Monday, February 27, 2012

What would that take?

This week's Strange Horizons has not only a new installment of Vandana Singh's Diffractions Column, but also a roundtable discussion among science fiction writers about Writing Climate Change. The panel, moderated by Niall Harrison, includes Vandana Singh, Kim Stanley Robinson, Joan Slonczewski, Glenda Larke, Tobias Buckell, Maggie Gee, and Julie  Bretagna, all writers who've written about climate change.  Vandana's column, I might also note, concludes with a call to writers:
Assume that the planet must be saved. Not that we won't suffer the effects of global warming for a long time to come, but let us assume that we can do what it takes to limit it as much as possible so that one day it could be reversed. That is, less than 2C of warming. What would that take? What kind of action, re-thinking, re-imagining everything from technology to how we live to what we write and what we read—what would it look like on the way to saving the world? Science fiction is full of end-of-the-world stories, apocalyptic hereafters. It is so much more difficult to imagine and to bring to paper or screen the messy, complicated, partial, unsatisfactory, creative ways and means that might affect a solution. But it is a task both necessary and urgent. If we are the imagineers of the world, we must imagine, or re-imagine it in ways that involve other paradigms as well as other technologies.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How the world works now

Last week Niall Harrison called attention to Benjamin Rosenbaum's post (and the ensuing discussion in the comments) on what Niall calls The Wages of Nostalgia. (I've only just read these today.) In his post, Ben says he suspects that what is being labeled "nostalgia" for old tropes commonly used in sf is actually an expression of a "covert, unacknowledged hatred of the present [that] shows up simply as indifference to how the world actually works now." For "how the world works now" Ben seems to have in mind mainly early 21st-century communications technology. This seems an updated version of what I was irritated by in the early 1990s,  where (always male) characters several centuries from now enjoyed themselves by eating a "good steak dinner" (T-bone or Porterhouse steak with baked potato and salad) accompanied by bottle of red zinfandel followed by coffee, a cigar and brandy, where women were sex objects or mothers and never plausible colleagues. It was precisely the aestheticization of 1950s white middle class culture (with all its stifling gender norms) that drove me nuts. Here Ben complains about a character who, as he says, could only exist in 2011 (but is set in the 26th century):
When this guy takes a vacation, he is completely isolated from his friends and family. He is able to avoid the awkwardness of having conversations with them which he will not remember. He is able to simply retreat into silence. So apparently in 2511 not only do they not have blogs and Facebook and twitter and IM, they also do not have anything that comes after that, anything that makes us more interwoven with each other, that erases place more. They have simply gone back to the way it was before our social topography was reshaped by electronic networks.

Not to belabor the point -- the story, which purports to be set in 2511, is actually set in roughly 1985, i think.

And why did this not bother me while I was reading it, only to make me angry on the bicycle, later?

Because I grew up reading SF stories written before 1985. I grew up reading rediscovered-lost-colony-FTL stories in which the protagonists got lost in the woods, and it was fun. It didn't occur to me then that they would have GPS cell phones. It was easy, this morning, to simply forget the world of today, and read as if I was in 1985.

But on some level this is morally bankrupt.
As I say, I can sympathize with this kind of irritation, because it's akin to the irritation I've felt about those middle-class male tropes idealizing 1950s suburban culture. (The judgment-- "morally bankrupt"--needs a bit unpacking: I'm not sure I'd go so far, on the face of it.) But in spite of knowing that irritation well, I had to laugh. Really, I just had to laugh. Especially after I read the comments. I mean, here I am, living in the early 21st-century US, in the circumstances known as "late capitalism," in which the technological infrastructure is fragmented, fragile, and prone to frequent breakdowns and cellular coverage is absent in certain parts of Washington State and internet service is crappier than it was fifteen years ago. And where for the last twenty-four hours my home internet connection has been flaking out on me (i.e., largely unavailable, perhaps because someone at the cable company fiddled with a setting that is affecting our hub but not apparently anyone else's). For a while today it looked as though I might have to go out to a cafe to get some pressing email correspondence out. (I was thinking it would be like making a run to the post office used to be.) This flaking out is not a rare occurrence. Not to mention that the various computers I own are always crashing. (& let us not get on the subject of printers! or fax machines!) We all of us spend a huge amount of time coping with a constant flow of "updates" to keep the many bits of software our computers run on going. Our computers are always failing us. Getting tech "support" is usually unsatisfying, and often means waiting on hold, listening to a repeated four-note pattern plonked out on a piano for a half-hour or even hour before getting a tech who doesn't know enough to fix complicated problems (since if he-- somehow it's always a he-- did, he'd in a better paying job and not on a cable company's frontlines fobbing off customers). Never has technology been so unreliable. And don't get me started on viruses. Or spam and phishing. Or email getting "lost in the ether."

Everyone likes to quote Moore's Law when talking about technology. Well here's Duchamp's Law: under late capitalism in the US, the more advanced the computer or communications technology is, the less reliable it's likely to be and the more prone to frequent breakdowns. (Maybe you live in South Korea or other places where the government subsidizes basic technology. I hear there are more than a dozen places in the world with reliable, fast internet service. Duchamp's Law doesn't apply to those places. But Seattle isn't among them. Nor any city in the US.)

What happens to Ben's 2011 guy when he vacations on the Olympic Peninsula, say at La Push, on the coast, or somewhere in the Cascades? (I.e, somewhere one to four hours by car from Seattle.) His cell phone ceases to work, that's what. Maybe he'll have purchased a cute little GPA gizmo from REI, but maybe not, because maybe, like Ben, he'll assume his cell phone will give him all he needs. Or what if he crosses the border into Canada and discovers that his iPad or iPhone won't work because his cellular coverage ceases when he leaves the US? (Unless, of course, he's wealthy enough to think nothing of obscene roving charges.) The more cut-throat our economic system becomes and the more advanced our technology, the less likely it is to work. And that doesn't even get into the frequency of power outages during wind storms (which are common where I live) or ice storms or hurricanes or when transformers blow (which they seem to be doing more often than they used to). Rechargeable batteries are convenient, but they don't last long when the power outage lasts more than a few hours.

I would add, more personally, that I of course could never be characterized as a "2011 guy." (Assuming that "guy" is intended to be gender-neutral, as I am.) See, technology is uneven--unevenly adopted, unevenly affordable, unevenly used. I don't use Twitter. I just don't have time. (Hell, you all can see what a terrible job I do trying to keep this blog from stagnating!) At the moment, I'm about two months behind on reading my RSS feeds. Even when I'm on "vacation" I usually don't have time to be on Facebook much. I can barely keep up with my email, and as for voice mail, well, I so seldom use the telephone that I can't remember to check for messages and so usually listen to them days after they've been sent. There are so few hours in the day, you see. And I can't help it, my body seems addicted to sleeping at least a portion of them. You may say this is an age thing, and there'd be some truth to that. (I know it's age that has prevented my ever even thinking of texting-- I took about ten years to get a cell phone of my own at least partly because I can't use it without putting on my reading glasses.) I do, of course, take both a netbook and an iPad (as well as a Sony reader) with me on vacation, at least partly because I'm as compulsive a Google Search user as anyone I know. But I know very well that on vacation, especially, the internet will be out of reach.

Here's another aspect of uneveness: I have several friends, of varying ages, who have resumed sending me letters written on paper through the USPS. Why? Because they associate email with their jobs. And their relationship with me is personal. Yes, they do have cell phones and email addresses. One of them has a Facebook account (and we are not "Friends") and uses her iPhone to text. But print letters feel to them private and personal and one-to-one in a way that social media can't be. Is that old-fashioned or nostalgic of them? Perhaps. It will be interesting to see if private one-to-one relationships of that sort go the way of the do-do bird. I myself, looking back, am amazed to think of how in earlier decades of my life I'd spend a couple of hours every day writing letters to friends and acquaintances. (But then, literate people had been doing that for centuries.) I don't do that now. The arrival of the mail, even before I became a writer, was an important moment in my day. Somehow, I've never imagined a character in one of my stories living that way. I have often, though, made private "social" relationships part of my fiction, regardless of the technological context. Is that nostalgic? The answer to that depends on whether we think private social relationships are/will continue to be part of the way the world works. Yes, a lot has changed in the last thirty years. I just don't have a grip on what exactly is being phased out. 
If there's one thing I'd like to say about Ben's 2011 guy, it's this: showing characters using technology without a continual stream of interruptions to technology is idealistic beyond belief. Why don't most sf stories show characters routinely having to grapple with the banal, mundane breakdowns we all have to cope with in our real 21st-century lives? Why does everything work like magic in sf (except, of course, when the plot requires a communication failure for the author's purposes). Why don't they routinely show how uneven access to technology is? How our world works is as much a story of how it doesn't work as how it's supposed to work.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Reviews of Online Stories (Jan1-Feb15) at Last Short Story

I'm reviewing stories at Last Short Story now. I've done my first roundup, reviewing the stories from the eight online magazines I'm planning to follow this year, from Jan 1st through Feb 15th.

Here's my favorite:

"Aftermath" by Joy Kennedy-O'Neill (Strange Horizons) - This extremely affecting story features zombies--which you're probably sick of (I am)--but it looks at them through the lends of reconciliation. How do people move on after a civil war, an apartheid, a genocide, a zombie attack--where neighbors kill each other and subsequently have to live side by side? The emotional and character work here is very skillful. I found it hard to read; it made me cry.

Click through to see other cool stories.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pre-Release Special for Rebecca Ore's Time & Robbery

Aqueduct Press is pleased to announce the publication of Time and Robbery, a new novel by Rebecca Ore, author of Gaia's Toys, Time's Child, Slow Funeral, and other well-received books, as a trade paperback, in March 2012. Aqueduct will be selling the book for $13 through its website until its release date of March 1.

Time and Robbery features the protagonist of Ore's Centuries Ago and Very Fast, Vel, a gay immortal born in Paleolithic who jumps time at will. Unless Vel can help out his younger self, Vel's tribe's descendants—a big chunk of the 21st-century British population—will be eliminated from the timeline. Present-day Vel, though, has problems of his own, so he takes a chance and outs himself (and his talented teen-aged daughter Quince) to Joe Tavistock, a subcontractor on the weak end of the plausible deniability chain dangling off British intelligence, making it Joe’s problem. Joe's superiors are dubious, and Joe doesn't know who to trust. The stakes are high not just for Vel, but for everyone involved.

Rebecca Ore's first book about Vel, Centuries Ago and Very Fast, was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick and the Lambda Awards. As Jeff VanderMeer wrote for Locus Online: “Centuries Ago and Very Fast by Rebecca Ore (from the truly amazing Aqueduct Press) has a kinetic energy and hard-to-define originality that held me captivated from first word to last. Profane—scandalous?—the book wraps stories around stories, combines the surreal with the mundane and every-day.”

Advance Praise

"Rebecca is up to her old tricks here: surprising, puzzling, and delighting us at every turn; and in this sleek, lean detective tale, coolly twisting the tail of Time itself. Ore is that rarest of creatures, a writers' writer that readers also love."   —Terry Bisson, author of Fire on the Mountain and TVA Baby

 "When does a short novel qualify as an epic? When Rebecca Ore writes of centuries of kinfolk, millennia of hot sex, and a few days of investigating an impossible crime. Read this like you'd take a pill pushed into your hand by a stranger in a new nightclub in a city you've never been to. It's worth the trip." —Nick Mamatas, author of Move Under Ground and Sensation

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Planned Parenthood and Me

Since the Susan G. Komen Foundation lost its reputation for being "apolitical" when its decision to de-fund Planned Parenthood's breast cancer screening program for low-income women came to light last week, I've spent time recalling, with gratitude, my own long-ago personal acquaintance with Planned Parenthood. It began in 1971, during the months that I received food stamps. I was working then as a cleaning woman, and Tom (who had started back to graduate school) and I were living on my earnings cleaning houses and a small student loan that with all the scrimping in the world couldn't be made to cover our living expenses. (We just made it with the food stamps, $54 a month, as I recall.) Since I had dropped out of school, I had no access to the university's student health center. I had never heard of Planned Parenthood until a friend, learning that I couldn't afford to see a gynecologist to get a prescription for oral contraceptives, told me about their clinic-- and that they had a sliding scale.

I remember bicycling to the clinic, in Urbana. It was in the basement of a building and distinctly makeshift-- the person doing reception sat at a card table (and indeed, all the "desks" were folding tables of one sort or another), the examination cubicles had curtains rather than doors, and the amenities were nothing like any doctor's office I had ever been in. But the doctor, a woman with a heavy German accent, astounded me with her deftness and gentleness with the speculuum. (I'd had only a few experiences with pelvic exams before that one, and they had all been painful.) Most astonishing, though, was that she did something that has now become standard practice, but certainly wasn't back then: she told me everything she was going to do before she did it, and what she was doing as she did it. And she explained why. She made me--all of me-- part of the process (unlike the male doctors I'd previously had who talked about the weather or a skiiing trip they'd recently taken or else just breathed hard or grunted as they poked around inside my body). I hadn't yet encountered Our Bodies, Ourselves, but when I later did finally see it in the bookstore and buy it, I recognized the attitude and approach to women's health care. It is an approach that puts the woman herself at the center of the process, and seeks to increase her sense of agency. My experiences in that clinic gave me a different idea of what gynecological examinations could be like. When two years later I resumed my undergraduate course work and had the option of getting my health care from the university's student health center, I never gave doing that a thought. And that's probably a good thing, since it was through my annual exams at Planned Parenthood that I learned that estrogen was raising my blood pressure.  When lowering the dosage, which was the first response to the problem, wasn't sufficient to lower my blood pressure, the doctor discussed other options with me, and then introduced me to my first diaphragm. She did this in a way that countered my dismay and sense of helplessnes at learning that oral contraceptives would be deleterious to my health. The people at the clinic also, of course, taught me self-breast examinations. Back in the 1970s, this was unusual. Certainly it wasn't something that was ever done in an ordinary gynecologist's office. I only stopped going to Planned Parenthood when I moved to another city.

My gratitude for the good care of me taken by the people at that clinic is only part of the reason I've been a long-time monthly supporter of Planned Parenthood. As the attack on women and women's agency has escalated over the last few years, Planned Parenthood has been a primary target. The attitude of those attacking the organization is: How dare they give women options? How dare they educate and care for low-income women? At a time of escalating costs of health care and an ongoing campaign of dis- and misinformation about women's contraception, abortion, and women's health issues generally, Planned Parenthood is a bulwark we cannot afford to lose.

The Komen Foundation has (temporarily at least) restored the funding it had been providing for the breast cancer-screening program at Planned Parenthood. But Planned Parenthood is under attack on other fronts. If you can afford to make a contribution to them, please do. This is no time for Planned Parenthood to be forced to cut back its services. I am fortunate that they were there for me when I needed them.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A storyteller's book

Strange Horizons has a long, thoughtful review of Anne Sheldon's The Bone Spindle, by Sofia Samatar. She remarks, "I would have liked to see more from Anne Sheldon in this book, and I will look forward to reading more of her work" and concludes:
The Bone Spindle includes images as well as words: the illustrations are based on photographs of looms, spinning wheels, yarn and hands busy with knitting or embroidery. They complement the written words and add another thread to Sheldon's tapestry of old, new and reinterpreted stories. This collection would make a beautiful gift for a knitter or weaver, but it's also a storyteller's book, so full of voices that it seems to beg to be read aloud. And of course, when a piece is spoken, the way it's arranged on the page becomes less important. The oral mode, I suspect, is the best way to experience Anne Sheldon's "story-poems."
Those who've had the pleasure of hearing Anne read (at WisCon and elsewhere) would no doubt heartily concur with that.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rachel Swirsky's Novella Recommendations from 2011

I always end up reading far fewer novellas than I do things of any other category. This year, I read 13. In addition to the sources I used for the other short fiction, I went to the SFWA forums and pulled down anything with an interesting title. I would have pulled down all of the novellas in the forums, but my husband is on the point of threatening divorce if I don't wrap this up. :-P


"With Unclean Hands" by Adam Troy-Castro (Analog) - A far-future story in which aliens offer an unbelievably good trade--amazing technology that humans want in exchange for a single human. The main character, who is expected to merely rubber-stamp the transaction, must instead figure out why the aliens are making such a bizarre trade and whether it's in human interest to agree. I really liked this; I thought it was smart and well-plotted. The main character is a jaded woman who, as a little girl, was on a colony that was exposed to a virus that made everyone genocidal; she was the sole survivor, and lives with knowing she murdered friends and family. As the innocent child who committed genocide, Andrea Cort is an analog for Orson Scott's Ender, but I find her contrition, bitterness, and self-flagellating quite a bit more compelling and realistic than Ender's.

"Ice Owl" by Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) - A little girl who's spent her life traveling from colony to colony has lived more than a hundred linear years, even though she's only been aware for (approximately) 12 of them. The political situation on the world where she's living now has just gotten tricky; a revolution is in the offing. When her school is bombed, the little girl seeks tutelage from an art dealer who knows secrets about the past that the girl slept through. This is my favorite piece by Gilman that I've read so far. I've sometimes felt held at a bit of a remove from Gilman's stories, which isn't to say I didn't still enjoy them, but this one allowed me to go deeper emotionally. The main character was very interesting, and the world around her was incredibly rich with soap opera details. The descriptions of the art and art history were wonderful. Like both of the other novellas I've selected as "hard picks," this one also deals with genocide; I'm not sure whether that says something about my taste (probably) or something about what was in the inspirational ether this year (also, I think, probable). While the Liu is my pick, this was really, really good; it's about as good as space opera gets.

"The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary" by Ken Liu (PANVERSE 3) - This hands-down my top pick for novella, and I really did enjoy the other two quite a bit. In a format reminiscent of Ted Chiang's "Do You Like What You See?" (which appears to have been deliberate; Liu credits the Chiang story as part of his inspiration), the story is told (largely) as if it's the script of a documentary discussing the pros and cons of the historical development of a new technology: in this case, the ability to send an eye-witness back to observe historical events. The take on time travel is unlike anything I've ever seen before, both technologically, but especially sociologically. The time travel itself focuses on the Japanese equivalent of a death camp in China and the writing about it was so skillfully vivid that I had to take breaks to remind myself how to breathe. I was viscerally involved in this story, sick in my gut, furious in my bones. The intellectual considerations (which include the physics of the thing, but are more about international politics and--especially interesting for me--an actual consideration of history as a subject people practice) dominate the story, but Liu is able to use the framework to create several detailed, emotionally interesting characters. I feel like this length gives Liu the space to work more stably with both the intellectual and emotional threads of his story than he always manages with the shorter fiction (for instance, while I thought the balance in "Simulacrum" was quite good, the balance in his "Tying Knots" is--imo--significantly too heavily toward the intellectual, leaving the characters vitiated). I would be interested to see what he could do with even more space to develop both ideas and characters.


"Martian Chronicles" by Cory Doctorow (LIFE ON MARS) - A second wave of immigrants is on its way to Mars, a significant time after the first wave of colonists established themselves. The story takes place on the journey, from the perspective of a teenager who's being brought along by his family. The kids all play a VR game that models life on Mars and the story is about contrasting that game with what happens on the actual Mars--with twists. The politics in this story are unsubtle in a way that I felt like I should have annoyed me (I don't object to blatant politics in stories as a rule, but there was something... simplistic? predictable? about the presentation here that might have been because the story was intended as YA), but really they didn't; mostly I was just going along with the characters and having fun. The world was fun to inhabit and the descriptions VR game kept my gamer-brain entertained.

"Rampion" by Alexandra Duncan (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) - A retelling of Rapunzel, during a period in history when the Moors and the Christians were fighting for dominance over European land. The details in this were really great, and I liked the gentle way it interacted with the Rapunzel fairy tale, letting the parallels happen without forcing them to be too significant or too close to the original story, so that it felt like part of the novella's natural flow.


"The Man Who Bridged the Mist" by Kij Johsnon (Asimov's, first half online here) - So, I adore Kij Johnson's work like crazy, and then I was reading this novella and I was like "oh my god I'm so bored" and there was that really weird, spooky thing that happens when there's an author you love and you're like "nope, this time, no." It's clear, however, that this novella is actually good; Strahan loves it, for instance. And there were things about it I really liked: the story takes place on the banks of a river filled with sinister mist in which ancient, creepy fish-like creatures swim. I *loved* the passages about the mist and the fish. I also found the way it examined themes about advancing technology and its gains and losses really interesting. I didn't object to the characters, and other different circumstances I might have connected with them, but there was just something that really got between me and the story. For the first 40% especially, I think I kept waiting for a dramatic plot. For me, it was kind of like "OK, all this is happening, but why am I reading about it?" There wasn't any plot tension (for me) and while I'm often okay with that, in this case the details of the characters' lives didn't pull me through either. Again, I'm sure this is a quite striking novella when it's being read by someone who isn't me, and even if you are me, there were things about it to like. I always find it weird when I fall so far away from a consensus opinion I'm sure is basically accurate (like Mieville, I just don't get into his work, and I know it's my fault). I just didn't "impress" on this story; I never found the point where I became immersed as a reader.

"Long Time Waiting" by Carrie Vaughn (KITTY'S GREATEST HITS) - I was reading this story and then I went "hey, some of the stuff in this is familiar" and then I went "Oh! It's from the perspective of a character from one of Carrie Vaughn's Kitty the Werewolf novels, telling a set of events we don't get a clear view on during the text." I enjoyed it from the perspective of someone who enjoys the novels. I particularly like the character of the grumpy ghost from the early 1900s.

Recommended for your pleasure!

Locus published their 2011 recommended reading list. Three books from Aqueduct are on the list:

Redwood and Wildfire by Andrea Hairston
The Universe of Things by Gwyneth Jones
Brood of Foxes by Kristin Livdahl

That's 37.5% of 2011 publications. Go Aqueduct!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rachel Swirsky's Novelette Recommendations from 2011

Repeating the notes from my previous post: this year, I read about 260 short stories and novelettes. I compiled my list using a combination of reading magazines and anthologies, querying authors about their yearly work, asking for recommendations from critics and editors, and referencing the year’s best anthologies. As always, I enjoyed more novelettes. than I’m listing here.

Some of the pieces listed as novelettes may actually be short stories. I double-checked the ones I’m voting on, but for the rest of my reading, where it wasn’t immediately obvious what category the work belonged to, I guessed.


I haven't entirely decided on my ballot yet, but I'm absolutely sure these two will be on it.

"The Way Station" by Nathan Ballingsrud (Naked City) - A man, haunted by the city of New Orleans, navigates the world in which he is part streets and levies and the wreckage from floods. Haunting imagery and setting details build an eerie, well-fleshed character and tone. This is the kind of story that shows the power of surrealism in illuminating emotional truths. It exposes the heart of grief.

"What We Found" by Geoff Ryman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) - The protagonist of this story has discovered that stress levels affect subsequent generations through the male line, meaning that the tragedies of the past are literally passed down into the bodies of the present and future. Now considering his own marriage and the prospect of passing on the stresses his line has endured, the narrator relates his experience of growing up. It's intense, often sad, but also brilliant in the way that it delineates character and setting detail. This story does what I've noticed I seem to want from fiction--it brings both literary tools and genre tools to bear in a way that sharpens both.


3 of these 6 will be on my ballot, but I'm not yet sure which three. I wish I could nominate all of them.

"Six Months, Three Days" by Charlie Jane Anders ( - Two precognitives meet and fall in love. Their relationship is fraught by the fact that one of the precognitives is a determinist (seeing the future as a single stream) and the other believes in free will (and sees possibilities branching from most moments). The philosophical contrast and science fictional premise provide an intriguing philosophical flavor to the human romance; the two work exquisitely in synchrony.

"Gap Year" by Christopher Barzak (Teeth) - Like Kelly Link at her best, this story of a girl who discovers herself to be an emotional vampire not only deploys surreal, disconcerting imagery in service of emotional truth--but also does so in a satisfying, story-shaped structure.

"The Summer People" by Kelly Link (Steampunk!) - Kelly Link has a genius for characters and beautiful, strange imagery. Both are here. The character is strange and immediately compelling, her situation likewise. Strange events unfold in a way that's both disorienting and completely intuitive; she has an amazing talent for calling for the suspense of disbelief, for welcoming the reader into strageness. Unfortunately, I sometimes feel that Link's stories are structurally weak, although this makes the ones that aren't ("The Constable of Abal," "Magic for Beginners," etc.) even more striking. This one manages a compelling plot through to the abbreviated end. It's still striking and wonderful, but I'm left with an unresolved hollowness that disconnects me emotionally from the rest of the story. (Endings are of course controversial, and I'm a big fan of endings that leave you at the perfect moment, even if that moment is an unresolved chord--Tim Pratt's "Cup and Table" oh my God--but this one missed for me.)

"Slice of Life" by Lucius Shepherd (Teeth) - Another story that reminded me of Kelly Link. (I don't know what to say. I love her writing. Maybe Kelly Link is one of the paradigms in my brain against which All Others Will Be Judged.) The vampire in this story is unusual and compelling, but the most striking thing about this story is the non-magical protagonist, whose self-resolve--and sometimes bitterness--rise off the page to make her a fully fleshed, compelling figure.

"The Migratory Patterns of Dancers" by Katie Sparrow (Giganotosaurus) - In a future without birds, men ride through the country, wearing wings and dancing, doing the dangerous work of sustaining memory. Near-future science fiction with an unusual premise and absolutely gorgeous imagery and voice.

"Work, with Occasional Molemen" by Jeremiah Tolbert (Giganotosaurus) - Although there's a joke at the center of the piece that I'm not fond of; ignoring that, this is a visceral, emotionally intense piece with scarily good characterization and setting. It's dark, almost hopeless, but not in a sci-fi dystopia-way, but in an emotionally unflinching way like Dorothy Allison. It's a very unusual combination of voice and genre; it's distinctly itself in a striking way. I'm not sure I've ever read anything else like it.


"The Silver Wind" by Nina Allan (Interzone) - So, I read this novelette in the context of a linked short story collection, in which it was story #2 or #3, so I have trouble separating it entirely from the rest of the collection in my mind. Allan is a strikingly talented writer with a facility for taking complex ideas (time travel, alienation, exploration) and using extremely detailed characterization to reveal their emotional truths. The characters and premises in the collection are interesting and the read is often surprising and gratifying, but as a whole, I thought it was overwritten. Pruning back some of the contemplations and repetitions would have given the emotional moments and character revelations more of a chance to stand out. The novelette itself is the most highly structured piece of the collection and it's odd and compelling while also providing intellectual fodder.

"The House of Aunts" by Zen Cho (Giganotosaurus) - The story of a girl who is a variety of vampire from a non-western mythology and her first experiences with love. The relationships between the main character and her titular aunts manage to be tender, compelling, and creepy all at once. The main character, likewise, is easy to invest in, and yet has an edge of the gruesome. The story as a whole maintains this balance well, mixing the familiar and the revolting, in a way that I think most vampire stories fail to. Perhaps it's because the main characters aren't vampires in the traditional sense that allows their methods of killing and eating to feel freshly frightening in a way that blood-sucking doesn't. This story was very good, but I felt like it flinched away from the ending rather than facing the emotional complexity it had set up.

"Anticopernicus" by Adam Roberts (Amazon e-book at .99) - I didn't get very emotionally involved with this story, although I liked the cynical main character. However, the ideas and the action were pretty cool. It's somewhere between near- and far-future SF, and takes place at the time of first contact with aliens.

"The Skinny Girl" by Lucius Shepherd (Naked City) - Although i didn't think this piece held together very well structurally (particularly at the end; endings are so slippery), the strangeness and eeriness of it were very compelling. A photographer, obsessed with death, meets death's avatar. Their spine-shivering of their interaction--particularly when it's erotic--is skillfully crafted.

"Flying" by Delia Sherman (Teeth) - An aerialist who has been forbidden to practice her trade since she began dying of leukemia runs off to join a strange, timeless circus. There's an eeriness to circuses, of course, which gives all writing about them a boost when it comes to evoking the odd, but I especially liked the descriptions of this circus and its acts. I was compelled by the main character's hardened resolve. Sherman's voice is, as ever, exceptionally sharp.


"Slow as a Bullet" by Andy Duncan (Eclipse 4) - Nothing too deep, but a really entertaining tall tale in a characteristically entertaining Andy Duncan voice.

"Afterbirth" by Kameron Hurley (Amazon e-book at .99) - A tie-in with Hurley's GOD'S WAR.


"A Small Price to pay for Birdsong" by K.J. Parker (Subterranean Magazine) - Amadeus v. Salieri, fantasy style.

"Sauerkraut Station" by Ferret Steinmetz (Giganotosaurus) - While the voice of the protagonist--a young girl--rings false in places, this is fun, traditional space opera.

I'm Running for SFWA Vice President

My statement of candidacy is on the SFWA forums, but I thought I'd post a couple of notes around the internet for people who don't often hop over there.

My novelette recommendations coming asap!