the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘short stories

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:

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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.

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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.

 

 

We’re about  a week into Vintage month,  and it’s been so wonderful so far!  There’s been wonderful discussions in comments sections,  chit chat on twitter,  cool stuff happening every where!

 

I catch the posts I can, so anything i missed, feel free to leave a link in the comments.

 

Howling Frog Books is having a blast using the Vintage SciFi Month bingo card, and has reviewed Spock Must Die by James Blish, Bill the Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison, and Exiled from Earth by Ben Bova. Three reviews in a week?  Yikes, I gotta up my game!

 

Bookforager has a  beautifully written review of Driftglass by Samuel R Delany. Srsly, if you have not read his work, you are missing out!

 

Eclectic Theist enjoys Past Master by R.A. Lafferty, with bonus recommendations in the comments section.

 

Kristen Brand has a blast talking about her favorite Vintage Scifi tropes. What are you favorite vintage scifi tropes? which ones annoy you?

 

Wiki Fiction offers a very indepth look at Stanislaw Lem’s fiction, and primarily the frustration with Solaris.  I too was frustrated, but as luck would have it, I ended up being OK with how it ends.

 

Judith Tarr (yes, that Judith Tarr!)  is over at Tor.com talking about reading Andre Norton’s Quag Keep.  Fantasy fiction certainly wasn’t new in the last 70s, but Dungeons and Dragons was.

 

Sara Light-Waller has an excellent profile of Captain Future, at PulpFest.   the mythos of Captain Future goes back to the first Worldcon, how cool is that?

 

Still looking for Vintage recommendations?  Prepare to have your TBR explode. Not only does Joachim Boaz have a list of excellent Vintage Scifi recommendations, he’s got an entire website, Science Fiction and other Suspect Ruminations that is 99.99% Vintage Scifi Goodness!

 

I know I missed plenty of links. Help a girl out and put them in the comments?  you can also tweet them to @VintageSciFi_ 

 

Woah! How did it become December, like, when did that happen?

I could put myself under a ton of pressure to write thousand word reviews that won’t get read . . . or I could write some low-pressure mini-reviews.

Mini reviews it is. (I mourn my loss of review-writing motivation. I really do)

Here are some mini-reviews of books I read this year and enjoyed. If you read them, I’d love to know your thoughts! If you aren’t familiar with them, do they look interesting?

The Quantum Garden by Derek Kunsken – the direct sequel to Kunsken’s break out novel The Quantum Magician. I am a sucker for heist stories, and I am a sucker for when the con artist gets conned. This second novel in the series is quieter than the first, less action, less gigantic set pieces. And in the quiet spaces, we really get to know Bel and Cassie, and the family they came from. I’m not going to give away any plot points, because if you haven’t read the first book they won’t make any sense. If you like smart science fiction, if you like physics that is on the edge, if you like stories about science meets capitalism and human greed, and oh, if you’re looking to scratch your Locke Lamora itch, this is the series for you.  Seriously excellent in every possible way. Def gonna want to reread this and tease out all the cool dimension hopping physics and cultural and family obligation stuff, and just totally cool shit on every page.

And Shall Machines Surrender by Benjanun Sriduangkaew – I loved this book. It was fun, it was super sexy, the characters were great, I enjoyed the story, I loved the idea of a sanctuary community that is run and governed by AI’s who rebelled against their human owners. But this isn’t a story about AI’s, it is a romance. Orfea and Krissana have history, oh do they have history. And the only thing they have more of than history is chemistry. If you don’t like romance and sexytimes getting all squished up in your scifi, this isn’t the book for you. Enjoy ultra smart scifi characters who also get to have romantic relationships and sexytimes? This novella is the gift you give yourself. Even better news? Sriduangkaew recently published Then Will the Sun Rise Alabaster, which is same world, different characters. This is a huge sprawling space opera world that Sriduangkaew has created, there are endless stories she could tell.

Indelible Ink by Matt Betts – Ok, so I read this one a few months ago, and don’t remember a ton of the details. I remember that it had a rough start, but found its bearing pretty quickly, and that I enjoyed it enough that I’d read it again. Deena has some hella cool superpowers that she can sort of control, her story line felt X-Men and edgy, as if she was some mutant kid who got recruited into Magneto’s crew and didn’t really know what was going on. I remember really liking her as a character and rooting for her. And there was this crazy twist at the end that came out of left field, but at the same time made a ton of sense because there had been some clues all long. Yep, just gonna have to read this one again. If you can find a copy of this book, I recommend it.

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I have finally had a chance to read “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” by Jorge Luis Borges,  and so many puzzle pieces have finally clicked into place.  Reading the story sent me to Wikipedia, which sent me down a glorious Gene Wolfe rabbit hole, and also reminded me of the weirdest story I ever read in Apex Magazine, and now my brain is having the best time ever!

 

Wait, what?

 

ok, so if you’re anything like me, you’ve come across references to the famous Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges (did you know he was from Argentina? me neither), and maybe, like me, you’ve assumed his work a)has nothing to do with your fave scifi/fantasy and b)is probably too literary for you to understand.

While writing a December guest post, I was flipping through The Big Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, and why have I never flipped through this book before, what is wrong with me? This ginormous collection is sold gold! ah, maybe the fact that it weighs 38 pounds was a turn off? I’m sure it is available as an ebook for those who are interested. Anyways,  I came across Borges’ “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” in the table of contents and the story didn’t look very long . . .

 

And 30 minutes later I was sitting on the sofa, glassy eyed, and so many questions about stories I had read suddenly made sense.  So much of what I’ve read has referenced this story, so many authors I’d interviewed about their “made up worlds” were referencing Tlon, or other works by Borges (because reading 3 paragraphs on Wikipedia apparently makes me an expert? HA).

 

Some random thoughts after reading “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”  –

The introduction to the story mentions that, among other authors, Gene Wolfe was influenced by the work of Borges.  The second paragraph of the story begins:

“Bioy Casares had come to dinner at my house that evening, and we had lost all track of time in a vast debate over the way one might go about compsing a first-person novel whose narrator would omit or distory things and engage in all sorts of contradictions, so that a few of the book’s readers – a very few – might divine the horrifying or banal truth”

and all I could think was “oh, so that’s what was going on in Gene Wolfe’s An Evil Guest?”  I remember when I was reading that book, that i didn’t understand what was going on, and I was so angry that I didn’t get it! I felt left out.  I still don’t get that book, and I don’t plan to read it again, but i feel better about not getting it, even if my guess is completely wrong.

 

Now that I think about it tho,  I’ve been reading the grand children of this short story for decades. A place that doesn’t exist, but if we can convince people that it does exist, it will exist?  Reference books with editions that don’t match?   Life’s grandest wild goose chase?   And what I love even more about this, is that it doesn’t even matter if the place exists or not, it doesn’t matter that you can’t get there from here. The joy is in the creating, the joy is in the fun of the thing.

 

And I’m thinking about more short stories I’ve read over the years that had echoes of Borges, that when the authors said his work influenced them, I just politely nodded and hoped it wasn’t too obvious how under-read I was.  It was obvious, trust me. And they were very kind about it.

 

Borges was way ahead of his time, wasn’t he?

 

It’s like Borges’ work is an orchard, and nearly everyone has eaten from it, has their favorite trees, their favorite beehives, knows exactly when the apples, plums, cherries, and peaches are at their ripest, knows how to get the perfect photograph of the sun rising through the mist and the shadows of the trees.

 

Anyways, I have a ton of unread books on my bookshelf, stacks upon stacks of books that are in the “give away” pile, and all I want to do is going to the library and get some Borges, and keep falling down this rabbit hole.

You ever have one of those weeks where you feel like you got absolutely nothing done?  Yep, this past week felt like that.  But? only three workdays this week, and then a 4 day weekend full of food, shopping, more food, reading, and general chillaxing!  And I’ll be doing all that shopping online while wearing pajamas.

 

what have I been up to lately?

I did end up setting aside the Robin Hobb book. Not so much a didn’t finish, as a I’m not in the mood for this right now.   and I did start reading The Quantum Garden by Derek Kunsken. I’m only about 100 pages in, but what a ride so far!

I picked up a book of short stories called Flying Carpets, and I’ll admit I was drawn to this book because of the cover.  Got to meet the author at a local event,  and when she said “magical realism”, I was sold.   I’ve read the first few stories so far, and they are quite enjoyable.

And speaking of short stories, I was flipping through the table of contents of the absolutely massive The Big Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, when I realized this tome has some favorites that I haven’t gotten to read in a really long time, such as “Standing Woman” by Yasutaka Tsutsui , “Sandkings” by George R R Martin, and “Gorgonoids” by Leena Krohn. There’s also “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, “The Poetry Cloud” by Cixin Liu, “Blood Music” by Greg Bear,  “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Terius” by Jorge Luis Bores, and about a million more. Hard to believe a the paperback of this costs less than $30!  Yes, I am recommending this as a gift to your science fiction loving friends!

On the non-bookish side of life,  if your planning a holiday Game of Thrones binge watch, make sure you have matching liquor and beer.

And when you’ve got rice, some veggies, and some high quality tinned fish, dinner can come together in 5 minutes.

Mackerel over rice with corn, green olives, and scallions. This photo doesn’t do it justice, this plate was to die for.

What have you been reading, watching, drinking, eating, and enjoying lately?

 


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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.