the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘short stories

You know how you read a short story, like it but maybe don’t entirely get it, and then years later that story pops back into your head and everything about it hits you like a ton of bricks?

 

Or, you read a story and then forget the details.  And then years later, something happens, and you’re reminded of that story, but you can only remember bits and pieces, and you’re not even sure if you are remembering it correctly?

 

What I could remember, was that the woman in the story likes living by herself. She liked cooking. She’s not good with people. She’d left her old life, the one where she felt she didn’t fit in, for a few life where things (to her) felt balanced, where she understands the rules and things make more sense. Where there were no people. Except people keep trying to rescue her? This weird, creepy (maybe imaginary?) guy protects her.  He can’t possibly be imaginary!

 

I think I was supposed to be scared of the creepy guy with the filthy hat? I wasn’t.  He took care of the woman, he didn’t try to make her change, so he was “good peeps” in my book.

 

I remembered the story being fairly ambiguous. There were practically no details on the page, as if the characters knew that saying something would make it true, so they just don’t say certain things. And I like ambiguous stories. I don’t need all my questions answered, I prefer questions to stay unanswered, so that I can chew on them, well, forever.  I remembered feeling like I could relate to the woman, to the fact that she was OK with her quiet life.

 

Thanks to Lesley Conner’s help, the story that’s been rattling around my brain non-stop for about five months now is “She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow”, by Sam Fleming. It ran in Apex Magazine in December of 2015.  Go read it.

 

Rereading it, the woman on the island’s name is Chancery.  Hedron, the creepy guy in the dirty hat, is most definitely not “good peeps”, but I’m still not afraid of him.  Chancery lives a quiet life, she can hear herself think. She can put her coping mechanisms in a jar and put the jar on the shelf, because she finally lives somewhere where she doesn’t need her coping mechanisms.  I was a little jealous, that she no longer needed her coping mechanisms, she seems to be living an introvert’s best life.

 

I still love how hazy the story is, like the entire thing happens within a fog bank. Is Chance starving to death? Is she eating a few thousand calories a day? Can both of those statements be true? Is one of her coping mechanisms avoiding the truth about what’s going on?

 

Sometimes you have to sit with a story for a while, for you to understand why it clicks so much with you.  I had to soak this one up for five years.

 

Rereading the story, the thing that pisses me off most is how Kay treats Chancery. How could she?

 

I’m still not afraid of Hedron. But I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be.  I guess if Chance isn’t afraid of him, then I won’t be. I trust her judgement.  LOL, maybe I’m a little like Chance’s dog?

 

I like that this story has been rattling around my head for 5 years. It’s a little strange, but not surprising to me, how much I can relate to Chance. I’m happy she’s found a place to live where she doesn’t need her coping mechanisms anymore.

 

Anyway, go read the story, let me know what you think of it.

 

And you can also read my interview with the author.  I didn’t understand the significance at the time, but in the interview, when Sam Fleming says “what if there weren’t?”, that line has stuck with me, all these years.

 

Dear Sam Fleming:  Thank you for writing this story.  It is what Introvert-me needed to read, and reread, and reread.  Letting this story rattle around in my head, has been good for me.

 

I think telecommuting has also been good for me.  It’s been nice to not be five seconds away from sensory overload all the time.

Someone on twitter (thank you, whoever you were!)  recommended Vandana Singh’s short story “Ambiguity Machines: An Examination”, and offered a link to the story on Tor.com.  I gave it a whirl, and was immediately hooked. In reminded me of Ken Liu’s short story “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species”, and I recognized my favorite method of story telling, which at first glance can seem to be stories that dance around a plot and characters while resolutely refusing to be trapped by said plot. And yet, so much is communicated about what is happening and sometimes why those thing happen, and what those things mean to the people they are happening to.

 

I guess it’s more like a fantastical story telling version of future archaeology?

 

Let me unpack that a little.

 

In Liu’s short story, there is no plot, there is no characters, there is no conflict. If you’re zipping through the story, you won’t recognize the beginning, middle, or end, but if you read a little closer, it’s all there. It’s just a story that gives a few paragraphs about a bunch of space-faring alien civilizations, and how they make books – how they ensure others can access their stories and their thoughts.  Within the story, there are no human interactions with the aliens, no earthly judgements of  their societies. It is as if to put a human character in would a barrier between the reader and the records of these cultures.    Singh’s “Ambiguity Machine’s” felt like that too – no barrier between the records of events and the reader, no “main character” to pass judgement or offer opinions,  just records of what had happened, along with a request that someone interpret the records.

 

For my brain, these two stories, read 8 years apart from each other, were like hearing two pieces of music that were different, but seemed to be talking to each other, even though they had never met. (yes, I know I’m weird) (and i don’t know, maybe Signh and Lui are good friends? I have no idea)

 

Suffice to say, after reading Signh’s story,  I immediately ordered a paperback copy of her collection, Ambiguity Machines and Other Select Stories. And when the book arrived, the first words out of my mouth were “oh, shit”.

 

 

You see, I like to read before bed.  Usually, i’m already half asleep when I crawl into bed, so I’m looking to read something that if I find myself reading the same paragraph 5 times, or fall asleep halfway through, it won’t matter too much.   A short-ish story, something 5-10 pages, out of an anthology or collection is perfect for this.

 

None of the stories in the Singh collection were short, and none of them looked like “easy reads”. As I got further into the collection I realized these were not stories to drift away to, while falling asleep at night, these were stories to read in the morning, with strong coffee, and to spend the day absorbing and thinking about them, so as to then dream about them at night.

 

Everything I have read so far in this collection has been heart achingly beautiful,  each story requiring me some time afterwards to come back to myself. These stories are vistas.

 

(I feel really bad for whatever I read next. No matter how good it is, I fear it will be mediocre in comparison to this collection)

 

I’m going to tell you about “Ambiguity Machines: An Examination”, and about “Somadeva: A Sky River Sutra”,  even though I have more favorites.  Those others will have to wait for another blog post, I supposed.   “Ambiguity Machines” had me globetrotting via googlemaps, and “Somadeva” had me falling down the world’s best internet rabbit hole.

 

Ambiguity Machines was original published at tor.com in 2015, here’s the link:

https://www.tor.com/2015/04/29/ambiguity-machines-an-examination-vandana-singh/

Somadeva: A Sky River Sutra was originally published in 2010 at Strange Horizons, here’s the link:

http://strangehorizons.com/fiction/somadeva-a-sky-river-sutra/

 

warning, if I interpreted something correctly, there are major spoilers ahead for “Ambiguity Machines: An Examination”, and I guess maybe spoilers also for Somadeva? so hey, click on those links and enjoy some gorgeous fiction before reading the rest of this blog post.  😉

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I’ve been dipping my toes into Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, edited by Jonathan Strahan.   The cover led me to believe this is all robot stories, but what I found was more a spectrum of cyborg, to disembodied AIs, to actual robots.  As with all anthologies, some stories are forgettable, and some shine like supernovas.

 

I’ve not read everything in the antho yet, and maybe I never will.

 

But here are some stories that have already made an impression on me.

 

The Hurt Pattern, by Tochi Onyebuchi – What is this doing in a fiction anthology? Other than the “connect yourself to your computer at work, and then literally unplug”, the rest of this sure doesn’t feel like fiction.  To pay off his student loans, Kenny gets a job sorting data. Obvs, his job is more complicated than that, but he’s good at the work, and he makes friends. He makes some dangerous connections involving why certain cities are more violent than others, and how the uptick in violence is connected to, well, that’s spoiler territory. This story gonna make you mad.

 

Brother Rifle, by Daryl Gregory – A Marine suffering from PTSD alongside his traumatic brain injury. He doesn’t understand how this therapy is supposed to work, and worse, he feels like he is imposing on his family.  How exactly, is this implant supposed to safely let him start feeling emotions again? What’s the deal with the patterns on the cards? What’s the difference between a robot and someone who lost all emotion through a brain injury and now has no power of attorney over their own self? Story is a bit of a slow burn, that kind where you think you know where it’s going, and then that last scene hits you like a ton of bricks. Lots in this story hit close to home for me – how mental illness and PTSD is handled, how we expect people to magically get better after a few months of therapy. If i read this again, i’m gonna cry.

 

Bigger Fish, by Sarah Pinsker – quite the comfort read, which was sorely needed. A private detective is hired to investigate the death of a “gazillionaire water tycoon”. The man was home alone, with only his personal robots. This was a nostalgic Asimov-esque I Robot style story – obviously the robots killed the guy, but how to prove it, when a robot can’t harm a person? When you’re ready for a unicorn chaser, read this story.

 

A Guide for Working Breeds, by Vina Jae-Min Prasad –  super cute story, told entirely through online messages between two robots who become friends through a mentorship program.  They have drastically different personalities, so it’s super adorable when the “killer” starts buying gifts  for the young upstart. Sometimes even a teacher can learn a thing or two. This story is the perfect one to open the anthology – it is bright, optimistic, and laugh out loud adorable.  Maybe it’s because one of the ‘bots mentions dogs right at the beginning, That i couldn’t help but view both of these characters as robotic dogs, the young one as a cheerful, floppy eared puppy, and the older one one as a grizzled guard dog.

 

Fairy Tales for Robots by Sofia Samatar – just an absolutely beautiful story. As the protagonist spends one entire night telling fairy tales to her sleeping robot, she realizes how much fairy tales maybe do belong to robots, what with all the sleeping without dying, and the constant drudgery, and the ability to eat something poisonous and not die, and the oddities of how fairy tales allow characters to do superhuman things. We learn a few things about the narrator, how she sees herself compared to how the world sees her. And why shouldn’t robot children be told stories about impossible things? This story  is buried in the back of the anthology. My advice is that you read it first.

 

I like this idea of there being a spectrum between human and robot. Does a pacemaker make you a cyborg? What if you have a steel pin in your leg? How about an artificial limb, or a wheelchair that moves based on your brain waves?

 

Based on the cover art, I was worried this anthology was going to be “Robot Adventures!”, luckily, it isn’t. It’s mostly about humans who are on the cusp of something, and choosing to deal with those feelings, or suppress them.

We’re in the middle of a heat wave, the novelty of getting to work from home has worn off, and I’m in a reading rut.  Buckets of books to read and review, a ton of amazing stuff on my kindle app, and i’m just not in the mood for it right now.

 

on the plus side, I’ve got some fun crafts I want to work on,  my little balcony garden is going crazy with tomatoes and herbs and green onions and flowers,  and I’ll never run out of cool recipes that that I want to try to make.

 

So, I’m going to make fun foods,  read more cookbooks, harvest my basil and mint and parsley, coax my peppers and tomatoes to fruit,  and binge watch the Netflix show Dark.

 

Just a few recent reads –

I enjoyed the hell out of Your Rover is Here, by LP Kindred, in FIYAH Issue #14. This is the urban fantasy / keep the family magic a secret I’ve been looking for for years.  The voice in this story is fantastic. The narrator, he’s just going about his business. He drives for a rideshare app.  And when a fare brings violent magic into the car, he has to fight back to stop even more violence.  So what happens when you use secret magic to stop a dangerous explosion, and you lose your car (and your source of income) in the process?  Seriously a great story.  I kept meaning to read the rest of the issue, but just kept coming back to this story.

I bought the print copy of Clarkesworld Year 11, volume 1. It’s a bucket of fiction that was published in Clarkesworld.  I usually really like what gets published in that magazine, but my eyeballs struggle with walls of text.  I’ve only read a few stories, and haven’t connected with many of them yet.

 

Been binge re-watching the Netflix show Dark. The 3rd season just dropped, so hubby and I are rewatching the first two seasons as fast as we can.   this IS the show of the summer!  umm, how to explain?  Think Twin Peaks meets Stranger Things,  plus a metric ton of time travel.  And the soundtrack!  omg, so good!!

DO:  watch the show and take your own notes for a family tree.  Different story lines follow different generations, so you’ll want to keep track of who is married to who,  who is the parent and child of who, etc.

DON’T: use google to learn about this show.   the less you know about the show and the plot going in, the better.  the internet is solid spoilers.

not a spoiler: the first time I saw season one,  I though Jonas was a cool but annoying character. Why is he so quiet? Why doesn’t he seem to react to things? why does he seem so passive?  Yeah, he’s might be quiet, but he is NOT passive. the poor kid is a bundle of nerves and a total mess inside.

I’m not a super crafty person,  but I have two crafts I want to work on this summer.  I’d like to create a Braille sampler (remember samplers?).  My mom let me borrow one of her embroidery hoops, and I bought some tiny beads to be the Braille “dots”.

 

I’m getting bored with the fabric masks I have.  I bought some fat quarters to experiment with the bandana “bank robber” style face covering, where it’s a square folded into a triangle, and you tie it across your face and knot it at behind your head.   OK, so that was working pretty good. . .   then I saw these kinds of “face veils” online:

and i thought to myself “Self, that looks COOL.  and it covers your nose and mouth, and it isn’t BORING”.

so, next iteration,  was I took my triangle folded fat quarter, and instead of knotting it behind my head,  I  bobby pinned it.  where the two ends overlap, I put three downward facing bobby pins, and to “tighten” the mask, I pulled on the ends, pulling them through the bobby pins.  It was super comfy, and not boring. . .  but I still wanted to mess with it some more . . . .

The  craft store was OPEN!  This is the first time I have been to a retail store that wasn’t a grocery store!  I got to BROWSE! and walk through aisles of random crap I didn’t need!  I bought a few plastic hair combs, some seam binding,  some cotton bandanas, and a bundle of fat quarters.   A few things I want to experiment with – sewing the corners of the bandana directly to the top of the comb, and then put the comb tines down into a messy bun or ponytail, and attaching bobby pins to the comb, so they can “tighten” the mask while the comb holds everything place.

Ideally, I’m going for something where it’s the comb that holds the mask in place, and the fabric lies gently over my nose and mouth, with no pressure on the bridge of my nose or my ears.  And in the picture above, there is stuff on the bottom of the mask, weighing it down.  I can do something like that too!

Regardless,  this will keep me out of trouble for a few hours, and I’ll get some cool belly dancer style face veils out of it.  Doesn’t seem like the new normal is gonna go away anytime soon, so I might as well have some crafty fun with it, right?

 

Cooking adventures – I couldn’t find any one to one gluten free flour at the store, but they did have brown rice flour and teff.  Whadya do with teff? You make Injera!   First batch was tasty but undercooked because I didn’t have my pan hot enough. will one million percent be making injera again!

The link in the paragraph above is to Mark Bittman’s injera recipe. this recipe is great for midwesterners like me – measurements in cups and teaspoons, it doesn’t make a ton,  the batter only ferments for a day or so. Injera is a traditional Ethiopian bread,  here are some more traditional injera recipes, from Ethiopian sources:

Marcus Samuelsson’s Injera recipe

from How to Cook Great Ethiopian Food

Adane’s Ethiopian Food Youtube video for 24 hour Injera

Mama’s Majet youtube video for Injera

 

 

 

 

Anyone else “save books for special occasions”?  Like, you’re going on vacation, or a long train ride, or you know you’ll be home recovering from a surgery, or something?

I bought Hexarchate Stories when it came out last summer, because I absolutely had to have it. When the order arrived, I gently put the book away, unopened, knowing I was saving it for a rainy day.

There was no specific rainy day in mind,  but I knew a day would come, when damnit, I just wanted to hang out with Cheris and Jedao and everyone else again. Yes, Sure, there was a good chance horrible things would happen to them (holy shit, did you read Revenant Gun??), but I wanted to see them again.

 

I’ve had plenty of favorite scifi/fantasy characters over the years, people who I can’t get enough of.  Locke Lamora. Vlad Taltos.  Mendoza (and Joseph, and Lewis).  and now Jedao firmly joins that list.

(yes, yes I do have a thing for orphans. i also have a thing for loyalty, heartbreak, long simmering anger that can happen in the same moment as the unexpected joy of a wonderful meal,  and that the journey is more important that the destination. )

 

So anyway, there is no rainy day, so specific occasion, all I have is all of this *waves handles wildly, implying everything *.    I needed some escapism, I needed some snark, and damnit I needed some Jedao.   And boy did Hexarchate Stories deliver in the best possibly way.   I meant to slowly read this, teasing it out? Yeah nope, read the whole thing in like 3 days,  then reread a few favorite stories. Will probably be rereading most of the book, because I can, and because it’s that good.

 

Hexarchate Stories is tons and tons of short stories, flash fiction, and a few longer stories from Jedao and Cheris’s youth.   Which means,  if you haven’t read Machineries of Empire trilogy, go read that first, otherwise most of these short stories aren’t going to make any sense to you.   About half of these stories were previously published online, and about half of them are original to this  collection. If you’d like a taste of what to expect, there’s links to some of these on Yoon Ha Lee’s website.

 

Remember how anguish-yand emotionally wrenching  Machineries of Empire was?  Good News,  the majority of the stories in Hexarchate Stories don’t have any of that!  Many of these are super short,  they are just moments in people’s lives, there is humor and snark and people just living their lives.  The stories are presented in mostly chronological order and there is a timeline at the beginning of the book. Lee gives Author’s Notes at the end of each story, just a few sentences maybe about something funny that inspired the story, or that it game from a flash fiction story prompt, or that it had plot holes that needed be fixed, etc.  By the way “chronological order” means we get plenty of stories of Jedao’s youth and him as a teenager, and some stories of Cheris’s youth.   Them as kids? omg YES PLEASE.

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the familiar blogger refrain:

I’m not in the mood to write this book review. I know,  I’ll read another book . . . falling even further behind on reviews I had planned to write.

I haven’t written a review in a while, but I’ve been reading a ton, and I’ve got plenty of review notes written down in my head.

Some books I’ve read recently:

sorry for the crap blurry photo!

 

Star Trek: Collateral Damage, by David Mack.   I’ve read some TOS Trek novels, but never read a TNG novel. I had no idea what to expect.  I certainly didn’t expect to love this book so much. Great characters, Worf rolling his eyes,  Laforge saving the day, Picard being Picard,  excellent banter and even more excellent side characters.  I worry that I’ve now been spoiled, that no other TNG novel will entertain me as much as this book entertained me.

 

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett – 2nd book in his new trilogy. Certainly doesn’t suffer from “middle book syndrome”.  NONSTOP action.  I love the magic system in this world, but I’m struggling to care about the main characters. My fave characters were a side character who is super close to his trauma, and the bad guy, because he’s pretty cray-cray.  Buckets more on this later, but i think the reasons I’m struggling to connect with the main character is because SO MUCH ACTION is getting in the way for me, and she’s like 19 years old, so she relates to the world in a different way than 40 year old me relates to the world.

 

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – while stuck at home during a pandemic, why not read a book about a pandemic that ravages earth? Loved how the story opens, super loved the end, the middle was a little draggy for me. I feel like The Girl With All The Gifts is sort of a modern take on I Am Legend?  I haven’t seen the movie of this, by the way.  Also, didn’t realize I Am Legend is a novella?  the paperback is jam packed with a ton of Matheson short stories, mostly quick sharp horror stories, lots of which take place in funeral homes. they are deliciously creepy.

 

 

If you love gorgeous artwork and Central Asia,  Bride’s Story is for you.  I basically shop for dresses out of the pages of this manga.  So much gorgeous embroidery! the dresses! the shoes! the head dresses!  the jewelry!!!   the plot jumps around between a bunch of different families, and in volume 11 we are with Mr. Smith and Talas.  Their story is super heartbreaking, and I want them to find happiness, and I don’t know if they will.  Smith is such an adorable doofus.  There’s a great side story in this volume about what happened to his pocket watch, and the “legends” that sprang up around the watch.   I feel like that lady who wanted to buy Talas’s embroidered clothing – I suck at embroidery, but i love it and I’m happy to pay a pretty penny for it.

 

Memories of Emanon by Shinji Kajio and Kenji Tsurata – totally different art style than Bride’s Story, but I love, LOVE the art style of Memories of Emanon!  The story takes place in the late 1960s, a young man is traveling home on a ferry in Japan.  The ferry is going up the coast, it’s going to take him 17 hours to get home (sorta like a really, REALLY long train ride in the US).  He meets a young woman on the ferry, and she tells him the wildest story.  What she’s saying can’t possibly be true, can it?  Great story, fantastic artwork.

 

I haven’t finished reading Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee yet,  but I’m near the end.  I bought this collection last year, and was “saving it for a special occasion”. If you read my last blog post and the comments,  being on the upswing from whatever-that-was seemed to be a special occassion, so I picked up Hexarchate Stories.  Young Jedao! and his siblings! and his mom!  and calendars and birthdays and servitors and omg I love this book so much! there is a ton of flash fiction in here, and it’s been fun to analyze the flash fiction, see how to tell a story in just a few pages. truly,  reading this book has been heavenly.  as soon as I finish it I’m going to read it again (I feel like I did that with one of the Machineries of Empire books too?).   Confession – some of my super fave stores have been the sexy/smutty ones.

 

some e-books i’ve read/am reading:

The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson – holy shit damn. this book is everything!  I have handwritten notes for a review and still there is just SO MUCH.   (also, for reasons that  i’ll tell you later, finishing this book and then immediately picking up the Star Trek book had me laughing my head off).  This book doesn’t come out till later this summer, so I need to figure out when i can post a review and how much I can talk about, because I don’t want to spoil anything.

 

 

I just started reading Machine’s Last Testament by Benjanun Sriduangkaew this morning, and I’m loving it. An AI controlled sanctuary city, where if you can get in, you’ll be happy and safe (for AI definitions of happy and safe).  It’s a sort of prequel to And Machines Shall Surrender, which I loved.  Basically, if you’re trying to figure out what kind of stories and prose styles I love,  read anything by Sriduangkaew, and you’ll know.

 

What have you been reading lately?

 

and if you like short fiction, and want your TBR to explode, check out this series of interviews I’m doing at Nerds of a Feather,  with staff members at Hugo nominated semiprozines!  When this series ends, I’ll be doing an interview series with the nominees for best fan artist.  Huh, i guess that explains why i haven’t been writing a ton of reviews lately. . .

Friends, I have the best possible #firstworldproblem.

 

I got to read TWO Kage Baker collections, at the same time!    In the Company of Thieves, is all (you guessed it) Company stories,  and The Best of Kage Baker is a mish mash of all sorts of wonderfulness.  In fact, I am still working my way through The Best of Kage Baker,  savoring it bit by bit.  The Best of, so far seems to be about half Company stories, and half other stuff.

And eeeee!!!  The Best of Kage Baker has illustrations!!!

 

Here’s some thoughts on what I’ve read so far:

 

The Carpet Beds of Sutro Park – I have such a soft spot for this story.  It’s a very quiet story, it’s a slow burn.  Ezra doesn’t have lofty goals, and neither do it.  His reason, tho, is pretty tragic.  He does right by Kristy Ann, and it’s probably a good thing that he never tells anyone,  as I don’t think they’d understand his loving intentions.

 

Hollywood Ikons – Religious paintings that can fry your brain because they were painted using secret mathematical formulas possessed by Imhotep? And Joseph was Imhotep?  If Tim Powers wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark and made it a buddy comedy involving manuscript preservation, cro-magnons, and Hollywood landmarks, you might get something close to Hollywood Ikons.  This story pushed all my buttons in the best possible way!   Also, note to self: if doing a google search on what the heck Joseph is talking about, search “Byzantine ikonography”, instead of “ikon”.  “Ikon” brings up pages upon pages of a K-pop boy band.

 

The Women of Nell Gwynne’s –  I know I’m supposed to like stories like this.  Steampunk!  Gadgets!  Women who have fallen on hard times and now make the best of things by becoming paramours who are also spies and potential blackmailers!  Flouncy dresses!  And I know this story won about a million awards for being steampunk! Gadgets! Company! Funny sexy stuff!   But the funny sexy scenes didn’t do much for me,  and tbh I have always struggled with steampunk.  If it’s your thing, you will love this story.  But I’m sorry, I’m meh on Nell Gwynne’s.  Can’t a woman be of service to the Gentlemen’s Speculative Society without, well, servicing the gentlemen? We can provide people with miniature cameras, buttons that dissolve into sleeping pills, and internal combustion engines, but we can’t devise a way for a “fallen woman” to make a living without selling her body?  I’ll shut up now.

 

Noble Mold –  Joseph pretending he’s a priest and Mendoza doing a bad job pretending that she doesn’t want to kill him? Of course I loved this story!!  Joseph has this long game point of view that I appreciate. (ugh, i guess that’s called wisdom? or something?)  Mendoza is on the hunt for a particular plant, and the family who owns the property is very, very reluctant to let her dig it up.  There’s a 60 year old secret here.   Joseph has to protect his own secret,  the family’s secret, and yet somehow still get that plant dug up!  Luckily,  he’s really good at creating miracles.  After all, he’s the guy who played Imhotep!  Noble Mold is freakin’ fantastic.

 

Old Flat Top – wait, is this Budu, who I love?  Nope, but it is someone who worked with Budu!  And his job to sit at the top of the mountain, and keep the early humans who live in the valley below from killing each other.  He’ll pretent he’s a god, if that’s what it takes to make sure these idiots don’t kill each other.  And every so often, a brave youth climbs the mountain, in search of the god of the mountain.  Man, I could read a million stories of the Enforcers.  These guys!  Life is pretty simple for them, their values are very black and white, their job is to protect and make sure early humans survive.  I like how the Enforcers make everyone else think more about everything.  Especially since the Enforcers don’t really care about making people think,  which makes watching their interactions even more fascinating for me!

 

Hanuman – I was laughing my head off reading this story.  Why, you ask?   Because this guy, Hanuman, is hitting on Mendoza, and he thinks he has a chance with her!  She gives him the time of day, because she’s recovering from an injury and she doesn’t have anything else to do, and she’s polite and he’s inoffensive.  Could it be?  Could Mendoza be making a new friend?  I was so happy that she was having a nice time, and maybe making a new friend!!! Is she going to let someone in?   And then.  Well, that sure made me stop laughing, and I feel a bit of an ass for laughing at the beginning and wondering if this was the start of a beautiful friendship between Hanuman and Mendoza.   After all that, if I was Mendoza I’d stomp off into the forest and not talk to anyone for another 200 years.  And people wonder why she has trust issues!

 

Maelstrom – another one where I laughed and laughed and laughed! And finally, a funny story that actually has a happy ending!  On Mars, Mr. Morton has built the Edgar Allan Poe Center for the Performing Arts.  What follows is a laugh out loud, raucous, joyous,  Muppet Show-esque comedy of errors, complete with nervous directors,  terrible actors, even worse understudies, and Martians with hearts of gold.  I adore Alf so much!  And I love Baker’s Mars – a family of misfits, eccentrics, dreamers, and adventurers.  Maelstrom was exactly what I needed. I hope as I get further into The Best of Kage Baker,  that I get to hangout some more with these characters.

 

Stay tuned, for more Kage Baker!

 

or whatever book I pick up next!

This was the book I didn’t want to review.

 

I didn’t even want to read it.

 

I don’t know why, but I felt the need to save this book for some time when I really needed it.  Like it was the last bottle of whisky from a famous yet shuttered distillery. And once I opened it, it would evaporate and soon barely the scent would remain.

 

When I did crack the book open,  of course the first story I read was The Battle of Candle Arc.  And then I read that story again. And then I read Iseul’s Lexicon, which I then, read again.

I consumed this collection in such a strange way,  I consumed it the same way I use a cookbook. Once I identified a story I enjoyed,  I’d reread it three, or four times, getting into into my rotation. When I felt ready, I’d try another story/meal.

 

Strange, I know.  But you already know that I’m strange.

 

The time came for me to start thinking about the review.

 

I didn’t want to write it.  I didn’t want to put Conservation of Shadows back on the shelf along with all the other books that “I’m done thinking about”.   I’m not ready for these characters to not be in my life anymore. Can I reread these stories any time I want? For sure. But there’s something different about a book that is floating around the house because you are still thinking about it, and a book that you’ve put back on the shelf and categorized in your mind as “I’m done thinking about that book”.

 

This is what Yoon Ha Lee does:  writes fiction you don’t want to stop thinking about. You might be done reading the book, but the book isn’t done with you.

 

To write this review, I’ve made a bargain with myself:  I purchased Hexarchate Stores, so I can dive right into that,  and Conservation of Shadows is going to live on the coffee table for a while longer.  This review is not an agreement that I’m done with this book. In fact, it’ll be really fun to reread these stories in 6 months or a year, and see if they have changed, or if I’ve changed.

 

Thank you for letting me get all of that out of my system and put words to my feelings. You’ve been very patient.  I guess it’s time I talk about this collection, yeah?

 

Most of the stories touch on language (which of course, I have zero interest in), colonialism and occupation, assimilation, destruction of cultures through destruction of their language, how sometimes things just don’t translate, and how war makes us strangers to ourselves.

 

One last thing before I actually talk about the stories!  Fun new words!

 

sumptuary           morphophonemics      escritoire

logographs              entelechy

 

Isn’t “escritoire” just the most beautiful word you’ve ever seen?

 

Ok, I am getting to the stories now, I SWEAR.   In no particular order:

Read the rest of this entry »

My friends at Apex Publications are at it again!    On the heels of their wildly successful Do Not Go Quietly comes their newest Kickstarter project,  Invisible Threads: Cutting the Binds that Hold us Back.

 

You guys, the authors are already in this anthology, this list is unbelievable!  I am too lazy to type everyone’s names, so I’m copy/pasting the image from the Kickstarter site.

 

We each face barriers in our life, some more easily overcome than others. Some seemingly impossible to overcome.   What if society’s response is “there’s nothing to be done, you might as well learn to live with it”?  What if society’s response is “What are you talking about? I don’t see any barrier. It must be in your head”. ?    At least that’s what I think of when I hear the term “Invisible Threads”.

And all these amazing authors, who have totally different life experiences than mine? I want to know what they came up with.

Now that I’ve got a little more of your attention,  here is a link to the Kickstarter site.

 

Backer rewards include print copies of Invisible Threads,  other Apex Titles such as Do Not Go Quietly, Irredeemable, Upside Down,  and War Stories,   stickers, tuckerizations, professional critique services, free stuff from the Apex store,  Apex surprise boxes, and more!  Seriously tho, there are some hella cool backer rewards.

 

Jason and Lesley let me pick their brains about the new anthology,  the joys (and terrors) of Kickstarter, 4am emails, the secret stuff that editors do, their pet peeves, and more.  They’ve done so many Kickstarters by now, it’s gotta be easy by this point. . .  right?

 

Jason Sizemore

About Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner:

Raised in the  Appalachian hills of southeast Kentucky, Jason Sizemore is a three-time  Hugo Award-nominated editor, writer, and publisher who operates the  genre press Apex Publications. He is the author of a collection of dark  science fiction and horror shorts titled Irredeemable, and the tell-all creative nonfiction For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher. Jason co-edited the successful Do Not Go Quietly anthology with Lesley Conner. He currently lives in Lexington, KY. For more information visit www.jason-sizemore.com or you can find him on Twitter @apexjason.

 

Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Book Company,  and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl  Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical  figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving  the three into strange and horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be  found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. Her first novel, The Weight of Chains, was published by Sinister Grin Press in September, 2015. She is the co-editor of two anthologies: Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 and Do Not Go Quietly,  both of which she edited with Jason Sizemore. She lives in Maryland  with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new  novel. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.

Lesley Conner

 

And here’s our conversation!

 

Andrea: When I first heard the title,  I thought “oh, this must be about threads that tie us together, and we don’t even realize it!”,  and that’s not the theme of the anthology, at all. The theme is more along the lines of “these are the things that are holding us back”, things like societal expectations,  stereotypes, and preconceived notions. Why did you decide to do an anthology on this theme?

 

Jason:  Lesley and I are both from poor coal mine communities in Appalachia (she’s West Virginia, I’m Kentucky). We share a common bond in that we escaped the poverty trap and all that entails to work and thrive in publishing. Because we know our story of pulling free of societal threads is not unique, we wanted to hear the stories of how others overcame.

 

While Invisible Threads is not intended to be a political book (unlike our last anthology, Do Not Go Quietly), I do think our political environment influenced our decision to run with the theme. Classism is running rampant across the world. Hate-filled people are pushing back against social gains. The ruling classes are becoming more draconian. Now, more than ever, we need a reminder that it is important to break free of these threads because we need smart, sensible people fighting back who remember what it is like to be in the trenches.

 

Andrea: You’ve already invited authors to bring their stories to your table of contents. When you approached these authors, what guidance did you give them (if any) about what you were looking for?

 

Lesley: To be honest, we didn’t give them a whole lot of guidance. The theme and deadlines when we’d need things back to us, and that was about it. But I think with this kind of anthology, that’s what was needed. The societal pressures that each person deals with are highly individualized based on your own background and experiences. The entire point of the book is that without those experiences, you may not see the struggles your neighbors are going through because they are invisible. We tried to invite a diverse group of authors who will hopefully be able to give us a wide range of stories of people struggling against the invisible threads in their lives.

Read the rest of this entry »

I  dropped 3 bags of books off as donations for the Friends of the Library bookstore, I therefore feel ZERO guild about buying a short stack of boks.   I ordered some of these in January, but by the time I was able to make it to the bookstore to pick them up, it was February.

 

help, I don’t know where to start!!

(actually, I do)

 

I’ve been slowly and repeatedly making my way through Yoon Ha Lee’s short story collection Conservation of Shadows,  and Hexarcate Stories has been on my list for a while.  I thought this was only going to be maybe eight or so stories? the TOC is hella long, I am in heaven just having this baby in my hands!  This collections feels like a bottomless bag of candy. or maybe more like a coral reef that is too big to ever fully explore, even though I visit it every day.

 

 

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury – I really enjoyed Heather’s review of this,  so when I saw a nice paperback copy of it, I decided to buy it.

 

Some short novels by Richard Brautigan.  This hideous book wins every possible award for worst ever cover art.  there is technicolor cover art of In Watermelon Sugar on Amazon, what is this stupid cover art??   ANYWAY,  one of my favorite memories of this year’s ConFusion, was a bunch of us were hanging out in the lobby, we are (or at least I am) incredibly drunk. Someone asks the group what books we read that completely blew our minds.  This guy starts talking about this book called In Watermelon Sugar, I’m watching him talk and loving the words that are coming out of his mouth to the point where I want to collect them in a lightning bottle, and I’m watching as his conversation partner’s mouth falls open, and a look of pure rapture settles in on his face.  This Watermelon book sounds like if Jeff Vandermeer dropped the world’s best acid. I simply HAVE to read it.   and now I can. and some other stuff by the same author

 

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is the next book for my local book club. Have you read it? is it good?  It wasn’t on my radar until now.

 

Where to start?   I’m starting with the Brautigan.

 

 


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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.