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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Rocket Talk + Fulcrum Interview

A couple of weeks ago, at Justin Landon’s invitation, I had a long, rambly, hilarious, intense conversation with him and Natalie Luhrs over Ethics in Literary Journalism (for real). Justin Landon is, however, an absolutely brilliant curator of people’s speech, so what I remember as a 2-hour behemoth of blather (purely on my part, as I gesticulated at Skype and drummed on the desk and shifted in my seat to aid thought-formulation) has been distilled into just over an hour’s worth of actually really cogent and balanced conversation that I found myself listening to with interest even though I’d participated in it.

(I only wanted to argue with something I said once! So that’s something!)

It’s a conversation I’d been craving for a long time, and the whole thing was a fantastic experience from start to finish. Many thanks to Justin and Natalie for it!

In other news, closing a 14-year circle, I was interviewed by my alma mater’s independent student newspaper about The Honey Month and winning the Rhysling award three times and teaching at the University of Ottawa. This made me so happy. The years I spent at this university were so blazingly joyful, and this really crystallized my awareness of how strange and wonderful it is to find myself here again as a teacher.

#SFWApro

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“The Truth About Owls” Reprinted at Strange Horizons

I’ve been bursting with this for a while: “The Truth About Owls,” my story in Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy, has been reprinted in Strange Horizons. There’s also an interview with Kaleidoscope editors Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios, and you can also listen to Anaea Lay reading the story for the podcast. I can’t wait to listen and hear what she’s done with it.

Zeus and Amal

Photo by Seanan McGuire.

I was asked to add an introduction to the story, some stuff about the genesis of it, so I did. I don’t really have much to add to that, except that it’s probably best read as an afterword: thar be spoilers. But I’m just so grateful that the editors at Strange Horizons asked for this story, that it’s now in one of my favourite magazines as well as one of my favourite anthologies from the past year.

Speaking of anthologies and favourites — I think I neglected to mention (which should say something about how stupefyingly busy I’ve been these last few weeks) that “The Truth About Owls” is also being reprinted in Jonathan Strahan’s Year’s Best, in genuinely staggering company. I’m so honoured, and so happy about this. It was a hard story to write, to put out there, and I’m so grateful it’s resonating with people.

There’s so much more I want to say, but I think my brain’s melted for now. I hope you enjoy the story.

#SFWApro

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With Apologies to Rabbie Burns

Once upon a time, lo these many years ago, CSE Cooney and I were on the phone, chattering. I said something which led to her talking about DANGER and LUVE and I said “My Luve is like a bloody rose!” To which she replied, “That’s newly sprung from wounds!” Consequently we decided we had to pastiche the whole thing, line by line. So.

For your delectation, in honour of the bonny man himself and this day of his birth, we offer the following:

MY LUVE IS LIKE A BLOODY ROSE
by CSE Cooney and Amal El-Mohtar

My luve is like a bloody rose
that’s newly sprung from wounds
My luve is a cacophany
Come howlin’ from the tombs.

As fair thou art, my bony lass
So ravenous am I
And I will dig thy grave, my dear
With a trowel of thy thigh.

With a trowel of thy thigh, my Dear
So sweet and whitely hewn,
Oh I will lay thee still, my luve,
And lay beside thee soon.

So fare thee well, my toothsome luve,
I’ll teethe on thee a while,
And with thy finger-bone, my luve,
I’ll pick thee from my smile.

#SFWApro

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Rich and Strange: “The Boatman’s Cure” by Sonya Taaffe

Happy New Year, and welcome back to Rich and Strange! I took a bit of a break over the holidays — in order to, among other things, move back to Ottawa from Glasgow — but the series is back, and the first instalment of the new year looks at Sonya Taaffe’s novella “The Boatman’s Cure,” which concludes her most recent poetry collection, Ghost Signs. Here’s a bit from the review:

In a collection—indeed, a congress—of ghosts, echoes, memories, and homages to ancient Greek literature, “The Boatman’s Cure” is a breath-taking culmination of its approaches and themes, a magnificent finale the intensity of which is derived from its quiet tension. Delia can see and interact physically with ghosts, and has discovered, through a great deal of trial and error, reliable ways of exorcising them; a personal quest requires her to obtain an oar with a strange history from an even stranger source. Nothing goes smoothly—except the beautiful structure of the story, which mimics the movement of an oar through water.

I adore Sonya’s poetry and have published it numerous times in Goblin Fruit, but I think this may be my first encounter with her prose, and it’s just incredible. I highly recommend the whole collection.

#SFWApro

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