Rich and Strange: “The New Mother” by Eugene Fischer

This week on Rich and Strange, I take a look at “The New Mother,” a novella by Eugene Fischer headlining the current issue of Asimov’s.

Tess Mendoza is a freelance journalist writing a high-profile piece on the social implications of Gamete Diploidy Syndrome, or GDS—a sexually transmitted medical condition that renders men sterile and causes fertile women, in the absence of hormonal birth control, to risk becoming pregnant with what are functionally clones of themselves every time they ovulate….It’s a fantastic concept, and the whole novella is structured around exploring its every possible facet: Tess interviews scientists, politicians, lobbyists, religious fanatics, while her representation of the furor over the future of “motherhood” is complicated by her own position as a pregnant woman in a same-sex relationship, and the possibility that she herself has been infected.

I literally cannot think of a single way to improve this story. I mention its thoroughness in the review; there’s just such a slow, methodical circling of the issues, ramping the tension up the while. I love Tess. I love Judy. I love her mother.

I’d love to know what you think about it.

#SFWApro

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Lightspeed Column: Aqueduct Press’ Congress of Ghosts

Today is the day my first Lightspeed Magazine column goes up online! You can read it here. It features a triple bill of Aqueduct Press titles centred around echoes, ghosts, and hauntings: Lisa M. Bradley’s The Haunted GirlJenn Brissett’s Elysium, and Sonya Taaffe’s Ghost Signs.

These books, in addition to being the most current Conversation Pieces, make a superb triple bill: here are poems and stories concerned with (among others) ways of being dead, ways of being alive, encounters with ghosts both literal and metaphorical, memories, echoes, speech and silence, freedom and constraint. It’s wonderful to read these books in sequence — and, in the spirit (badum-tsh!) of the series title, exciting to place them in conversation with each other to see where they intersect and overlap.

I’m delighted to have had this opportunity to contribute to the conversation, and hope you’ll join in.

#SFWApro

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Review: PERSONA by Genevieve Valentine

My review of Genevieve Valentine’s Persona went up this weekend, and here is a bit of it:

Suyana Sapaki is the Face for the recently-formed United Amazonian Rainforest Confederation — a C-lister for all intents and purposes, new to the scene, unloved by the camera, and unfortunately given to plain-speaking and refusal to play the smiling, conciliatory part handed to her. Suyana is angry, and a little too often, the anger shows. At best, she’s a liability; at worst, where her handler is concerned, she’s a non-story.

Until someone tries to kill her.

Pretty sure I read this book in a sitting. It couldn’t be more different from The Girls at the Kingfisher Club (which, OK, I also read in a sitting), but the narrative core of resisting constraint by making an art of stillness, by wearing stylised masks, by exerting more control over oneself than the constraints themselves possibly could, is definitely cut from the same cloth.

Since writing the review — in which I uncharacteristically hope for a sequel — I’ve had confirmation that the next book in Valentine’s celebrity-as-statecraft world is already written. This makes me so happy. I was entirely satisfied by Persona ending where it did, but there were so many hooks for a sequel, and they certainly sank into me.

#SFWApro

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Review: SHADOW SCALE by Rachel Hartman

My review of Rachel Hartman’s Shadow Scale, the sequel to Seraphina, is now up at NPR Books.

Shadow Scale picks up where Seraphina left off, with the Queendom of Goredd coming to terms with the existence of half-dragons, a civil war among the dragons themselves after an act of betrayal, and the risk of that war spilling across their borders. 40 years of peace have left Goredd’s dragon-fighting abilities depleted — but Seraphina and her fellow half-dragons may hold the key to protecting it with their unique abilities.

I adored Seraphina and couldn’t put it down. I had a more complicated reaction to Shadow Scale, as befits a more complicated book, but all those complications were of the order of needing to shout as things happened or flail about on Twitter about them.

This is very much the sort of novel I almost regret having read in advance of it coming out because I’ll have to wait that much longer to get to TALK about it with people, so please, do me the huge favour of reading these incredibly rich and wonderful books and then come back and we can all squee about them together.

#SFWApro

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Rich and Strange: “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander

copyright 2015 Galen Dara

This week’s Rich and Strange looks at a blazing, fast-paced, relentless sort of story by Brooke Bolander: “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead,” published this month in Lightspeed magazine.

In the far-future there are fully synthetic humans grown for grunt-work and war: “The children of wires and circuits aren’t worth a tinker’s fuck compared to the children of real flesh and bone, so far as the world’s concerned,” observes Rhye, our foul-mouthed, gun-slinging protagonist. Seriously injured after a prize fight, she’s taken in by Rack, who helps her up and offers her a place to stay.

Rack and Rhye make a great team: he’s cool, quiet, a brilliant security specialist, while she’s fierce, blazing, loud, angry. Mostly Rack looks after Rhye, cleaning her wounds and not judging her life choices—but when a mob deal goes sour, it’s up to Rhye to save both their lives by diving through circuitry and bodiless space to find Rack and the third party he was hired to extract.

Full review, as usual, at Tor.com. I found this pretty amazing, and can’t wait to read more of Bolander’s work.

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Rich and Strange: “Tiger Baby” by JY Yang

copyright 2015 by Likhain

This week’s story, from the ever-superb Lackington’s, glances against the Lunar New Year, so I’m very glad my review of it appears today! Please also note the absolutely gorgeous artwork accompanying it, by Likhain.

The story is mostly slice-of-life, the stylized prose calculated to make you feel the weight of Felicity’s unwanted, unlived every-day: she goes to work, where everything is always the same; she endures her family, with whom she has nothing in common; she talks to her Otherkin friend on the internet, who thinks she understands Felicity but ultimately doesn’t. But what struck me most about this story was the way I was reading it, potentially against its grain, as a story of colonization and betrayal by one’s literatures, to be failed by stories.

I cut myself off mid-flow as I was writing this, because I was becoming shy about how much the review was turning into an essay about me and my experiences. Suffice it to say the story’s wonderfully effective, accomplishing something enormous in a very small space, and that I want you all to read it, be smacked in the face by its ending, and then talk to me about it on Tor.com!

Note: after googling dates and double-checking with the author, I realised this story takes place in 2020. My first reaction to this was “huh, that’s odd, I mean it’s not really that futuristic,” and then I realised that 2020 is five years from now.

Now I’m going to go have a lie-down.

#SFWApro

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Review: TOUCH by Claire North

My review of Claire North’s utterly brilliant Touch is up at NPR Books.

[T]his book…is about entities who can inhabit and move through human bodies with only the faintest of skin-to-skin contact, and whose hosts have no memory of the time they were being “worn”…They call themselves ghosts, these possessing entities, and they were born into bodies the same as anyone else. But violent trauma can catalyze a switch: The impulse to cling to life is so powerful that in dying, they reach out – leaving their original bodies and jumping into whoever’s near enough to touch.

I love that Claire North is, herself, pseudonymous at least twice over; I feel that gives Touch a particularly coy dimension. At any rate, I devoured this book, and while it’s early in the year for it I’m marking it up as something to consider for next year’s awards. It seriously blew me away.

#SFWApro

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Rich and Strange: “In Loco Parentis” by Andrea Phillips

January was full of settling back in to life in Canada — or rather, figuring out ways to navigate remaining thoroughly UN-settled, as my life has been such that I’ve still not found time to unpack my suitcases — and January extended into February, but here, nevertheless, is a new instalment of Rich & Strange.

“In Loco Parentis” is a near-future story where children have AI presences—called “minders”—injected into their heads at a young age, supplemented with glasses that allow the children to interface with a variety of internet. These minders are meant to complement a biological parent’s authority until such time as the child is ready to graduate beyond them, swapping the glasses out for optic implants and integrating the minder with their own personality, or wiping the minder clean to start afresh as an adult. Yakova, a young teenager, is at an age where all her friends are getting the optic implants—but her mother, Meirav, doesn’t think she’s ready, and dislikes the influence Yakova’s friends are having on her.

I loved this story, and am still mulling over a few of its implications. I’m always grateful when a story leaves me feeling good, and I was grateful to this one. Please do, by the way, check out Phillips’ other work, linked in the original post — she’s just wonderful.

#SFWApro

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2014 Award Eligibility – Short Fiction and Goblin Fruit

Last year was the first year I made a living from writing: a mix of reviews, articles, games, poetry and fiction. It still feels pretty incredible.

I had four short stories appear in 2014. Here they are:

Mon pays c’est l’hiver,” Lackington’s Magazine
The Rag Man Mulls Down the Day,” PodCastle (audio only)
“The Lonely Sea in the Sky,” Lightspeed, Women Destroy Science Fiction
The Truth About Owls,” Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories (link is to reprint at Strange Horizons)

Of those, I’m personally proudest of “The Lonely Sea in the Sky” and “The Truth About Owls.” Both were incredibly difficult to write; both felt like a sort of levelling up to me personally; both would have been impossible without the support of incredible editors, loving friends and family members. “The Lonely Sea in the Sky” is my first science fiction story, and the difficulties I had with writing it are documented.

The only poem of mine that appeared last year was “The New Ways” in Uncanny Magazine. But speaking of poetry!

Goblin Fruit is eligible for a Hugo award in the Best Semiprozine category.

Here are some things about Goblin Fruit. Here are some more things: this is our ninth year of operations, of putting out four issues a year of what I consider truly spectacular work. This year, beginning with our next issue, we’re raising our rates to $10 a poem.

I don’t think an all-poetry journal has ever been on the Hugo ballot. But it genuinely fulfils all the requirements for the category, and last year, according to the vote break-down, it was VERY CLOSE to actually getting on the ballot. So if you’ve been loving it for a while but haven’t ever considered it because Hugo rules are complicated, know that it is eligible! Whether or not it is worthy is of course up to you.

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Some Reading Recommendations for 2015 Award Consideration

I read A LOT of stuff last year. I’m still trying to sort through it to figure out what I loved best. Here, while I try to figure that out, are links to a bunch of reviews I did and Best-of lists in which I participated.

Novels

I recommended a bunch of stuff for NPR’s Book Concierge, and some things for Tor.com’s Reviewers’ Choice. I can definitely say that the two novels I loved best from last year were Genevieve Valentine’s The Girls at the Kingfisher Club and Edward Carey’s Heap House, but I’m torn about nominating the former because it’s really not fantasy, but it’s so fantasy-adjacent as a fairy tale retelling, and also it was just amazingly good, and — bah. Anyway I’m still torn. Heap House, though! Augh! SO GOOD!

But when expanding into a top 5 for nomination purposes, everything gets muddled. I still have books I need to read, but they’re mostly the books that are already buzzing and need no help from me: The Goblin Emperor, Full Fathom Five, Ancillary Sword, Twelfth Station, City of Stairs, etc — so books I’ll likely read if/when they’re on the ballot, but won’t have a chance to read before figuring out my own.

So anyway here are the top five novels that really left an impression from last year. Links are to my reviews of them.

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
Heap House by Edward Carey
The Memory Garden
by Mary Rickert
The Bees by Laline Paull
My Real Children by Jo Walton

Novellas

I need to read a LOT of these in a very short time, alas — want to read Rachel Swirsky’s “Grand Jeté” and a lot of the stuff on Tor.com including Mary Rickert’s “Voorhisville.” There’s probably also stuff I DID read without registering the length of (were there original novellas in Women Destroy Science Fiction?), so I still have some homework to do here. Recommendations in comments are very, very welcome.

As it is I have only one sterling rec off the top of my head, so here it is.

The Witch in the Almond Tree” by C. S. E. Cooney

Novelettes

I’m so sorry. This category is my bane, and one of the reasons I freakin’ love when people post eligibility lists, because I have no idea when something is or isn’t a novelette. I read stuff online! When I’m absorbed in a story I don’t feel its length! Probably loads of the things I read last year were novelettes and I never knew. One thing I read this year that I was convinced was a novella turned out to be a novelette. It’s disheartening. So much homework to do. SO MUCH.

Short Stories

You know what, let me give you loads of links to lists of recommendations.

Ken Liu‘s is very helpful, with accurate categories and brief summaries.
Sofia Samatar‘s has my wholehearted endorsement, especially where Carmen Machado’s incredible, slippery, luminous work is concerned.
You can also look through my Rich & Strange tag for all the short fiction I’ve reviewed from the past year, whether on this site or at Tor.com. It’s not a huge amount, but they’re all stories I’ve found notable.

Graphic Works

Whew, at least this is relatively easy. Stuff wot blew me away last year:

Sex Criminals vol. 1, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
Saga vol. 4 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples
I Am Fire by Rachael Smith
The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
Ms. Marvel #1 by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona (the story of why I’ve not yet read the whole is ridiculous and a source of sighs)
Bitch Planet #1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine de Landro
Lazarus vol. 2 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Favourite webcomics:

Gunnerkrigg Court
Girls With Slingshots
Dumbing of Age
Oglaf

Dramatic Presentation

I just want to try and shift gears from television shows and films here. Like, Welcome to Night Vale is an absolutely incredible narrative podcast; The Walk is a magnificent game with wonderful audio performances; if we must stick with TV shows, consider cartoons like Adventure Time and Bee and Puppycat and Bravest Warriors, maybe? Actually, there we go, that’s my list.

I’ll leave it there for now. Not a comprehensive list, but a beginning of housekeeping! Onwards.

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