the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Clarkesworld’ Category

Did you know Clarkesworld Magazine puts out yearly volumes, so you can get a year’s worth of all that edgy fantastical SFnal fiction all in one place?   And in case you missed it, I was recently over at SFSignal reviewing Clarkesworld Year Six.  if it strikes you fancy, check out all the Clarkesworld volumes here.

It’s worth it just for all that award nominated/ winning fiction from Cat Valente, Kij Johnson, Aliette de Bodard, and more.  Bottom line – if you want cutting edge science fiction, Clarkesworld has it, and Year Six is one of the strongest collections of science fiction I’ve read in a while.

 

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clarkesworld4Folks, this is it. With this post I’ve let you know about all the original fiction Clarkesworld published during their fourth year. They just celebrated seven years, by the way. Pretty awesome, right?

just joining us? catch up with parts one, two, three, four and five.

This “go through their entire year” project was fun. You interested in me doing something like this again? I only did one year out of seven, but I feel like a bit of a completest anyway.

These final stories involve memory theft, magic candies, murderous whirlwinds, a vengeful astronaut, and a tragic military science fiction story. Let’s dive in!

Between Two Dragons, by Yoon Ha Lee – The nation of Cho has tried to stay neutral. On one side is the war like Yamat rattles it’s sabers, and makes plans to invade Feng-Huang, located on the far side of Cho. Avoiding violence from one side all but forces them to betray the other neighbor. And the famous Admiral Yen Shemar will remember none of it. Knowing the fate that awaits him after the war, he opts to face it on his own terms, and pays a visit to a woman who can erase his memories and in the process change his personality. This was the part of the story that struck me the hardest. The person being “re-written” doesn’t remember the procedure, doesn’t understand why their mother or child or sister looks at them funny afterwards because they no longer love their favorite foods, or claim to have never seen the film or read the book or poet that they used to always quote from. Your loved one becomes a stranger. At work recently, I overhear two people comparing their closed head injury recoveries. What they both agreed on was that the injury changed their personality. they could remember who they were before, but their personality changed afterwards. Is being “rewritten” a little like that, except you can’t remember who you were before? It was uncanny, to overhear that conversation shortly after reading this story. Between Two Dragons is a military science fiction story, but it doesn’t read like you’d expect a military scifi story to read.  It reads like a list of fears, of regrets. It’s not told in chronological order either, as if the characters are writing down fleeting memories before they can be forcefully taken.

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read parts one, two, three or four, if you’d like.

This is the next to last in a series covering all the original fiction Clarkesworld Magazine published in their fourth year. You can read all of these on their website, and to that purpose the title of each story is linked to a digital version. Many also have audio available. The entire collection is available as a print volume, here (scroll way down).

The stories I’m doing quick reviews of today include a Shirley Jackson award winning (oh, a Hugo nominated, BSFA short listed, and Locus award finalist) and positively killer story from Peter Watts which is a homage to a science fiction horror classic and at the same time a pop culture reference and includes what is possibly the best ever final line of a short story. If you’re older than me, you’ll get all the references instantly, and younger folks might just have the shit scared out of them, which is fine too.   Also we’ve got a few very dreamy short stories that were very satisfying to read, but I felt their deeper meanings alluded me.  Ah well.

The Things, by Peter Watts.  Damn do I love Peter Watts, just damn.  The Things has a lot of surprises, and to tell you what it’s about, I have to spoil the smallest one. Read the rest of this entry »

clarkesworld4Curious about the original fiction published by Clarkesworld?  This series of posts, reviewing every story published in Year Four should give you an idea of their flavor of speculative fiction. these stories are strange, unexpected, sometimes humorous, sometimes melancholy. Every single one of them will get some kind of reaction out of you.   Check out the Clarkesworld website to get more. Like what you see? Become a citizen of Clarkesworld, get a subscription, spread the world. Speculative Fiction ‘zines like this are a rare beast.

I’m going through Year Four in no particular order. Click to read the first, second, and third posts in this series.  In the stories in today’s post, we have virtual reality gone wrong (or maybe very, very right), reincarnations who kill their originals with the best intentions, the downside of discovering a new intelligent species, and Cat Valente has fun with creation myths.

ready? let’s go!

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Spacetime by Catherynne M. Valente – I recently had the pleasure of reading this in Valente’s latest collection, The Melancholy of Mechagirl. In that review, I didn’t go into much detail of Thirteen Ways, so I’m thrilled to have received another chance to talk about this wonderfully odd tale.

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clarkesworld4I’m working my way through Clarkesworld Year Four, a volume of all the original fiction they published in their fourth year. (part one, part two) And Yes, all of these volumes are available as print editions, click here and scroll to the bottom.

When I first decided to talk about every story in this volume, I was a little intimidated. But now that I’ve read more than half of them, I’m suddenly wishing the volume had twice as much fiction in it.  Want fatter Clarkesworld books? Help the support the e-zine by subscribing,  becoming a “citizen of Clarkesworld”, or by spreading the word by reading the fiction they publish, listening to their podcasts, comments on stories, and talking about them.  We may live in the age of the internet, but everything still lives and dies by word of mouth.

Today I’ve got reviews of three stories in the volume. All of these reviews forced me to play “the pronoun game”, because all of these stories feature genderless characters. One person takes a human male form, so I refer to him as “him”, but the others I wasn’t quite sure. Any advice about how to refer to genderless characters is appreciated.  Also, each title links to the full story on the Clarkesworld website.

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The Messenger by J.M. Sidorova – Wow is this one a doozy, and I mean that in the most complimentary way! Our narrator doesn’t name himself (itself?), and doesn’t identify what he (it?) is.  Eventually given the name Gabriel, and often taking the form of a human man, I’m going to use the male pronouns, and refer to the narrator as Gabriel.  Early in the story, Gabriel is contacted by a higher intelligence, who names him, seduces him, and inscribes Gabriel with His purpose: to find a vessel so He can bring his message to the people of the Earth.

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clarkesworld4I’m randomly working my way through the Clarkesworld Year Four anthology, which includes all the original fiction the magazine published in their fourth year. This is the second post in the series, click here for the first post.

The more I read in this anthology, the more I enjoy it. The stories are relatively short, mostly around 9-12 pages, perfect tasty nuggets of strangeness. I’ve linked each story back to Clarkesworld, so you can head over there and read the ones that catch your attention.

Today I’ll be talking about short fiction from Richard Parks, Brenda Cooper, Robert Reed, and Melissa Lingen.

Night, in Dark Perfection by Richard Parks –  The Faerie Queen insists that everyone attend her parties. Anyone who doesn’t come willingly, will be forced, or perhaps the entire party will have to be cancelled. Elsewhere, the Captive Princess is trying to escape. Something very strange is going on, there is something skewed and not quite right about these characters right from the start. They have both been alone for a very, very long time even though the kind and gentle voice of the Palace speaks to both of them.  The Captive Princess hears strange voices while she is exploring her prison, but for once, these voices do not belong to the Palace, or any of the usual residents. For you see, the Faerie Queen and the Captive Princess are AIs (or at least, that was my interpretation of them) on a derelict ship, and the ship has been discovered by salvagers. Did the ship’s mind create them, in an attempt to stave of insanity, or perhaps as friends, other voices to talk to in the void?

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I was lucky enough to get a copy of Clarksworld Year Four, which includes 24 pieces of original short fiction the digital magazine published during their fourth year of publication.  Never heard of Clarkesworld? Please, allow me to enlighten you,  because these people simply rock it.  A digital magazine featuring original speculative fiction, interviews, and editorials, Clarkesworld published their first issue in 2006 and their original  short fiction has been winning awards ever since. The magazine itself has even picked up a few awards along the way (can you say three Hugo’s!!).

So I don’t have to tell you how awesome this magazine is.

You know how usually when I review an anthology or collection, I only talk about a handful of stand-out pieces, my favorites? Not this time.  The handful of short stories I’ve read so far (or listened to. Yay podcasting! I love you Kate Baker!) are some of the strangest, most out-there fiction I have ever come across. We’ve got McDonald’s terrorists, interstellar runaways, reincarnations of people who aren’t dead yet, the end of the universe, and an AI who thinks she’s a fairy tale.  Because everything in here is just so damn weird, I want each piece to get some much deserved attention.   I’ll review 3-4 short stories at a time, so you, dear readers and followers, can get the full treatment.

Want to make a comment on my review? By all means, comment here. I’ve linked each story back to Clarkesworld, so you can read the whole thing (or listen to the audio) and comment over there and give the magazine some direct attention.

Let’s get started:

Alone with Gandhari by Gord Sellar –  Kenny used to work fast food. He used to be a fat guy. But now, after a therapy that finally worked, with his taut belly and his clown-like facial tattoos, he’s a high ranking follower of Guru Deepak. Like all the other followers, he answers to the name Ronald, even though he prefers Ron. This opening paragraphs of this story were completely off-putting and disorienting to me, which makes the story hard to get into, but I’m happy I kept reading because I really ended up enjoying it, or at least I enjoyed the mental mind-fuck aspects of it.  Guru Deepak wants to help people change for the better, his followers will help him change the world. He is especially welcoming to people who need to stop eating fast food all the time. All are welcome, the blessings of Ghandhari are available to anyone who chooses to listen. The vegetarian lifestyle and meditation is probably good for Ron/Kenny’s health, but he’s unwittingly joined a cult. The hyped up Ronalds commit “Mac Attacks”, terrorizing patrons of fast food restaurants.   Ron/Kenny has been chosen by Deepak to lead an important mission to a corporate farm.  Far worse than eating a cow is abusing one on a farm, but what the Ronalds find on the farm isn’t exactly a cow. Is this a commentary on Fast Food or on food in general? A nightmarish satire? I’m not sure.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.