the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘short stories

The Future is Female!  25 Classic Science Fiction Stores by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin, edited by Lisa Yaszek

published in 2018 (features scifi stories from 1928-1969)

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

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When a friend offered to let me borrow his copy of The Future is Female,  I jumped at the chance. The volume features science fictioni short stories dating back to 1928, and featuring authors like C.L. Moore, Kit Reed, Judith Merril, Kate Wilhelm, Leigh Brackett, and of course Ursula K. LeGuin and James Tiptree, Jr., among many, many others.   I pick up a lot of random scifi anthologies and single author collections, I liked the idea that this one pulled fiction from across so many decades and generations. There is also a companion website, womensf.loa.org, that offers more in depth author biographies, and a truly excellent trove of cover art of the magazines and anthologies where these stories were originally featured. (Note to self: remember this website later this month when we’re talking about scifi cover art!)

 

The introduction, by editor Lisa Yaszek, gives a very, very quick summary of three generations of writers, and the pulp magazines they wrote for.  I got a chuckle out of Yaszek’s discussion of why these female writers often wrote under a pseudonym – in a number of cases it was to protect their jobs, their privacy, and to protect their government clearance.  I also laughed out loud at the editors mention of some authors with female names, who upon further research, turned out to be men!

 

Designed to be read in the order presented,  I was a jerk and jumped all around in the table of contents, reading what looked interesting first. So far, I’ve read only a handful of the short stories, here are my thoughts on them.   And yes, there are spoilers in some of these mini-reviews, and no I don’t feel bad about the spoilers. These stories are in many cases, older than my parents!

 

The Black God’s Kiss by C.L. Moore (1934) – this is a famous short story, which I am embarrassed to say I have never read until now.  A sci-fantasy starring Moore’s famous Jirel of Joiry, Jirel must defend her fallen lands against the invader Guilliame. Since no weapon on earth can destroy Guilliame, Jirel travels to an unearthly underworld in search of a weapon that can stop him. Here’s where things go from an epic fantasy to sci-fantasy – there are changes in gravity, changes in the laws of physics, possibly alien technology. I love the atmospheric feeling in this story! Makes me want to read a lot more Moore.  She hasn’t got time to wonder about all the amazing (and sometimes horrifying) things she comes across, her goal is Get the Weapon, and then Get Home, and then Kill Guilliame. What she has to do to get the weapon, and what the weapon is, I was not expecting any of this, and I hope it was shocking in the 1930s. Highly recommended.

 

Space Episode by Leslie Perri (1941) –  Lida, Michael, and Erik are astronauts, and upon return to Earth their ship was hit by a micro-meteor, doing damage to one of the engines. If they are going to survive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, someone has to go outside the ship to repair the engine. With the damage to the airlock, whoever goes outside will not be able to get back in. One of these astronauts must sacrifice their life to save the other two.  Lida assumes one of the men will make the sacrifice, but they turn out to be cowards, so (spoiler) she does it. When this story was originally published, apparently male science fiction fans took offense to having to read about two cowardly male characters. Is Lida a heroic female astronaut? Or is she a heroic astronaut?

 

That Only a Mother by Judith Merril (1948) – a cautionary tale. The bombs fell far away, but the radiation and chemicals are in the air here too,  causing children to be born with horrible mutations. Maggie is sure her unborn baby will be fine, and when her husband Hank gets called back to the labs after their daughter’s birth, Maggie sends him letters telling him about their little girls beautiful face, and her laughter, and her development.  If there is anything wrong with their daughter, Maggie hasn’t said a word. In fact, their little girl seems to be developing quicker than expected, at less than a year old, she can speak and can even sing a little! When Hank is finally granted shore leave to spend days on end with his wife and baby daughter,  he discovers a secret he must keep, forever. I was not AT ALL prepared for the shocker of an ending. In the biography area, it is mentioned that not only was That Only A Mother Merril’s first SF story, but it was written to win a bet with John W. Campbell. And yes, she won the bet handily.

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As always, my “best of the year” is the best stuff I consumed this year.  It may not have been created this year, but I read it or watched it this year.

My favorite novels that I read in 2018

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee

The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

The Scar (reread) by China Mieville

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

Nova by Samuel Delany

 

 

My favorite short stories, novellas, and novelettes that I read in 2018. Huh. I read a lot of short stuff in 2018!  and a lot of really good short stuff!

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Acadie by Dave Hutchinson

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

The Inconvenient God by Francesca Forrest

Time Was by Ian McDonald

“Monologue by an unnamed mage, recorded at the brink of the end” by Cassandra Khaw, Uncanny Magazine

“On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog”, by Adam Shannon, Apex Magazine

 

 

My favorite science fiction movies of 2018

Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman

Bird Box (on Netflix), starring Sandra Bullock

(honorable mention to Arrival and Interstellar, because I watched them both about 20 times while we had Amazon Prime in 2018)

 

As 2018 wraps up,  2019 is already looking to be amazing.  Because, this.

Driving to Geronimo’s Grave and Other Stories by Joe R. Lansdale

published October 2018

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Subterranean Press!)

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You probably recognize Joe R. Lansdale’s name from his famous Hap and Leonard series, and fans of absurd comedy-horror will recognize his name from the novella turned movie Bubba Ho-Tep.

 

His recent short story collection Driving to Geronimo’s Grave and Other Stories offers an odd yet satisfying mix of stories. There’s a little bit of everything in here – post apocalyptic, Depression era drama, the Old West,  wrestling, you name it. For the most part, these stories involve characters who have good intentions, people who are trying to do the right thing surrounded by societies that a broken down, corrupt, and in one case even a Lovecraftian hellscape.  The environments these characters are thrown into – no good can come out of these places. But these are all Lansdale characters, which means they will tell all the things that are working against them to fuck right off.

 

Each story is followed by Lansdale’s notes – was the story written for a particular editor or anthology? What was he thinking about when he wrote the stories? I wish these notes had preceded the stories instead of followed them, I found my interest grew when I started reading his notes first. (Update from the publisher:  The final version of the book has his notes before each story. I was reading an ARC.)

 

Before you hop into Driving to Geronimo’s Grave,  be aware that these are not science fiction of fantasy stories – This is character driven American Literature – only some of which has SF-nal or supernatural elements.  And if you are offended by swear words, don’t even pick this book up.

 

Here are my thoughts on the stories I enjoyed most.

 

My stand out favorite story was the Lovecraftian “In the Mad Mountains”  (2015). Survivors of a shipwreck find themselves on an icy plain. They can freeze to death, or try to survive.  Amelia and Gavin explore the area, find supplies, and try to guess where they are. It’s obvious there is some kind of creature who has picked off other people who may have found themselves here, and the mishmash of shipwrecks doesn’t make any sense at all.  It’s terrifying, yet Amelia stays cool and has a scientific curiosity about where they may be. When the two of them find an airplane that appears to be in perfect working order, is it a trap, or an escape? If you’ve ever read any of Lovecraft’s original Cthulhu mythos short stories, you know a goodly chunk of it borders on unreadably bad.  But I love the idea of deep ones, of gods who wants and desires humans can never understand, I enjoy the mythos. “In The Mad Mountains” was an excellent combination of the mythos and inescapable terror I enjoy, combined with well paced action and smart characters.

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The Weight of Words, edited by Dave McKean and William Schafer

published in 2017

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher

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While whining about the books I’ve read recently and not reviewed (dear Andrea: is it OK to read something and not review it right away!), I got thinking about a book I’ve been reading and re-reading, and touching and oohing and aahing over the artwork of.  I’ve had this book in my possession for over a year, and it’s become less traditional anthology and more touchstone. The themes of the stories are all over the place – sad, creepy, hopeful, full of release, full of tension, seeking closure. The only thing these stories have in common is the artwork. If you’ve got a friend who loves the intersection of art and storytelling, this would make a great gift.

 

The Weight of Words, edited by Dave McKean and William Shafer came out around this time last year, but it’s a book I needed months and months to think about.  Dave McKean’s multi layered artwork draws you in, and then like a fractal, keeps drawing you in. This surreal artwork is the perfect match for speculative fiction stories that speak of places that never were.    These images tell a thousand stories, I almost feel bad for the authors who had to decide on just one plot line and write a short story!

Something incredible happens when artwork and storytelling intersect, something that feels like a chemical reaction.   The Weight of Words includes fiction by Joe Hill, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Catherynne Valente, Maria Dahvana Headley, Joe R. Lansdale, Alastair Reynolds, and more.

 

Here are my thoughts on some of my favorite stories in the collection:

 

Belladonna Nights by Alastair Reynolds –  McKean’s artwork prompt is a strange image of a clocktower, and violins growing out of the tops of the tower.  Reynolds took this fantastically surreal image and wrote a far future space opera about a reunion. Campion can continue to protect Shaula, or he can tell her the truth about her past.  If he tells her the truth, nothing will ever be the same again, and keeping up the lie is killing him. Just so you know, this story made me cry. I learned after I read the story that this story takes place in Reynold’s “House of Suns” world.

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I love buying books.  If I read an author and fall in love with their work, I try to buy more of their books.  I can’t seem to leave a bookstore without purchasing a cookbook.

 

I’ve been waiting for Seth Dickinson’s next Baru Cormorant book since, oh, I dunno, about 5 seconds after finishing the first book in the series, The Traitor Baru Cormorant. I was so excited for the next book in the series, The Monster Baru Cormorant, that I reread the first one, managed to purchase a copy of the new book the day it came out, and started reading it that night. It’s super dense, I’m madly in love with all the economics talk (but wait, i thought I hated economics?),  and I really miss Tain Hu. Might have to reread the first book just to be able to spend some more time with her. I’m about half way through The Monster Baru Cormorant, and am pretty sure I’ll need to read it twice if I’m gonna write a coherent review.

About five minutes after I finished Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee,  I ordered a copy of Lee’s short story collection, Conservation of Shadows.    And I finally, finally, after everyone I know has said how amazing this series is, bought a copy of Vicious by V.E. Schwab.  the problem is going to be deciding which one of these to read first!!!   The Lee looks enjoyable because it’s short stories, i can read one or two before bed or in the morning before I leave for work.   If Vicious turns out to be an emotional roller coaster, I might need to wait a few weeks to read it,  as I’m still recovering from Revenant Gun, and a little voice is telling me that Baru is going to take me on another emotional roller coaster!

 

Even if I don’t get to either of these books any time soon, I like that they are in my house.

 

 

And because I apparently can’t leave a bookstore without buying a cookbook, lets make some Gyudon.   and there’s a whole chapter on Japanese Curry!  Curry Rice FTW!

 

As of the writing of this blog post, The Apex Publications “Do Not Go Quietly” Kickstarter is just shy of 70% funded, with 15 days to go.  Jason and Lesley have let me annoy them with e-mails and tweets and Q&A’s.  I have to admit, I am fascinated not only by this particular kickstarter project, but by the behind the scenes of crowdfunding in general.  This is the fourth (fifth? I’ve lost count) Kickstarter that Apex has done, so crowdfunding projects must be fun!

 

Well past the 50% funded mark, the DNGQ project is now open to unsolicited submissions, through Sept 19th. They are looking for stories of Resistance. Of Revolution. Of standing up and demanding to have your space, your say, your right to be. Even if it means pissing people off.

 

Looking for some inspirational music? On the DNGQ blog is a Playlist of Resistance with more suggestions and music links in the comments.

 

But you came here to hear what Jason and Lesley have to say about resistance, voting, this anthology, and kickstarter, right?   Onward!

 

Andrea:  You’ve got voting information on the Do Not Go Quietly Blog. Um, why?
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Jason: Lesley and I aren’t violent people. We certainly appreciate the sentiment behind punching neo-Nazis, but we don’t want to endorse any action that would see someone be harmed (particularly those who aren’t neo-Nazis). The simplest and most pain free way to resist in a democracy is to vote the assholes out. We want you to use your power to cast a ballot for those who are not racist, who does not suffer xenophobia, and discriminates against religion.
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Lesley: Jason’s right. The best way to fight back and to resist is to be knowledgeable of what is going on in politics. So many people seem to feel like their vote doesn’t matter, like they can’t make a change by going, but that isn’t true. I would encourage everyone to pay attention. Know who your representatives are and what they stand for. If they don’t represent your beliefs or are actively trying to take away the rights of people they’re supposed to be representing, VOTE THEM OUT. The fastest way to get the attention of people in power is to take that power away when they abuse it.
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Andrea: I am LOVING this cover art by Marcela Bolívar! What else can you tell us about her? Will she be creating any more artwork for this project?


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You like anthologies of all original fiction, yes?

You think Kickstarter is cool, Yes?

Oh, are you going to love this!

My most excellent friends at Apex Book Company, Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner, have launched their Kickstarter for a new anthology of original fiction about resistance and revolution. Called “Do Not Go Quietly”, the anthology is already nearly 50% funded!

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This is an all or nothing deal, which means when the funding is reached, the anthology happens with a table of contents that includes Seanan McGuire, Catherynne M. Valente, Rebecca Roanhorse, Sheree Renee Thomas, A. Merc Rustad, Maurice Broaddus, Cassandra Khaw, Laird Barron, Karin Lowachee, Rich Larson, Fran Wilde, and more.  For those of you keeping count,  I’ve just listed authors who have won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy, Prix Aurora, Mythopeoic, Andre Norton,  and Shirley Jackson awards, and I’ve not even gotten through the entire Table of Contents yet.

 

Click here to visit the Do Not Go Quietly Kickstarter page to learn more about the project and all the amazing authors who are involved so far. Even if you have no intention of supporting this project, click on the link anyways, just to watch the kick ass video.

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Lesley and Jason were kind enough to take me behind the scenes of this project, and if I’m really lucky, they’ll let me ask them another set of questions! What questions do you have?  Leave ’em in the comments, maybe you’ll see the answer posted later this month!

Not interested in kickstarter, but interested in some of the essays that are being published around this anthology? No problem, there is a Do Not Go Quietly Blog with everything you’re looking for, including information on voting.

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Andrea: What made you decide to create this anthology? I imagine it took a while to get this group of authors together, explain to them what you were doing. Had you already been working on this for a while before you started the Kickstarter?

Lesley: Jason and I have known that we wanted to edit another anthology together, but coming up with just the right theme took a while. After the last presidential election we saw a lot of people we care about feeling scared and unsure about the world around them. Things … have not gotten better since then. That’s where the initial inspiration for Do Not Go Quietly came from. We want to put together an anthology that will energize people, that will lift them up and encourage them to stand up for their rights and fight back against those trying to take them away.

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Coming up with the list of contributors who we would solicit stories from wasn’t as hard as you might think! Separately, Jason and I made lists of authors we felt would be a good fit – authors we know are not only amazing writers, but who we felt would have a unique voice and standpoint on the theme. Resistance, revolution. This isn’t a single-sided issue. There are a lot things going on not only here in the United States, but around the world. We aren’t looking to put together an anthology that only represents one issue or one viewpoint. Resistance is complex and nuanced, and we’re hoping that once the anthology is complete, it will be represent that complexity.

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So we started with two lists and then put them together so we had one GIGANTIC list of fantastic writers we would love to have on board. From there we had to narrow it down, try to put together a mix that was diverse in viewpoints and voice, but that would fit well together to become a cohesive whole. After that, we sent out invites, explaining the project. Not everyone we approached said yes, but I’m incredibly proud of the list of contributors we have onboard for the project.

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Andrea: What are some of the stretch goals in the kickstarter? I heard a rumor that there are . . . patches?

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Lesley: There are patches! But you don’t have to wait for the stretch goals to get one! We’re sending out “I Will Not Go Quietly” patches to every backer who backs at the $15 trade paperback level and above! I know, I’m awfully excited about patches, but I’m a Girl Scout leader! Patches go along with a lot of things that I do. So that was one of the very first things that I wanted to make sure we got when coming up with goodies to pack into the reward tiers.

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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.
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