkest Part of the Forest follows also on the heels of Black’s last young adult novel, another stand-alone (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown)—and I like the trend that these two books have been setting for her work going forward. Both are solid, well-paced and play interesting games with the tropes of the genre of supernatural YA; both star girls who make fucked-up decisions and are trying to learn to care about themselves and others in the aftermath. The shared narrative of growth here is more complex than just “getting older” and instead deals more with “learning to cope and be whole.”

[That’s the sort of thing I’m interested in seeing…]

Jan 20 2015 5:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Uncanny #2, “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang

Uncanny issue 2 Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. For this installment, I wanted to take a look at the second issue of Lynne and Michael Thomas’s newest project, Uncanny Magazine, since I found the first intriguing and enjoyable. I was particularly interested in the story-in-translation that headlines the issue’s fiction selection, “Folding Beijing,” written by Hao Jingfang and translated by Ken Liu.

The January/February issue of Uncanny also contains original work from Sam J. Miller, Amal El-Mohtar, Richard Bowes, and Sunny Moraine; a reprint from Anne Leckie; nonfiction including an essay from Jim C. Hines; and finally a handful of poems and interview. (It’s a little bit of a shame the remit of this column series is just the fiction, sometimes—there’s some other very good stuff here too.)


Jan 6 2015 4:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Clarkesworld #100

Clarkesworld Magazine issue 100 Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. For this installment, I thought we’d commemorate the start of the year with a discussion of two freshly published pieces: “A Universal Elegy” by Tang Fei, translated by John Chu, and “The Apartment Dweller’s Bestiary” by Kij Johnson. Both are from the January issue of Clarkesworld Magazine.

These stories are some of the first I’ve read in 2015, from one of the first magazine issues I looked at also—and I think there’s some good stuff, here. These pieces are kept company by other works from writers like Aliette de Bodard and Catherynne M. Valente, Naomi Kritzer and Jay Lake, et cetera; it’s a strong first publication of the year, as is usual from Clarkesworld.

[As for these two stories...]

Dec 9 2014 12:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: “Where the Trains Turn” by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

Where the Trains Turn

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. Last time, we talked about two stories from two different recent magazines; in this installment, I’d like to focus on one publication and one story. Though I don’t do it often, this time I’m going to talk about a piece from here at the novella “Where the Trains Turn” by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen and translated by Liisa Rantalaiho.

This novella won two prizes in the original Finnish; this is the first English publication of the piece. It’s—quite obviously—long, and also has a sort of measured, careful, sedate pace that balances on the fine line between “too slow” and “too quick.” It’s also a piece I’d call a quiet story, told as it is from the point of view of the (perhaps too) reasonable and logic-driven protagonist.


Nov 25 2014 3:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Two Magazines, Two Stories

Lightspeed 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 the inaugural issue of Uncanny Magazine, a newcomer on the short fiction scene that’s being helmed by some familiar faces.

This time, I thought we’d range out a little to a couple of stories from other recent publications: “On the Government of the Living: A Parable” by Matthew Cheney (Interfictions #4, Nov. 2014) and “Instructions” by Roz Kaveney (Lightspeed #54, Nov. 2014; reprinted from Odyssey [1998]). These are two quite different sorts of stories—in fact, it feels a little like doing a reviewer’s grab-bag to put them both together. One is an original publication and one is a reprint; one is, as it says, a sort of parable, while the other is straight-up science fiction. The tonal resonances are also disparate. But: there is something to be said about the diversity of what sorts of stories are being published under the general “speculative fiction” header that these pieces demonstrate.

Plus, I liked them.


Nov 11 2014 11:00am

Short Fiction Spotlight: Uncanny Magazine #1

Uncanny Magazine #1Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. Before a brief October hiatus, we last talked about The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1 edited by Karen Joy Fowler, Debbie Notkin, Pat Murphy, and Jeffery D. Smith—a couple of posts devoted to older stories, for a change. So, this time around, I thought I’d return to some current publications and catch up with recent stories: specifically, the first issue of Lynne and Michael Thomas’s new project, Uncanny Magazine.

Uncanny was launched via a highly successful crowdfunding campaign—which is no surprise considering the editorial work the Thomases have done singularly and as a pair in the past. Intended to be a magazine that has both a contemporary edge and diverse contributor base, as well as a sense of the pulpy history of the genre, Uncanny Magazine has a pretty wide editorial remit; I’ll be interested to see how the tone begins to develop over time. This first issue, though, spans November/December 2014 with six original stories, one reprint, several poems, and also a handful of essays.


Oct 31 2014 2:30pm

Should-Have-Been: Black Dog by Caitlin Kittredge

Black Dog Hellhound Chronicles Caitlin Kittredge The first in a fresh urban fantasy series, Black Dog by Caitlin Kittredge introduces readers to Ava—a hellhound who collects souls for a reaper, who is a sort of loan shark for demons—and her world. As the novel opens, Ava is under the thumb of her reaper, collecting overdue human souls; however, as the flap copy says, “when a human necromancer convinces her to steal her reaper’s Scythe, Ava incurs the wrath of the demon Lilith, her reaper’s boss.”

But Ava is involved in a plot that’s been going for a long, long time—longer than she could imagine—and as the politics of Hell and the Kingdom of Heaven become inextricably tangled up in her afterlife, she’ll have to find a way to keep surviving and staying one step ahead of her enemies.

[A review.]

Oct 7 2014 2:30pm

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.”


Sep 23 2014 3:30pm

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.


Sep 17 2014 3:00pm

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.]

Sep 9 2014 12:00pm

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.


Sep 5 2014 9:00am

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]