Longlong time no recs. I’ve been wandering the fields of exhaustion; the novel project is still ongoing, and I’ve got far too many other things heaped on my plate as well (work, of course, is the main thing). The novel progresses; but I’m annoyed at myself for being slower with it than I expected, annoyed that I haven’t been posting about it. I promise there will be a post at some point, hopefully when I’ve sent it off to beta readers (which I’m hoping to do in around a week). I have a lot to say about what the past two months (! it has not felt like that long!) of revision have been like. But no time now, since I have to be off to bed.
But I’ve got time for a brief rec, because I just read all of the latest issue of inkscrawl and loved it: a long, multifaceted issue with an amazing collection of poems. Bogi Takács has really done wonders with this!
So, I recommend reading all of Issue 10! I especially enjoyed the first section, “shout / gnaw / skitter / thrash / fly”. But all the poems are great and this was a wonderfully well curated issue, becoming more than the sum of its parts.
The world’s been an awful place lately, so I think it’s a good time to read some hopeful fiction. So here are three such stories:
Songbird by Shveta Thakrar (in Flash Fiction Online): a gorgeous tale about music and identity, about the freedom to be who you are.
Prudence and the Dragon by Zen Cho (in The World SF Blog) this is just so ridic charming! I love Zen Cho’s writing (I highly recommend her short story collection Spirits Abroad!), and this story is no exception. I love the London-ness of this tale too: so very very London in atmosphere. “Prudence and the Dragon” made me laugh out loud several times and is just so warm-hearted. And has a female friendship at its core.
Iron Aria by A. Merc Rustad (in Fireside Fiction): what a wonderful, hopeful secondary-world fantasy story! I love how well Merc handles all the intersections of identity in this. The worldbuilding is fascinating (and so rich for a short story) and the characters really come alive.
Long time no rec on the blog – I’ve been posting occasional recs on Twitter, but this blog has been quiet.
But now — it’s Mothers’ Day in Finland, and how better to celebrate than by recommending a creepy story?
Alyssa Wong’s Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers (in Nightmare Magazine, originally published in the Queers Destroy Horror! special issue) is an amazing, disturbing story. I don’t usually go for horror, but this story just really works, gave me the chills. The interpersonal relationships (including a mother-daughter relationship) are essential in this. And what a great ending!
“Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” is also a Nebula, Shirley Jackson, Bram Stoker and Locus Award finalist, so go and read it now if you haven’t already! Alyssa is also (well-deservedly) a finalist for the 2016 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
Three powerful stories this Sunday:
A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers, by Alyssa Wong (on Tor.com). This story about weather-bending sisters and apocalypses is quite personally painful for me. But good, so good! Not an easy story, but very much worth the read.
Makeisha in Time, by Rachael K. Jones (in Crossed Genres). Such a fantastic story! It packs a lot of plot and character into a short space. I’m not the biggest fan of time travel stories, but this one does very interesting things with the notion.
And last, something far happier in tone: This is Not a Wardrobe Door, by A. Merc Rustad (in Fireside). This delightful tale about travelling between worlds, loss, and friendship is a great riff on Narnia-esque world-travel.
I’m teaching a literature tutorial this spring, and in our final class on poetry, I made my students read some speculative poetry. I wanted them to see that poetry can involve any genre, and be more than just the classic (and wonderful!) stuff we’ve been reading. So here are the poems from newer writers that I used in class:
Gas Giants by Maria Velazquez, in Issue 6 (“Catalyst”) of Stone Telling. This poem is so powerful, with its space imagery and family issues.
Sarcophagus, by N. E. Taylor, in Issue 3 of inkscrawl. So much story and implied emotion in two lines! Amazing.
The Loss, by Mari Ness, in Strange Horizons, 2013. Bird-girls and the feeling of flight. Wonderful.
April, by Nita Sembrowich, in the Spring 2013 issue of Goblin Fruit. Starting as a delicate evocation of spring, the last two lines really make this poem for me.
I’m using a story by Ken Liu and one by Amal El-Mohtar in my teaching, too. Because yay for literary SFF. 🙂
Rose Lemberg is a wonderful writer (and editor! but I’m concentrating on her writing here). I’ve recced many things by her in the past too: she writes beautiful poetry full of word-magic, for instance.
But today, I want to highlight two stories from Rose that I’ve recently read and loved. These are both set in the same world, Birdverse: a world where magic is based on language and geometry in fascinating ways.
First, Geometries of Belonging, in the October 2015 issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I read this story yesterday, and was blown away by it. It’s a long novelette – so, there’s plenty of time to get immersed. And oh my heart, how immersed I was. The narrator, Parét, is struggling with his own issues within the broader context of the story, and he felt so delicate and fully realised. I ached for him. So many complex characters in this novelette, and complex cultural and political situations that act as a background to the events. It was great to read about an autistic character who is portrayed with such sensitivity and nuance, too. The story also features polyamory, a complex dom/sub relationship, trans and nonbinary characters… wonderful to see such a variety of sexual expressions and gender in a story! This wasn’t the lightest of tales to read – the various societal oppressions and people’s own locks and problems do not make for a happy-go-lucky atmosphere. But Geometries of Belonging is a hopeful story, definitely. And an important one.
Then for something different, to show how varied Rose Lemberg’s Birdverse tales are: The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar, published in the newest issue of Uncanny Magazine. This is a happy story – ah, marvellously joyful and hopeful, though not without conflict. It’s written in an epistolary format, which is something that I really enjoy. Two artists meet and share their art, and more. Rose always writes exquisitely, but the language here is really something special. The words in these particular arrangements sparkle like jewels, like shimmering shards of coloured glass.
The smallest of recs but an utterly gorgeous one — a tiny story that I just read on Strange Horizons:
Telling the Bees by T. Kingfisher. Poetic, strange and utterly wonderful. Such a short read that you’ve no excuse not to feast on its juicy word-goodness right away!
Sunday recs! Featuring three delightful short stories, and two excellent novels.
Tomorrow When We See the Sun by A. Merc Rustad (in Lightspeed) – a weird and cool space opera. A dark atmosphere but so beautiful. Merc’s worldbuilding is great, and I especially love how they use language. Poetic writing in prose <3
And the Balance in Blood by Elizabeth Bear (in Uncanny Magazine) – such a delightful novelette!! In contrast to Merc’s story, this one is hopeful and has lots of funny bits. This story reminds me that I should get round to reading Bear’s novels.
Wing by Amal El-Mohtar (in Strange Horizons) – a lovely short piece from 2012, lyrical and strange. Mystical books, yay.
Then for the novels: I’ve got longer reviews/squee for these on Goodreads, but I just really want to recommend two novels from this autumn that I read recently:
Black Wolves, Kate Elliott’s newest novel – set in the same world as her Crossroads trilogy, but you needn’t have read the trilogy to enjoy this one. (I greatly enjoyed the references to the trilogy, though!) In fact, I didn’t even like the Crossroads trilogy as much as Elliott’s other stuff, but omgggg I adored Black Wolves. So, so good. A must-read if you’re into epic fantasy. It does some pretty bold things with structure, but I think it works very well. And there were so many great characters. Lots of women being awesome, and a very interesting portrayal of a fantasy society in the process of great societal changes. So great. I wish I could re-read this book again with new eyes, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy rereading it in any case.
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho – which I just read over Christmas. A riot of a book, vastly different from Black Wolves, but that was probably a good thing since I’d just finished BW before starting SttC. Zen Cho’s got a really good Regency thing going on: I’m so happy there’s more stuff in the general vein of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell! This was a light read on the surface, but Cho also deals really well with issues of e.g. racism and colonialism.
I’m really looking forward to the next parts of the trilogies for both BW and SttC!
The world’s a horrible mess right now, even more than usual. As an antidote for all the hate and attacks worldwide, here is a story to read that gave me the warm fuzzies. Reader, I hope it brings you joy too.
Shimmering, Warm and Bright by Shveta Thakrar (in the current issue of Interfictions). I read this story today and it made me feel so content. It’s written so beautifully, such loving attention to language. Despite the difficult issues dealt with in it, the positivity shining through (pun intended) made me feel hopeful. More anti-grimdark stuff like this, please!
I just finished Bone Swans, a collection of stories by C.S.E. Cooney – very highly recommended!
A great collection of stories, poetry singing along with the narrative (and often included, too, to dazzling effect). C.S.E. Cooney’s writing just has this amazing energy and panache to it. I love it. How they’re written – the juicy, glorious language – is such an important part of her stories. This collection is really diverse, with a range of narrators and styles.
My favourites were “Martyr’s Gem” and “How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain with the Crooked One”, stories I’d enjoyed already previously. I just adore pretty much every character in “Martyr’s Gem” – especially lovely Shursta! The oral culture is done so well, too. The storytelling bit always gives me the shivers.
“How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain with the Crooked One” is an awesome fairytale reworking. The narrator is such a joy, and I love how this version plays out. It’s set in the same world as some of Cooney’s other stories, too, such as “The Last Sophia” (in Strange Horizons) and her two Dark Breakers novellas – all of them highly recommended too! It’s so cool to see a writer doing several stories in the same world.
I was also really impressed by “Life on the Sun” and “The Bone Swans of Amandale” (so creepy in a great fairytale way!). The final tale, “The Big Bah-Ha”, appealed to me the least, but I think that’s mostly because I’m creeped out by clowns and so couldn’t enjoy the story as much due to subject matter. However, that was basically my only quibble with this collection.
You should also check out all of Claire Cooney’s poetry because it’s awesome.