May 28, 2021

#FridayReads May 28, 2021 - 3 amazing SFF zines you should read right now

For this week's #FridayReads, I am recommending the most recent issues of three SFF zines.



Anathema #12

Anathema is an SFF zine that features the work of "queer people of colour (POC) / Indigenous / Aboriginal creators", and ever since it's debut it has consistently been one of my favourite zines. The new issue is absolutely outstanding, a must-read from cover to cover.

As I read the first story, "Before Whom Evil Trembles" by Nhamo, I got goosebumps. The prose, the fierceness of the story, the way the tale twists and turns between past and present, dance and memory, and divinity... just remarkable. And that's just the beginning of this fabulous issue which also includes:

  • "Cirque Mécanique", by Kel Coleman
  • "Witch is Another Word for Wild", by Donyae Coles
  • "Come to Me", by Aigner Loren Wilson
  • "Lady Fortune", by Archita Mittra
  • "To Rise, Blown Open", by Jen Brown 

Cover art is by Rob Cham.

You can read the stories free online, and you can also support the zine by subscribing.

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The Dark #72


The Dark is always a good read, and this issue is exceptional. The four stories are:

  • “Crooked House” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
  • “Of Claw and Bone” by Suzan Palumbo
  • “Water Child” by Frances Ogamba
  • “The 21 Bus Line” by Gabriela Santiago

Every story is fantastic here, and writer wields their own dark, sharp edge of horror. "Crooked House" is a brilliant, jagged piece of haunted house horror which includes the line, "Aside from me, my sister Daisy’s the only kid still at home, and she’s just twelve. Or she would be, if she was alive."

"Water Child" is a taut and devastating ghost story that absolutely gutted me, and Palumbo's "Of Claw and Bone" is a harrowing tale of family and domestic violence and survival. Oh, and if you want to read an absolutely mind-bending horror story that takes place on a transit bus, you need to check out Santiago's story. The (seemingly) off-the-wall ramblings of the strange, fur-clad passenger in this story take an increasingly sinister and freak-the-hell-out trippy turn as the bus trip progresses. 

Cover art by George Cotronis.

The Dark is free to read online, but you can also support them by picking up a subscription.

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Apex #123

I'm so happy that Apex Magazine is back in action after its hiatus. They've been publishing some great new fiction since their return and have also made space for some terrific reprints. This latest issue is excellent, and I want to give a special shout-out to Jennifer R. Donohue's stunning "All This Darkness", and to the two reprints, both from Fiyah, "Doll Seed" by Michele Tracy Berger, and "Uniform" by Errick Nunnally. If you haven't read those stories yet, pick up this issue (and also pick up a subscription to Fiyah!) 

And, bonus!, in each issue of Apex you also get great interviews, non-fiction, and A.C. Wise's Words For Thought short fiction reading recommendations. 

The table of contents for this issue:

ORIGINAL FICTION

  • "The Life & Death of Mia Fremont" by A.K. Hudson
  • "This Is the Moment, Or One of Them" by Mari Ness
  • "Throw Rug" by Aurelius Raines II
  • "Mishpokhe and Ash" by Sydney Rossman-Reich
  • "All This Darkness" by Jennifer R. Donohue
  • "DEMON FIGHTER SUCKS" by Katherine Crighton (this one has such a terrific twist at the end)

REPRINTED FICTION

  • "Doll Seed" by Michele Tracy Berger
  • "Uniform" by Errick Nunnally

INTERVIEWS

  • Interview with Author Jennifer R. Donohue by Andrea Johnson
  • Interview with Author A.K. Hudson by Andrea Johnson
  • Interview with Cover Artist Denis Zhbankov by Russell Dickerson

NONFICTION

  • The Enduring Ensorcellment of King Arthur by Alex Bledsoe
  • Sex Is Great, But Have You Ever Seen Your Real-Life Relationship Depicted in Fiction by Nicole Kornher-Stace
  • Words for Thought: Short Fiction Reviews by A.C. Wise

Cover art by Thomas Tan.

Apex publishes its stories online over the span of two months, and you can get access to the whole shebang by subscribing.

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May 25, 2021

6 (or more) great SFF books from the last few years + 5 new books to look forward to

6 (or more) great SFF books from the last few years

For this week's book review Tuesday, I'm sharing five SFF books I read in the last few years that I still think about a lot, and that I keep telling people to read, whenever I get the chance.

Chilling Effect & Prime Deceptions by Valerie Valdes

Back in 2019, I reviewed Chilling Effect for B&N's Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, calling it "fast-paced, hugely entertaining, and occasionally off-the-wall zany, stuffed with psychic cats, inter-species romance, outrageous space battles, more planets and aliens than you can shake a grav-boot at, and a delightfully motley crew of misfits to hang out with". It's the kind of book that makes you crave pastelitos de queso, and wish you might end up far off in space, performing ill-advised and courageous acts of derring-do. Valdes originally pitched her story as “The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet meets Mass Effect“ and that is a pitch-perfect (ha!) description.

The sequel, Prime Deceptions, came out in 2020 and you might as well add it to your TBR pile right now because you will want to read it once you've careened through Chilling Effect. In Prime Deceptions, we get to tag along with the crew of La Sirena Negra and their psychic cats as they "confront past failures and face new threats in the far reaches of space". If you're looking for sci-fi adventure, rollicking fun, and a terrific found family in space, these books are perfect.

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The Great Faerie Strike by Spencer Ellsworth

I bring this book up a lot when people ask me about fantasy novels I've read and loved in recent years. It's a fantastical, raucous, and proletarian (yes!) ride through the (partly, at least) real world of Victorian London and the strange, beautiful, and rather dangerous world of the fey that exists alongside it. From the first page, Ellsworth drops you head first into a tale populated by a brawny, boisterous, and sometimes belligerent cast of gnomes, vampires, and werewolves.

We follow Jane, an investigative reporter (who is both human and vampire) who witnesses a murder. We also follow the gnome Charles who becomes a political agitator and workers' organizer after reading The Communist Manifesto. The blend of fantasy, steampunk, and politics makes this a sharp, fast-paced, and often hilarious ride, as Ellsworth explores themes like the importance of unions, workers' rights, and the complexities of political power -- both in the real and the fey world. There is murder and mayhem, romance and alchemy, making it a steampunk/fey-punk page-turner.

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Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias

The first fiction I ever read by Sabrina Vourvoulias was her awesome short story "El Cantar of Rising Sun" in Uncanny Magazine. Reading that story was what made me read her novel Ink a few years agoand what a fantastic book it is. It was originally published in 2012, but it remains bitingly relevant today. Vourvoulias blends fantasy, mythology, love and social strife, politics, and history into a complex, multi-layered story. The book twines together the stories and voices of several characters, and each story and each character grabbed a piece of my heart.

Ink deals with so many things that feel ripped from today's headlines: immigration, xenophobia, the harassment and persecution of people who move into other countries to find a better life (or to save their lives); the use of technology to control and monitor people; the problem of truthful news reporting in an age when everything can be manipulated, government interference, social media; and many other political and social issues. All of that is woven skillfully into the story without ever weighing it down. The scariest part? None of it feels far-fetched. Rather, it sounds eerily like it could happen any day now, or worse: might already be happening.

I love how Vourvoulias puts magic right into this story, too. There are other worlds, other powers (both good and evil) that influence the characters and are bound to them, and all this is presented as though it is part of the natural order of things. It creates another unique and interesting layer to the story, and is a big part of what makes this books special.

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Aletheia by J.S. Breukelaar

I love this supernatural thriller and even years after I first read it, I still think about it a lot. It's mesmerizing, beautifully written, and terrifying. Like a steam-train, it gathers momentum in the telling, and while the first chapters draw you into the world of the story, everything soon takes a turn I absolutely did NOT see coming. Horror and landscape mix with memory and desire, and towards the end, the story is just edge-of-your-seat gripping. In order to avoid spoilers, I don't want to say too much about the way the plot unfolds, but suffice it to say that I have rarely been so invested in the fate of a reptile as I was at the end of this book.

To quote the publisher's blurb: 

"The remote lake town of Little Ridge has a memory problem. There is an island out on the lake somewhere, but no one can remember exactly where it is--and what it has to do with the disappearance of the eccentric Frankie Harpur or the seven-year-old son of a local artist, Lee Montour. When Thettie Harpur brings her family home to find Frankie, she faces opposition from all sides--including from the clan leader himself, the psychotic Doc Murphy."

I love this book, love Thettie and her boys, and I love the way Breukelaar tells a tale that is unpredictable and surprising as it moves between past, present, and future, darkness and light. The ending was one I did not see coming, but it was immensely satisfying.

And if you liked this book, check out Breukelaar's short story collection Collision, and keep an eye out for her new book, The Bridge, coming later this year.

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Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson

OK, this novella brings together so many awesome things: time-travel, a visit to an ancient human civilization, a future Calgary, and cast of characters that just pop off the page (sometimes using all six legs!).

I mean, just read the official blurb:

In 2267, Earth has just begun to recover from worldwide ecological disasters. Minh is part of the generation that first moved back up to the surface of the Earth from the underground hells, to reclaim humanity's ancestral habitat. She's spent her entire life restoring river ecosystems, but lately the kind of long-term restoration projects Minh works on have been stalled due to the invention of time travel.

When she gets the opportunity take a team to 2000 BC to survey the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, she jumps at the chance to uncover the secrets of the shadowy think tank that controls time travel technology.

The story is just as amazing as the description promises (you'll have to read it to find out what exactly "the lucky peach" is). Robson keeps things interesting by weaving together past and future, bio-engineering, workplace politics, climate fiction, historical fantasy, and the future of Canada (!) in a radically changed world, in a way that kept me hooked and entertained from start to finish. One of the best things about this story are the characters: Minh, and the people around her, add to the depth and nuance of the story.

If you want to read more by Kelly Robson, you're very much in luck. Her short story collection Alias Space just came out earlier in May, and it was an automatic insta-buy for me.

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From A Shadow Grave by Andi C. Buchanan

Wellington, 1931. Seventeen-year-old Phyllis Symons’ body is discovered in the Mt Victoria tunnel construction site.

Eighty years later, Aroha Brooke is determined to save her life.

This compelling and (literally) haunting novella, is set in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand, and it's historical fiction (it's mostly set in New Zealand in and around the 1930s) entwined with a queer ghost story. And while the story is about a murdered woman, the murder itself is not the point or the focus of the book. Rather, Buchanan explores multiple possible futures, delving into the life Phyllis Symons might have had, the life she should have had, had she lived.

The novella is divided into four parts as it delves into the real, and imagined, history of Phyllis who lived and died in Wellington in the early 20th century. Buchanan gives us an unflinching and harrowing account of her life, her death, and...her afterlife. It's a story that grabbed me and did not let me go. I love how the grit and grime of everyday life exists side by side with the supernatural, magic, time travel, and science fiction in this story. Buchanan conveys a strong and compelling sense of time and place, and I really felt transported to another place and time while reading this book. It is a strange and luminous story with a vibe of tenderness amidst the harsh realities of life, that really spoke to me.

For more fiction by Buchanan, you can check out their short fiction and their Windflower Series, which is part of the Contemporary Witchy Fiction Project.

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5 new books coming in 2021:

There are a lot of books coming out this year that I'm looking forward to, and for this roundup, I've picked 5 titles you can pre-order.

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull (release date: September 7, 2021)

Turnbull's novel The Lesson blew my mind when I read it a few years ago (read my review at B&N), and I've already read an advance reading copy of No Gods, No Monsters, so I can tell you that this is one heck of a book: audacious and a must-read if you love monster stories and cosmic horror.

The publisher's blurb:

One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother was shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it.

As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened into silence. A professor follows a missing friend’s trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.

At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark?

The world will soon find out.

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The Scavenger Door by Suzanne Palmer (release date: August 17, 2021)

I recently reviewed Driving the Deep, the second book in Palmer's Finder series, here at Maria's Reading, and I really cannot wait to get the third book in my grubby little hands.

The publisher's blurb:

Fergus is back on Earth at last, trying to figure out how to live a normal life. However, it seems the universe has other plans for him. When his cousin sends him off to help out a friend, Fergus accidently stumbles across a piece of an ancient alien artifact that some very powerful people seem to think means the entire solar system is in danger. And since he found it, they’re certain it’s also his problem to deal with.

With the help of his newfound sister, friends both old and new, and some enemies, too, Fergus needs to find the rest of the artifact and destroy the pieces before anyone can reassemble the original and open a multi-dimensional door between Earth and a vast, implacable, alien swarm of devourers. Problem is, the pieces could be anywhere on Earth, and he’s not the only one out searching.

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My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones (release date: August 31, 2021)

After recently reading Stephen Graham Jones's The Only Good Indians, I am very much looking forward to this horror novel. (Also, if you haven't yet read his werewolf novel Mongrels, you should get on that!)

The publisher's blurb:

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.

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The Hand of the Sun King by J.T. Greathouse (release date: August 5, 2021)

I am currently reading an advance reading copy of this novel, and it's threaded through with magic and immersive, nuanced worldbuilding. Definitely a book to look for if you're into high fantasy that is also a coming-of-age story that explores the nature of magic, and how to use it.

The publisher's blurb:

My name is Wen Alder. My name is Foolish Cur.

All my life, I have been torn between two legacies: that of my father, whose roots trace back to the right hand of the Emperor. That of my mother’s family, who reject the oppressive Empire and embrace the resistance.

I can choose between them – between protecting my family, or protecting my people – or I can search out a better path . . . a magical path, filled with secrets, unbound by empire or resistance, which could shake my world to its very foundation.

But my search for freedom will entangle me in a war between the gods themselves . . .

The first book in the Pact and Pattern series. Fans of Robin Hobb, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn and R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War will love the magic running through every page.

I first encountered Greathouse's writing through his short fiction, and you can read one of his recent short stories in Beneath Ceaseless Skies: "The Gwyddien and the Raven Fiend". 

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Tempest Blades: The Cursed Titans by Ricardo Victoria (release date: July 20, 2021)

I reviewed the first book in this series, The Withered Kingin 2019, calling it "...an action-packed blend of magic and mayhem, sword and sorcery, science fiction and fantasy. The book is full of entertaining characters, has a sense of humor and adventure, and there’s a crackling video-game vibe added for good measure." Now, book two is here to take us back to Victoria's world.

The publisher's blurb:

The triennial Chivalry Games have returned!

After helping to destroy the Withered King, Alex and the rest of the group find out that saving the world has consequences. While he is secretly battling with depression and with the Alliance on the verge of collapse, a diplomatic summit and the Chivalry Games - to be held in the far off Kuni Empire - may give everyone the opportunity to turn things around. Alex builds a team to represent the Foundation in the Games, facing off against the best fighters in the world.

When an ancient being tries to raise legendary nightmares known as Titans using the peace talks as a trap, Alex has to find a way to save everyone before it is too late. Alex must learn that he is not truly alone to save the world from the chaos of the Titans.

In a world where magic and science intermingle, anything is possible.

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May 21, 2021

#FridayReads May 21, 2021 - let's go to THE DEADLANDS!




This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.


~T.S. Eliot

This week's #FridayReads is all about the first issue of The Deadlands. What is The Deadlands, you may ask? Well, it's a new speculative fiction magazine that is about Death

We are never far from death—Dante reminds us. It is always there, just out of sight, around the bend in the road. The faraway nearby, Rebecca Solnit says. We could step past a tree in that wild forest and be there. Where? The Deadlands.

The Deadlands is a new monthly speculative fiction magazine. We will publish short stories, poems, and essays about the other realms, of the ends we face here, and the beginnings we find elsewhere. It will be a journey into the unknown, to meet those who live there still, even though they may be dead. Death is a journey we all will take, but we’d like to peek at the map before we go.

The zine has a fantastic team behind the scenes (if you miss Shimmer as much as I do, you'll be excited to hear that E. Catherine Tobler is on board as editor!), and some awesome writers are already lined up for future issues. Each issue will feature fiction, poetry, and non-fiction and the first issue is absolutely stellar from Beginning to End.


There is a stunning new story titled "Peristalsis" from Vajra Chandrasekera, a glorious reprint from Arkady Martine, and haunting poetry from s.j. bagley, MJ Cunniff, Shweta Narayan, and Romie Stott. It's an outstanding issue, and two of the highlights are the non-fiction pieces:

  • You Always Were a Morbid Child – Amanda Downum tells us about piecing together a skull and a life. She is also the Necromancer of The Deadlands and will be taking your questions: "Do you have a question about death, the dead, and what happens when we’re finished with this existence? Ask A Necromancer is a monthly feature in The Deadlands, where readers send in questions about the end of all things and Amanda chooses one (or more, depending on length!) to answer. Submit your questions here."
  • Death and Wednesday – Suzan Palumbo is a painful and beautiful and jagged essay about death and fear, about the things that haunt her and the things that saved her. Read this essay, and then read her story in The Dark: "Of Claw and Bone".

You can read the issue online, or download it for free in various ebook formats. The cover art for this issue is by Sam Weber.

May 18, 2021

Book review & roundup - three excellent trilogies

For this week's book review, I'm rounding up three excellent trilogies:

  • Malka Older's Centenal Cycle
  • Fran Wilde's Bone Universe books
  • Angela Slatter's Verity Fassbinder books
These are all complete trilogies, so if you start reading and you love the first book (I did), you can just keep reading and not have to wait to get your "next-book" fix.

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The Centenal Cycle by Malka Older

 

The official blurb for the series:

In Malka Older’s Centenal Cycle, a series of cyberpunk technothrillers beginning with Infomocracy, Information (think Google on steroids) balances the paradoxes of a global micro-democracy. Mishima and Ken face election fraud, man-made and natural disasters, and deadly espionage from powerful rogue governments, while kindling a romance. For fans of The West Wing, Person of Interest and Mr. Robot

Books:

  1. Infomocracy
  2. Null States
  3. State Tectonics

My review of Infomocracy

Infomocracy is a thought-provoking, fast-paced political thriller / near-future science fiction novel. The story hooked me from the start with an interesting and motley collection of characters, who are spread out all over the world, but are all involved in the ongoing election campaign in various ways.

As the story progresses, and as it becomes more and more apparent just how high the stakes are in the political game being played, I got sucked in completely, and ended up speeding through the last half of the book to find out what would happen.

Anyone with even a passing interest in political science, the machinations behind the scenes in the world of politics, or cyberpunk-ish scifi should definitely read this book. I studied political science at uni, and I can’t think of many other books in recent years that have triggered my political-nerd brain more than Infomocracy. As much as this is science fiction, it is also very much a political thriller of the best kind, where actual, believable political goals and machinations drive the action.

Interestingly enough, Older’s future-world is neither a dystopia nor a utopia, but a muddled, complex, multi-faceted, conflicted world, much like the one we find ourselves in right now.

Both the characters and the world they inhabit are fascinating and I liked the way Older allows each character to come into focus slowly and organically: we learn about them from their actions and interactions, their choices, and their reactions to what’s happening in the world.

Another important character in the story is the political system, and what drives the action is how the various actors – individual, political, social, and economic – try to protect, control, undermine, manipulate, or even overthrow that political system. This is the part of Infomocracy that really triggered my pol-sci brain: what if there were no nation states? what if everyone on earth were hooked into a giant, globally controlled information system and elections were held worldwide? what if the current nation-states disappeared and a new system was put in place that radically altered people’s allegiances and electoral choices?

Older’s world is close enough to our own that everything feels possible. Her vision of a society where everyone is connected to “Information” 24/7 is not hard to imagine: it’s pretty close to what our reality is already like with social media, though the interface in the book is more organic and complete. And some things in Infomocracy feel almost uncomfortably close: electoral interference, vote manipulation, the targeted use of propaganda, political “dog whistles”, and people having their worldview shaped by “information bubbles”.

While many of these things are obviously problematic, I also found myself falling in love with many aspects of Older’s world – specifically: global unity combined with a democratic system that ignores nation states, and is instead organized on a smaller scale. Of course, as Older points out, power structures (like the military industrial complex, for example) don’t magically disappear in this new system, they just find new ways of influencing politics, or are replaced by new power structures.

If you love this book, dive right into the sequel, Null States. It moves at a thriller pace with international intrigue galore, a political murder mystery to solve, and romance to boot… so, yeah, it's a page-turner. I also love how this book introduces the “edges” of the Information-world – the Null States, that exist outside of Information’s data-sharing system. Book three, State Tectonics, is a riveting conclusion to the story AND the very best kind of science fiction: a book that makes you think differently about the future and the present. (Read my review of State Tectonics at B&N.)


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The Bone Universe by Fran Wilde

 

Official blurb for the series:

In a world where the towers of a city are grown from bone, and people live high among the clouds, Kirit desires nothing more than to sail the skies on a pair of wings. But fate places her at the head of a revolution that not only overthrows society but tears her family apart in Fran Wilde’s imaginative fantasy Bone Universe saga.

 

Books:

  1. Updraft
  2. Cloudbound
  3. Horizon

My review of Updraft:

Fran Wilde’s Updraft pulled me deep inside a rich, living-breathing fantasy world that is exceptionally vivid and detailed: a world inhabited by a people living in sky-high towers of bone that grow out of the ground; a world where people never touch the earth, but rather fly between the towers on crafted wings; a world where people live and die by their wings, by their ability to ride the winds and currents; and where being “wingless” or “cloudbound”, is something to be feared. It is a world with its own history, traditions, and laws. And it is also a world with its own monsters: ravenous skymouths lurking in the air, almost invisible to the naked eye, but capable of killing and maiming.

The story launches you straight into this world – into Kirit’s world, to be specific – because it is through her eyes that we experience it and come to know it, and Kirit is another reason to love Updraft.

One of the most interesting things about Kirit is how unsentimental she (and by extension the story) is. A lot of terrible things happen to Kirit, but at every turn, Wilde avoids softening or weakening her character. Kirit is shown to be both inexperienced and fallible at time, but she always remains a capable person. No matter how bleak and terrible things get, Kirit is always looking for a way to use the situation to whatever advantage she can. She is resourceful and refreshingly ambitious from the first page of the story, and Updraft explores how she ends up using those strengths in a much different way than she initially imagined: to shape her own life and the world around her.

While I really like the physical world Wilde has invented in Updraft, what I like even more is the society that exists within that world. Updraft deftly explores the inner workings of this society: its often harsh social rules and laws; how people deal with conflict and dissension; its punishments and rewards; the loyalties to towers and family; and the hard choices that have to be made in a world with limited space and resources: where do the old and infirm end up? what happens to law-breakers? The secretive world of the Singers is maybe the most fascinating part of this society, and the deeper Kirit goes into that hidden world, the better and more gripping the book gets.

Another thing I like about Updraft is Wilde’s prose: it’s inventive and carefully crafted to fit the world. (Wilde wrote a great piece for TOR.com about the importance of language, and it’s well worth a read: ‘Change The Language, Change The World’.)

If you love it, then check out the sequel, Cloudbound. I won't say too much in order not to spoil things if you haven't read it, but this book will knock your socks off in the last few chapters. Book three, Horizon, brings the series to a fantastic conclusion as Kirit, Nat, Macal, and the others enter a new world…that might not be very hospitable. 


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The Verity Fassbinder Series by Angela Slatter

 

Official blurb for Vigil

A rich and exciting new urban fantasy, perfect for fans of Harry Dresden and Peter Grant.

Verity Fassbinder has her feet in two worlds.

The daughter of one human and one Weyrd parent, she has very little power herself, but does claim unusual strength and the ability to walk between one world and the other as a couple of her talents. A rarity, she is charged with keeping the peace, and ensuring the Weyrd remain hidden.

But now Sirens are dying, illegal wine made from the tears of human children is for sale - and in the hands of those who hold to old, dangerous ways - and someone has released an unknown and terrifyingly destructive force on the streets of Brisbane.

Verity must investigate, or risk ancient forces carving the world apart.

Books in the series: 


  1. Vigil,
  2. Corpselight
  3. Restoration

My review of Vigil:

Vigil is the start of a hugely entertaining and absolutely gripping supernatural crime / dark fantasy series set in present-day Australia. The book has a wicked sense of humour, and there is heaps of myth and fairytale woven into the action, plus Angela Slatter definitely knows how to deliver suspenseful and intricately crafted murder mystery goodness. 

The book introduces us to a rich and convincing world existing just beneath or beside the everyday world most people know, and it's inhabited by a cast of odd, frightening, entertaining, and occasionally horrifying creatures – both human and…not so human.

Slatter excels at creating relatable and complex main characters that feel real enough that they might step off the page. In this book, that is Verity Fassbinder: a woman haunted by her past (her father was a less than savoury character to say the least), with a sometimes cranky disposition (who can blame her, what with all the shape-shifting, magic-wielding nutcases he has to deal with), and a sharp tongue that occasionally…OK, often...gets her into trouble. All of that makes her a wonderful protagonist, and as the story unfolds and the mystery deepens (who is killing those sirens? what is up with that awful wine made from suffering children?), we get to delve deeper and deeper into the things that make Verity tick. Verity’s sense of humour really struck a chord with me throughout the book, and my favourite Verity-line might just be: “Trust me. I almost know what I’m doing.”

The dark fantasy element of the story is strong, intertwining creatures of myth, legend, and fairytales, all of them living just beneath the surface, or on the margins of “normal” society in Brisbane. I really loved how Slatter puts her own spin on many of the Weyrd: sirens, the boatsman, norns… they are all just a bit different than what you might expect. (Some of them run great coffee shops, for example.)

Vigil is a murder-mystery page-turner with literary, dark-fantasy heft and a cast of characters you want to follow into whatever trouble, and realm, they might end up in next.

If you're hooked, just dive right into Corpselight where Verity is pulled deep into a strange and dangerous mystery with strong connections to her own, and her family's, past, introducing us to angels, sirens, “kinderfressers”, shape-shifters, and a whole lot more. The third book, Restoration, is an absolute smashing good read as well, and includes some of my favourite angel-scenes in literature.


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Book cover details (because they're gorgeous):

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May 14, 2021

#FridayReads May 14, 2021—support some awesome zines on Patreon!



For this week's #FridayReads, I want to shine a light on three excellent speculative fiction zines you can support on Patreon. And I'll also suggest some awesome stories from those zines.

1. Beneath Ceaseless Skies

About BCS:

Beneath Ceaseless Skies (ISSN 1946-1046) is a non-profit, SFWA-qualifying pro-rate online magazine dedicated to publishing literary adventure fantasy: fantasy set in secondary-world or historical paranormal settings, written with a literary focus on the characters.

We love traditional adventure fantasy, but we also love how the influence of literary writing on fantasy short fiction has expanded the genre, encouraging writers to use literary devices such as tight points-of-view and discontinuous narratives; to feature conflicts that are internal as well as external. We want stories that combine the best of both these styles—set in vivid fantasy or historical paranormal worlds but written with all the flair and impact of modern literary-influenced fantasy.

Support BCS on Patreon.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is one of the best speculative fiction zines out there, and I have a LOT of favourite stories from this publication, but these are three of my many, many faves:

(I've had two stories published in BCS - something I'm immensely proud of - and you can read them here.)

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2. Mermaids Monthly

About Mermaids Monthly:

Mermaids Monthly is a digital magazine all about mermaids. What kind of mermaids? Every kind. Happy mermaids, murderous mermaids; mermaids, merdudes, mermxs – maybe even a few highly confused manatees! Any cool aquatic chimeras that you could possibly think of with any and every fin color and combination. Our magazine has short stories, flash stories, comics, poetry, art, and more. 

Mermaids Monthly is a newer zine, with an amazing team behind it, including Julia Rios and Meg Frank. They recently published their fourth issue, and it is full of mer goodness. Three of my favourite stories from this zine, so far!, are:

About Constelación Magazine:

Like a wish upon a star, Constelación Magazine was born out of two people who had the same dream: to read more speculative stories in Spanish. Though we live more than 6,400 miles apart, the universe answered by bringing us together, with the goal of amplifying the voices of Latin America and the Caribbean. At the same time, we want to give Spanish-speakers access to stories of all races, ethnicities, genders, and walks of life.

Constelación is a quarterly speculative fiction bilingual magazine, publishing stories in both Spanish and English. Writers can submit their stories in either language. Fifty percent of the stories we publish in every issue will be from authors from the Caribbean, Latin America, and their diaspora.

Support Constelación Magazine on Patreon.

The first issue of this new zine was pretty darn amazing, and the second issue is forthcoming. Three of my favourites from that first issue are:

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Bonus pick:

Fusion Fragment just launched their Patreon, and you can support them and get some great fiction in a beautiful zine. Support Fusion Fragment on Patreon.

May 11, 2021

Book review: THE NECESSITY OF STARS by E. Catherine Tobler


The Necessity of Stars by E. Catherine Tobler

The official blurb:

Plagued by the creeping loss of her memory, diplomat Bréone Hemmerli continues to negotiate peace in an increasingly climate-devastated world, ensconced in the UN-owned estate Irislands alongside her longtime friend and companion Delphine.

The appearance of the alien Tura in the shadows of Bréone’s garden raises new questions about the world’s decline. Perhaps, together, Tura and Bréone will find a way forward… if only Bréone can remember it.

Why I loved this book:

The Necessity of Stars is truly a many-splendored book. Tobler deftly weaves together several story threads into a haunting, rich, and exquisitely crafted science fiction novella that I could not put down while reading, and that still lingers in my mind weeks later.
 
For one thing, this is a complex, subtly shaded alien invasion story that is not focused on extermination and war, but rather on survival and subterfuge. These aliens might be either predator or prey, or both, depending on the context. They live among the humans and are not new arrivals, but they mostly choose to remain unseen, though they may also choose to become strikingly and mind-bendingly visible. One of the scenes in this novella that gave me goosebumps all over, is when the alien Tura first reveals herself, in her "true" form, to Bréone in the garden at Irislands. Tobler perfectly captures Bréone's sense of mixed dread and amazement and sheer awe as a layer of reality is pulled back, revealing the truth beneath.

The Necessity of Stars is also delicately drawn love story, about the deep and life-affirming friendship and romance between Bréone and Delphine. It's a relationship that is crucial to Bréone and a relationship that she is loath to lose or imperil, not least because it took so long for her to grasp how significant this relationship is to both her and to Delphine.
"For a long while, I believed I loved her only in my dreams and not in the waking world...Humans are often foolish, when it comes to squandering a heart, or a planet."
This is also an ecological science fiction story, set in a (maybe not too distant) future where our world has been ravaged and forever altered by climate change, and where much has been, and continues to be, lost. Bréone lives with that sense of loss, with the knowledge of the fragility of the world and the fragility of life, as an ever-present specter.
 
That sense of fragility and loss--past, present, and future--is also entwined with another story thread, because The Necessity of Stars is also a poignant story about aging. Tobler delves deep into the fears that haunt many of us as we age: that our bodies will, and do, fail and falter; and worse, that our minds might fail us too, that we will lose the grip on our own thoughts, that we will lose our memories, and maybe, ultimately, even lose our own Selves.
 
The power of memories, and Bréone's fear of losing her memories, losing her mental capacity, losing the life she loves, losing her self, losing everything (including Delphine), is a crucial part of the book and play a crucial part in the choices Bréone ultimately makes about her relationship with the alien Tura.
"Memory is a form of fiction--a story that keeps the days threaded together in proper order. Experts in memory function say your first memory probably never happened, that it is a fiction you've told yourself so many times you've simply come to believe it as truth.

The first thing I remember in my life is this: I am standing in a pond, the water gathered around my waist, the lily stems tickling my legs."

This memory, of Bréone in a pond at night with the mud beneath her feet, the lilies around her legs, and the night sky above, is one that Bréone returns to again and again, and the truth of what happened there is intricately connected to the present.

In short, The Necessity of Stars is a mind-bending, dizzying tale of what happens in the shadows beneath the trees in a garden when the alien Tura meets the human Bréone. Throughout the novella,Tobler’s prose gleams and shimmers like the inside of a mussel shell, pearlescent and beguiling, lustrous with insight and imagination. 
 
Buy The Necessity of Stars through the Neon Hemlock Kickstarter. 
 
 

Novella cover art by Marcela Bolívar; Design by Dave Ring

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May 8, 2021

My Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror Short Fiction Roundup - April 2021

 

If you'd rather listen to the audio version of this roundup, it's available on YouTube.

Electronic Ghosts by Innocent Chizaram Ilo in Escape Pod, narrated by Mofiyinfoluwa Okupe

This story kicks off with the excellent line, “If Nneora had died two weeks earlier, her daughter, Anaeto, would not have resurrected her ghost.” You might think a story about death and ghosts would be horror, but it's not. Instead, this story masterfully twines together scifi, family bonds and traditions, and a filament of the supernatural. I love every little bit of this wonderful story. There are so many layers here, and I especially love how storytelling is a thread that runs through the tale and Anaeto’s family, and which also leads to her “resurrecting” her mother, partly because she fears the Ghost of Unfinished Stories: “Nobody would believe, not that you can blame them, that Anaeto will do what she does because she is scared the Ghost Of Unfinished Stories will haunt her. Not even Anaeto herself.” Fantastic story that is darkly funny, and deeply moving.

The Heart That Saves You May Be Your Own by Merrie Haskell in Beneath Ceaseless Skies

You are a girl alone on a prairie.

You hunt alone and you sleep alone. You sleep alone, with your thighs clamped tight on nothing at night, but not too tight. You carry a rifle and a dream of a white dress. You sleep under the stars. You hunt.

A stunningly good story that is a bit of a weird western, a bit of fantasy, a bit of fairytale and portal magic, and all together a brilliant piece of fiction. In order to court and marry her chosen man "properly", and be able to wed in white and not wear the rust-red of the "half-married", Tabby has headed out on the prairie, hunting for a 'corn, a unicorn, as is tradition. It's a dangerous business, this hunt, searching for a beast that comes through strange rifts in the fabric of the world. Tabby is a clever and resourceful and determined woman, and yet... things do not go as hoped. I love this story for its unique take on unicorns and westerns, and love it for the way Tabby finds a different ending than the one she thought she needed.

A Stranger Goes Ashore by Adam R. Shannon in Beneath Ceaseless Skies

He remembers when Heora loved its people; when their island chose a thousand small adaptations to shelter them, give forth fresh water, provide light, and nourish them. For years, he has slept inside his ship’s airless belly, dreaming of home. Now he feels as if he has returned to the wrong island.

He doesn’t belong here any more. No one does. Heora has rejected its children.

In a world where the island they live on is barely able to sustain life, Heora's people send out ships, trying to find new islands to inhabit. But Alain, one of those who has set out on the expeditions searching for new habitats, is losing hope: every island he's seen is unable to sustain life. When the crew he's part of do locate an island where a few people are able to eke out an existence, strange forces seem to be at work, and Alain eventually comes to a mind-bending conclusion about the nature of the world and the islands and those who go searching for new places to belong. This story is an incisive, thought-provoking and evocative take on climate change, and the hunt for new worlds to inhabit.  

The Giant With No Heart In Her Body by Nike Sulway in Strange Horizons

The truth is that I lost my arm the same summer I lost my brother.

Lost is a euphemism. In fact, my arm was retrieved by the paramedics and brought to the hospital, along with the two fingers severed from my left hand, and the various parts of my brother’s body. My right arm was broken in three places: I can still feel the ache and itch of my poorly mended bones. Several parts of my brother’s body were not retrieved.

Sulway expertly weaves together so many threads in this stunning tale where a young woman's grief and loss and pain after her brother dies, and she herself is maimed, are woven into the weft of fairytales. We start off in the (somewhat) recognizably real world of a car accident and hospitals, but even then there is the presence of a crow familiar, telling us that something else, another layer to the world, is close at hand. And when Sulway dips into the fairytales, into the story of a giant trying to save herself by hiding her heart in an egg, and then hiding that egg in various places, the tale soars high and cuts deep. Outstanding prose and I am now definitely on the lookout for more from Nike Sulway.

Wives at the End of the World by Avra Margariti in The Future Fire

This is a love story set in a post-apocalyptic world and it manages to be simultaneously heart-warming and heartbreaking. The two women hold on to each other, and hold on to small bits of goodness, of memory and love, in a world that is crumbling around them. Even in the darkest places, they find a bit of hope and beauty and solace in each other. A brilliant story that feels like a bit of brittle hope wrapped in sorrow.

A Song Born by Remi Skytterstad in Reckoning

This rich and riveting story is set in Norway in the 17th century, and takes place in a Sámi community in the north. The people are nomads, moving with their herd of reindeer through the seasons and the landscape. Their old ways of life, of living in and with nature, and their old religion has been almost completely suppressed by the state and church, but the knowledge of the old ways of living, and the old ways of song and magic, are not completely gone. A young boy, Kvive, is haunted by a song that came to him when he fell through the ice into the cold lake and almost drowned. The song eventually leads him to learn more about his people and the magic they once possessed, but that also means that he ends up at the knife’s edge between the old ways and the brutality of the new. I seldom read spec-fic stories set in Scandinavia, and it’s even more rare to find one that delves this deep into Sámi culture, language, and life. It's a deep, powerful read.

Second Death of the Father by Cristina Jurado in Samovar (translated by Marian Womack and James Womack)

A dark and haunting trip into the mind and nightmares and memories of a woman who finds that her life, and her self, changes slowly but surely, after her father dies. Jurado twists reality so tight that the tension is almost unbearable, exploring the ways a person can haunt you—inside and outside your own mind and body—even when you thought they didn’t mean much to you. The ending is an absolute gut-punch. Masterful horror. It’s available in both Spanish and English in Samovar.

A House Is Not a Home by L Chan in Clarkesworld

Chan’s story about a sentient, high-tech house that is trying to keep it all together, even when its inhabitants are all gone, is both subtle and piercing. There is so much brokenness here, in the house itself and in the society that it exists in, but the house is trying to fix what it can, while it also has to exist with the knowledge of its own guilt (if a house can be guilty!). Chan weaves in a political subtext, and a lot of emotional power into this scifi tale.

The Family In the Adit by A.T. Greenblatt in Nightmare

I’ve always been a terrible cook.

Our meal started with turnip soup laced with arsenic and a tossed salad. Husband doesn’t like feeding guests past the first course.

Oh oh OH. This story is a harrowing, dark tale of patient cunning, violence, and terror. It's set in the home of Husband who is guarding the only exit from the terrible mines where people come to search for riches before they realize the horrors that lurk within. In order to pass through the only door to freedom, the guest must make it through the dinner. Not an easy feat when everything is poisoned and the host would like to devour you. Greenblatt perfectly captures the claustrophobic, desperate mood of the place itself, and of its inhabitants. What would you do? What would you risk? Who would you kill and betray to find the way out of this hell?

The Woman With No Face by Alice Goldfuss in Fantasy Magazine

Ankuin knew she was in a sim by the mineral taste in her mouth. The other tells were more subtle: the fractal pattern of moss on the cave wall, the cyclical rhythm of the rain on wet fronds, and the lyrical birdsong piercing through the dense forest. Most people wouldn’t notice such details, because most people didn’t have a reason to doubt their senses. But Ankuin’s senses were never fully her own.

I was blown away by this story in Fantasy Magazine. It's so rich, intense, and trippy, and I love the grit and detail of it. We are in a world where some people can connect their minds to each other, an ability they explore and hone as a community in rituals when you reach a certain age. But when Ankuin is old enough to undergo the ritual, something goes terribly wrong and afterwards, her own community doesn't know what to do with her. When invaders attack the community years later, Ankuin's singular ability helps her lead a resistance, but even then, she's shunned and feared by many. This story packs a powerful emotional punch on so many levels.

Vampirito by K. Victoria Hernandez in khōréō

Oh my, I love this story . A vampire story that imagines vampires and vampire society in a way I’ve never seen before. We follow a boy called Eli through his everyday life with his family. His family are all vampires, and sometimes Eli gets caught in the middle when the everyday American way of life clashes with his family's vampire traditions. But there is also a clash within his family between the old European vampire traditions and the ancient American vampire traditions. There’s so much vampire goodness and cultural context here, and it’s also an excellent exploration of the family dynamics between Eli, his parents, and his grandfather. A wonderful story, through and through.

A Study In Ugliness by H. Pueyo in The Dark

Basília is considered to be the ugliest girl at her all-girls boarding school. And, according to one of the school’s teachers, “Ugly girls will never be happy...never, ever, ever.” The other girls mostly avoid Basília, and since Basília despises most of them, it suits her just fine that they fear her. Then, one day, she realizes there is another girl, Gilda, living in her room (the room she thought she had all to herself), and while Basília is convinced she’s never seen Gilda before, everyone else at the school acts as if Gilda has always been there. Gilda is beautiful, almost too perfect, and Basília soon realizes that she is not at all what she seems. This is a chilling, twisted, and razor-sharp story that got right under my skin.

Art, and Wit, and Changing by Dafydd McKimm in Kaleidotrope

I’m waiting for you.

Nine months, feeling you mature in my belly, convinced I am your enemy, waiting to take your revenge. You’re set on it, I know, so much so that no amount of wine tainted with hellebore would flush you out. You’ve dug yourself in deep, bided your time. Clever boy.

Ah, this is such an excellent flash fiction story from the latest issue of Kaleidotrope! There is terrible magic at work here, as a woman waits for the birth of her child. It's a child that was definitely not conceived by regular means, and she awaits its arrival with both terror and fascination. The real magic here though, for me, is McKimm's darkly lyrical prose which sings and flows like a spell.

Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather by Sarah Pinsker in Uncanny Magazine

→“Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” (Roud 423, Child 313) is a traditional English folk ballad. Like many traditional songs, the lyrics are unattributed. Child transcribed twenty verses, and a twenty-first got added later (and is included here for some unknown reason—I keep writing to the Lyricsplainer mods to get someone to delete it or include it as a separate entry, but nobody responds, and all they’ve done is put brackets around it. Sometimes I hate this site.) 

Written as a discussion thread on a folk music forum called Lyricsplainer, this is a masterclass in how to use a common internet format as the structure of a short story. It's also a master class in how to write unsettling horror that creeps up on the reader, slowly but very surely. I love how Pinsker establishes a cast of characters solely by their posts on the discussion thread, and how she weaves in the increasingly disturbing real world backstory (and repercussions!) of investigating the song. If you want to read more about her writing process, you can check out Caroline M. Yoachim's interview with Pinsker in the same issue of Uncanny.

Centennial Nights by Amanda Michele in Lamplight volume 9 issue 3

"I mean... have you ever lived a different life in a dream?"

This story from Lamplight will most certainly haunt me for a very long time, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. Jamila has struggled with insomnia, but now, suddenly, she sleeps for days and when she wakes up, she often does not seem to remember where she is, or even the people in her life. As we learn more about Jamila and her partner, a complicated and conflicted love story is unspooled, and we understand that Jamila has struggled with finding happiness in the world ever since she was a child. And now, her "weird dreams" are pulling her away from the one person who has been determined to be in Jamila's life, to be the one that shares her life, ever since they were kids. This is a beautiful, stark, and thoroughly weird story that put a spike in my heart. And the ending is absolutely perfect in its utter strangeness.

The Samundar Can Be Any Color by Fatima Taqvi in Flash Fiction Online

“Do not look upon the sea at night with your heart heavy with wishes, ” her mother warns her every dawn. “For everything has a cost.”

Which means Durnaz must never look, for her heart is ever yearning.

This is a powerful story by Taqvi, about magic and longing and about the sea that can change you but will ask a price for the change. Durnaz is unwanted and cast out from all the places she would like to belong. Her mother sees her as a disappointment. She cannot go to school, and cannot even read. Yet, in her dreams, so many things are possible and maybe, just maybe, they could come true for her in the waking world, if she pays the price. I love how this story delves into fierce longing for a better life and a better world, and I love it for its sense of audacious hope.

Children Between Lines by Soham Guha in Mithila Review

A Heritage Scanner. The voice again states, “Thank you for your cooperation. You are fifty-seven percent Arya; you may now enter.”

What would happen if I was not? I know about the Citizenship Act and how it is making a new Aryavarta in the eyes of our Neta, the great leader. If this was Germany of the 1940s, I would have called him the Führer. Instead, I gulp that thought and step in. They want me to register because I am one of the new millions reaching adulthood. I have to register because I want to remember my mother’s face for one time, whatever the cost.

This is a wrenching, beautifully told, and absolutely heart-piercing science-fiction story about identity and memories, about motherhood and climate-change refugees, and also, very much, about supremacist politics. In the story, a new kind of technology allows the state to extract and view memories and it uses this technology in order to enforce its brutal racial purity ideology. There's a sharp, jagged edge to Guha's storytelling that is both painful and brilliant.

Bride, Knife, Flaming Horse by M.L. Krishnan in Apparition Lit

Kalavati has turned 26 and her parents keep pestering her about getting married. When she finally gives in and allow her parents to post her profile on an app to find her a good matrimonial match, she ends up with two serious suitors, a “man that was a ghoul, but also a knife” and a “woman that was a deity, but also a mare”. This is a strange, extremely funny, and rather trippy story about what happens when Kalavati has to choose between these two.

Winter’s Song by Spencer Nitkey in Fusion Fragment #5

Nikol’s family has fled a poisoned and ravaged Earth and are now headed for a spaceship that is waiting for the last remnants of humanity to come aboard before it heads out, looking for a new home. Aboard their escape pod, is Nikol's grandmother who is teaching him about transmogrification, “It’s a family secret,” she’d say. “I’ll teach you when you’re ready.

“Transmogrification is really just knowledge and timing. The knowledge that everything is, at base, made up of everything else, that the future is always malleable, and that change is inevitable.”

Nitkey’s story spins this scifi/magic tale into something beautiful and hopeful, even in the midst of destruction and grief.

The Trolley Solution by Shiv Ramdas in Slate

This is a delightfully funny and incisive look at teaching, academia, and yes, the famous trolley problem. What happens when you’re teaching creative writing courses and looking for tenure and then you’re pitted against a teaching AI in what is basically a fight for your job? In Ramdas’s story, the answer to that question might surprise you. I also really, really appreciate the take on that damn annoying trolley problem in this story.

The art for this roundup includes a detail of Flash Fiction Online's cover art for April 2021.

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May 7, 2021

#FridayReads for May 7, 2021

 

For this week's #FridayReads, I'm plugging one of my favourite SFF-series of books from the last few years, the "War With No Name" books by Robert Repino.

The series includes two novels and a novella, with another novel coming later this year!

I reviewed Mort(e) back in 2016 (read my review), and it's one of those books that just blew my mind as I read it. In the book, a colony of ants (yes, ants) instigates a war with humanity, transforming “surface animals into high-functioning two-legged beings who will rise up and kill their masters.... Former house cat Mort(e) becomes a legend in the war.”
 
To quote my 2016 review:

At its most basic, this is a tale of friendship and love. Mort(e) the (former) cat doesn’t believe in grand plans and prophecies. He fights and makes sacrifices in the struggle against the humans, but he is not loyal to, or motivated by religion or politics or ideology. He does believe in friendship and loyalty and love, because he has experienced those things: not with humans, but with Sheba the dog, before the world changed. Through every hardship and every battle, the memory of that sustains him.

The book is full of great characters, and even the less than savoury ones get fleshed out enough that you feel for them, too: the formidable ant queen, the former fighting dog Wawa (I even felt a fleeting glimmer of pity for Wawa’s awful terrible owner), the wild cat Culdesac, Bonaparte the pig… I felt for all of them. Mort(e) himself is a fantastic anti-hero: stubborn, distrustful of any and all authorities, brave and ornery, never swayed by grand visions and grander words.

The books in the series are:
  1. Mort(e) 
  2. D’Arc 
  3. Culdesac (a novella)
  4. ...and the upcoming Malefactor (set for release in August, and available for pre-order now!)

This book series reminded me of Orwell's Animal Farm, and I still think about the ideas and the world and the characters in these books on a weekly basis. Reading Mort(e) was part of the inspiration for my story "Mothers, Watch Over Me", which was published in Mythic Delirium and later appeared at Cast of Wonders, wonderfully narrated by Amy H. Sturgis.

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