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.
From The Blog
November 21, 2014
Never Wait for a Sequel Again: 17 Standalone Fantasy Novels
Stubby the Rocket
November 18, 2014
The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare’s Histories in the Age of Netflix
Ada Palmer
November 17, 2014
In Defense of Indiana Jones, Archaeologist
Max Gladstone
November 14, 2014
An Uncut and Non-Remastered List of Star Wars Editions!
Leah Schnelbach
November 13, 2014
Why Do We Reject Love as a Powerful Force in Interstellar?
Natalie Zutter
Showing posts by: brit mandelo click to see brit mandelo's profile
Tue
Nov 25 2014 2:00pm

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.

[Onward.]

Tue
Nov 11 2014 10:00am

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.

[Onward.]

Fri
Oct 31 2014 1:30pm

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.]

Tue
Oct 7 2014 1:30pm

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.”

[Onward.]

Tue
Sep 23 2014 2:30pm

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.

[Onward.]

Wed
Sep 17 2014 2:00pm

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.]

Tue
Sep 9 2014 11:00am

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.

[Onward.]

Fri
Sep 5 2014 8:00am

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]

Wed
Aug 20 2014 4:00pm

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.]

Tue
Aug 19 2014 1:00pm

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.”

[Onward.]

Fri
Aug 15 2014 11:00am

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.]

Thu
Aug 14 2014 1:00pm

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.]

Tue
Aug 5 2014 12:00pm

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 Tor.com: “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.]

Tue
Jul 22 2014 1:00pm

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.

[Onward.]

Tue
Jul 22 2014 11:00am

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.]

Tue
Jul 8 2014 12:00pm

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.]

Tue
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.]

Mon
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.]

Fri
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.

[Onward.]

Tue
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.

[Onward.]