Monsters Bearing Bouquets: R.A. Kaelin’s “Mnemeros”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at R.A. Kaelin’s “Mnemeros,” first published in 2015 in Lynn Jamneck’s Dreams From the Witch House anthology. Spoilers ahead.

[“Some names are like keys; they swing doors wide open that are best left shut.”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Collaborating with His Reader: Theodore Sturgeon’s Some of Your Blood

…but first, a word:

As first lines go, the one that opens Theodore Sturgeon’s slim 1961 novel Some of Your Blood is deceptively simple. Just four little words, but already—thanks to those ellipses, thanks to that in medias res “but first”—Sturgeon pulls off two tricks: He creates instant suspense, and he draws the reader in as a conspirator. You didn’t know you were in the middle of hearing a secret before you opened the cover of this book, but thanks to that nameless narrator, now you do. And with the power of punctuation—that colon!—you embark on the story of “George,” a mental patient kicked out of the army for assaulting an officer.

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Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

Come for the Health, Stay for the Self-Improvement — One Writer’s Martial Arts Journey

In this ongoing series, we ask SF/F authors to describe a specialty in their lives that has nothing (or very little) to do with writing. Join us as we discover what draws authors to their various hobbies, how they fit into their daily lives, and how they inform the author’s literary identity!

Writing is a very sedentary profession. You spend most of your time sitting at a computer. Thanks to the march of technology, you don’t even need to get up from that computer to do research anymore, as most of what you might need to look up is accessible from the same machine that you’re writing on.

In my twenties, this was hardly an issue. I was young, I was energetic, I was active. But by the time I hit the age of 35, the warranty had run out, as it were. My doctor stared at my growing belly, my hiatal hernia, the prescription pain meds for my constant knee and foot pain, and said, “Hey, maybe you should try exercising, y’know, once.”

That suggestion started me on a journey that took me to some amazing places I never imagined I’d visit.

[Fall down seven times, get up eight times…]

Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning Is A Future Worth Having

I read Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning four times before it was even published.

It’s quite a common experience when you’re a teenager to read a book that blows you away, that causes the top of your head to come off and your brain to rearrange itself and be a better more interesting brain thereafter. I’ve talked about this a lot, both in posts here and also fictionally in Among Others, it’s one of the fundamental experiences of the SF reading kid. It’s a much less common experience when you’re grown up. I read books now and I think “Oh I like this! This is a really great example of that thing”. I may get immersed in a book and hyperventilate but I won’t finish a book and think “Wait, who am I? Why is the world like this? Do I even have a head?” This did that to me, it gave me that experience of reading SF when SF was new to me, the feeling that I am a different and better person because I read this, and not only that but a better and more ambitious writer.

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Pull List: Abbott and Destroyer Take On Black Lives Matter

This month we’re stepping away from Big Two superhero comics to spend some time with two of BOOM! Studios’ best new series, Destroyer and Abbott. Although the two titles couldn’t be more unrelated in setting story, but both have killer hooks (literally), fantastic creative teams, and a similar underlying theme. If these aren’t already on your shelves, you have some catching up to do.

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The Most Realistic Surrealism I’ve Ever Read: The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington

Leonora Carrington was a surrealist painter and writer. She lived from 1917 to 2011, making her the last living surrealist. Here’s a thing, though: I’m not so sure she was a surrealist?

Like previous TBR Stack author Anna Kavan, Leonora Carrington went mad for a while, did a stint in an asylum, and wrote about it later. How many creative women have gone mad? And is it madness when you fall into despair at the state of your world? In Carrington’s case because her lover, Max Ernst, 26 years her senior, ditched her and fled into the American arms of Peggy Guggenheim when the Nazis invaded France.

I mean I can’t entirely blame him? If the Nazis come for me I don’t know what I’ll do—but I hope I’ll have the good grace not to leave a trail of terrified people in my wake. I hope I’ll find a way to bring them with me.

But Carrington got through it—went mad and healed, escaped her family, and spent the rest of her life on her own terms writing and painting and creating an international cross-cultural feminist dialogue between her home base of Mexico City and New York. Her complete stories have been gathered for a collection that is disturbing and gorgeous and everything I want in my brain.

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On the Origins of Modern Biology and the Fantastic: Part 1 – Verne and Darwin

“We may brave human laws, but we cannot resist natural ones.” –Captain Nemo in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Science and science fiction are indelibly intertwined, each inspiring the other since their modern birth in the Victorian Era. Both employ similar feats of the imagination—to hold an idea of a world in your mind, and test the boundaries of that world through experimentation. In the case of science, you formulate a theory and conduct a series of tests against that theory to see if it can be disproved by the results. In the case of science fiction, you formulate a reality, and conduct characters through the logical implications of that reality. Good science fiction, like a sound scientific theory, involves thorough worldbuilding, avoids logical inconsistencies, and progressively deeper interrogations reveal further harmonies. This series will explore the connection between the evolution of biology and science fiction into the modern era.

[Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea starts with a mystery.]

Life Lessons from a Murderbot: Reading All Systems Red as a Trans Woman

I was tearing up at the end of All Systems Red, and I wasn’t sure why. Yes, it was sad that Murderbot was leaving its friends and colleagues, and a promised life of safety, behind. But there was something more, something to do with the entire arc of Murderbot’s journey from a SecUnit—seen more or less as a lethal appliance—to a trusted and capable member of a team of humans.

For me as a trans woman, All Systems Red’s concoction of heartbreak and ever-present anxiety felt achingly familiar to me (even as Murderbot’s narration and dry delivery cracked me up more often than not), as I looked back at various pressure points in my own transition. The novella has a lot to say about building a personal identity on the fly.

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“Do Not Board This Ship”: Watch the First Teaser for Syfy’s Adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Nightflyers

Nightflyers is a haunted house story on a starship,” George R.R. Martin says in Syfy’s first behind-the-scenes teaser for its adaptation of his sci-fi/horror novella. “It’s Psycho in space.” Though the video is only a minute long, it’s filled with shots both behind and in front of the camera: the ambitious set and special effects that go into pulling this eerie story out of Martin’s mind, as well as a hint of the gory terrors befalling the crew of the Nightflyer.

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“My Mother Is a Bird”: The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan

On the same day Leigh Chen Sanders kissed the boy she’d pined over for years, her mother, Dory, committed suicide. She leaves no note, no reason or explanation, just a cavernous hole in the Sanders’ world. At first the grief is overwhelming. She feels trapped in her childhood home with her distant father and the bloodstain marking her mother’s demise haunting her thoughts. Then, the night before the funeral, Leigh is roused from her nightmares by a huge crimson bird calling her name. She knows immediately the bird is her mother, the whys and hows brushed aside in the face a daughter’s longing for her mom.

At the behest of the bird, Leigh and her father travel to Taiwan to meet her mother’s estranged family. Desperate to save her mother, to make contact, to be close once again, she digs through old family memories and unearths long-hidden secrets. With the guidance of the bird and a box of magical incense, Leigh is pulled between reality and fantasy until she can no longer tell the difference between them. What she learns on her journey won’t change the past, but may finally put it to rest.

[“I want you to remember”]

My Formative SFF: Forgotten Classics of the ’70s and ’80s

I’m a nerd from a family of nerds, and I grew up reading a lot of science fiction. Specifically, I grew up reading a lot of my mother’s science fiction collection, which included a lot of brilliant writers, some of whose works are not as well-known today as they once were.

Since this is a pity, I’d like to introduce you to some of the books that affected me strongly growing up, and influenced me as a reader—and probably also as a writer.

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Revealing Brandon Sanderson’s Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds

Stephen Leeds is perfectly sane. It’s his hallucinations who are mad.

A genius of unrivaled aptitude, Stephen can learn any new skill, vocation, or art in a matter of hours. However, to contain all of this, his mind creates hallucinatory people—Stephen calls them aspects—to hold and manifest the information. Wherever he goes, he is joined by a team of imaginary experts to give advice, interpretation, and explanation. He uses them to solve problems… for a price.

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Black Lightning Is A Superpowered Example of How Systems Dominate the Bodies of Black Americans

The CW’s latest DC Comics series, Black Lightning, has been doing a lot of things really well from the very beginning. With only eight episodes aired to date, it has shown itself to be a very considered character study focused on the additional effort required and the heightened stakes of being a black person with any influence in an urban community. In the process, it has also become not only another media touchstone for black superhero representation but black lesbian superhero representation. It’s also a lot of fun to watch Jefferson Pierce (played by Cress Williams), his daughters Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain), and his ex-wife Lynn (Christine Adams) being smart, critical, hilarious, and badass in as many scenes as possible.

Moreover, the show is doing an interesting job not being preachy about a reality that tends to take up a bafflingly large amount of real estate in the visual/dramatic imagination of black lives. Even if you love the character, love superhero fiction in general, or just want a fun drama to watch on a Tuesday night, there’s no denying that film and television has already spent a lot of time (for some, perhaps even too much time) retelling the stories of black people in urban American communities struggling in the middle ground between the rock that is hostile law enforcement and the hard place that is gang warfare. It’s familiar territory—regardless, especially in the revealing light of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, if Black Lightning wanted to be preachy, it’d be hard to argue that the sermon would be terribly unwelcome or ill-timed.

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