rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I liked:

Yuanyuan's Bubbles by Liu Cixin
I find Liu's style a little hard to get into, but I did find myself thinking about this story for a while afterward. Yuanyuan's playful attraction to bubbles and other ephemeral fun is contrasted with her father's sober hardworking approach to life, and yet may be more useful than either realises.

Union by Tamsin Muir
This is really creepy stuff, with body horror at the edge of my tolerance for such things, but had me gripped right to the end.

Daddy's World by Walter Jon Williams
This is also creepy-for-me but good, this time nudging up against my tolerance for poor treatment of children by parents; I nearly gave up near the beginning but am glad I stuck it out to find out the deeper plot lurking underneath.

I also found interesting the essay by Cat Rambo about whether people "should" read the SF classics, and why.
Also posted at http://rmc28.dreamwidth.org/614808.html with comment count unavailable comments.
rmc28: Rachel, in running tshirt and leggings, holding phone and smiling into mirror (runner5)
I have:

  • a number of ebook vouchers to spend

  • the ability to nominate for the 2016 Hugo awards (when nominations open next month)

  • a list of SFF books published in 2015 that I've gained the impression I would appreciate

  • not much time to read from now on

I think it highly unlikely I'll get through the list below before nominations close, so please help me prioritise it by voting for your top three recommendations.

[Poll #2031924]
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I have:

  • a number of ebook vouchers to spend

  • the ability to nominate for the 2016 Hugo awards (when nominations open next month)

  • a list of SFF books published in 2015 that I've gained the impression I would appreciate

  • not much time to read from now on

I think it highly unlikely I'll get through the list below before nominations close, so please help me prioritise it by voting for your top three recommendations.

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 20

Which of these books should I get and read before Hugo nominations close?

View Answers

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott
3 (15.0%)

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
4 (20.0%)

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
3 (15.0%)

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
2 (10.0%)

Last First Snow by Max Gladstone
4 (20.0%)

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
4 (20.0%)

Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal
2 (10.0%)

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
1 (5.0%)

The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
4 (20.0%)

Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman
0 (0.0%)

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
0 (0.0%)

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
11 (55.0%)

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
8 (40.0%)

Something else - see comments
1 (5.0%)

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I particularly liked:

Wooden Feathers by Ursula Vernon
A story about a woodcarver and her mysterious regular customer. I really loved Sarah, who opens the story improvising fixes to her mistakes, and has a very believable reaction to the eventual 'reveal' of magic. The story made me cry. It's also about creativity and learning and fear and risk. Highly recommended.

Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson
It's a zombie story, and a little bit too gory/icky for me, but done really well.

and the poem Aboard the Transport Tesoro by Lisa M. Bradley
(I find it even harder to write about why I like poems than I do about short stories, so I'm not even trying here.)

And I quite liked:

A Call to Arms for Deceased Authors’ Rights by Karin Tidbeck
A spooky idea, nicely done.

Interlingua by Yoon Ha Lee
Loved the set up, not sure about the ending

The Call of the Sad Whelkfins by Annalee Flower Horne and Natalie Lurhs
An essay on Joanna Russ's How to Suppress Women's Writing using Ancillary Justice for an example

rmc28: (books2010)
The good:

Ghosts of Home by Sam J. Miller
What if houses had spirits that needed to be placated when they were left empty (say, by banks evicting people for non-payment of mortgages in a credit crunch)?  Who gets employed to do that kind of work?  I really enjoyed this story, and have put it on my Hugo placeholder list for next year.

Civilization by Vylar Kaftan
Choose your own adventure political system.  I thoroughly enjoyed this, thought it seemed vaguely familiar, and then realised I'd read it in the Glorifying Terrorism anthology where it was originally published.

Given the Advantage of the Blade by Genevieve Valentine
I didn't precisely enjoy this story about all the fairy-tale women you can think of having repeated massed fights - I found it too depressing - but I think it's cleverly done and constructed, and other people may like it more.

Read more... )
The book reviews have me convinced I don't want to read Wesley Chu's Time Salvager or Ken Liu's Grace of Kings, but I probably do want to read N.K. Jemison's Fifth Season and Daniel José Older's Shadowshaper.

Also posted at http://rmc28.dreamwidth.org/603413.html with comment count unavailable comments.
rmc28: Rachel, in running tshirt and leggings, holding phone and smiling into mirror (runner5)
One of the consequences of getting me more interested in the Hugos, and especially this year's nonsense with slates, is that I've started actively looking for new short SFF so that I can collect a list of good short stories, novellettes, novellas to nominate.

(I am firmly of the belief that you don't need to have read "everything" to nominate, out of some idea that you have to know "what's best".  Just read stuff, and when you find something you think is amazing and would like others to read a) talk about it at the time b) put it on a list to nominate so you don't forget.  If you're really lucky you'll end up with more on the list than there are slots and then you'll get to choose from that.  But the whole point of a crowd-sourced nomination process like the Hugos is to get a shortlist of things that lots of different people thought were amazing.)

So, where do I go to read new stuff?

Lightspeed Magazine (winner of Best Semiprozine Hugo for 2015)
I have a 12-month ebook subscription, and the entire back catalogue, thanks to backing the Queers Destroy SF kickstarter earlier this year.  However, Lightspeed also make the short fiction and non-fiction available freely online, releasing in stages over the month of the issue. They also release podcasts of the stories, if that's to your taste.

To quote their About page: "Our current publication schedule each month includes four pieces of original fiction and four fiction reprints, along with two feature interviews and an artist gallery showcasing our cover artist.".  The fiction is equally split between SF and Fantasy.  They also give word counts and publication dates, which makes working out what a story is eligible for much easier.

Again, I have an ebook subscription to this magazine, this time via Patreon.  Again, the contents are published online for free each month, and again there are podcasts of the fiction, which get released in stages over the month of the relevant issue.  There's a mixture of new fiction and reprints, and Clarkesworld describes itself as a "science fiction and fantasy magazine".  Again, they supply word counts and publication dates, which I find very handy.

Strange Horizons
This is mostly funded by an annual fund drive (currently in progress) although they seem to be trying out Patreon too.  Strange Horizons is a "speculative fiction magazine", published entirely online, which updates weekly on Mondays, with a mixture of fiction, poetry and reviews.   Almost all its published work is available in the archives.  No word counts though.

I tend to prioritise the first two, as I've paid for them, and then Strange Horizons.  I'm also collecting a list of other places that publish online, mostly through finding places where authors or artists I already am interested in are getting published, but I'm not yet really in a position to recommend them, as I barely keep up with the three venues above, before I get onto these others. 

I will however mention Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which was a non-slate finalist in the Semiprozine category for the Hugos (alongside Lightspeed Magazine and Strange Horizons), and whose sample in the voting packet I rather liked.  It describes itself as publishing "Literary Adventure Fantasy" and publishes every two weeks: two new stories, and one from the archives, plus podcast versions of (some of?) the stories.  Issues can be read online or downloaded in a variety for formats.  Funding seems to be by donations or Weightless Books subscriptions.   A quick look suggests publication dates but not word counts are provided as a matter of course.  I think I'm adding this to my list under Strange Horizons.

Finally, there is an interesting Kickstarter running right now: Long List Anthology which aims to publish the "longlisted" short fiction from this year's Hugos, where it's available for reprint.  It's already made its base goal, so supporting it at the $10 ebook level is essentially pre-ordering a lovely-looking anthology.
rmc28: (books2010)
First I dug out the remaining published shorts by Iona Sharma I hadn’t already read:

Ur by Iona Sharma
The setting for this story is Ur, a joint colony between humans and aliens (the people of Earth and the people of Xi Lyr). The plot follows the household of a government minister as Earth takes a vote whether to continue the colony project or not; it’s about that, and it’s also about language and people and change.

One-Day Listing by Iona Sharma
This story has another humans+aliens setting, this time with a recent disaster having taken place; the story doesn’t focus on the disaster, just the background stress it puts on everyday activities. It’s very much a day-in-the-life kind of story and I enjoyed it as I have everything else by this author.

[I had an idea to go track down short stories by Hugo nominees I hadn’t hated, specifically Kary English and Rajnar Vajra, but couldn’t find anything recently published by either not requiring a purchase to read. Which is fair enough, but I’ve already got oodles of bought books/magazines to read, so I postponed that plan for now, and went back to things I’ve already paid for.]

2 from the current edition of Clarkesworld:

Today I Am Paul by Martin L Shoemaker
What if medical robots could pretend to be people on demand, when caring for dementia patients? This is a neat little story about that scenario, playing out with one old woman. I was reminded of my paternal grandmother and thought the story was done well.

It Was Educational by J.B. Park

This story was rather less to my taste, being a reviewer in a simulated “historic” education game, which is definitely at the gory end for me.

2 from the current edition of Lightspeed:

The Smog Society by Chen Qifan, translated by Ken Liu & Carmen Yiling Yan
I was impressed by the invocation of the smog-covered city, and all the little technological defences against it; I was less impressed by the man-pain of the old man who keeps ignoring his wife until it’s too late. It’s a bit of a depressing story, but one that will stick with me, I suspect.

To See Pedro Infante by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This was also rather depressing: a young woman with the ability to send her mind into other bodies, living a fairly miserable life with a crush on a celebrity. Also posted at http://rmc28.dreamwidth.org/593692.html with comment count unavailable comments.
rmc28: (books2010)
Almost like a reward for getting through the Hugo voting, Kameron Hurley posted her second story funded by Patreon, which handily completed another set of six stories for me:

The Judgement of Gods and Monsters is a thoughtful story about how a society creates the balance between being fully peaceful in peacetime, and being able to defend itself in wartime; how it deals after the war with those who committed violence within it.

I like the main plot of the story, but I also like how some of the background details (family structures, command structures, current technology) are not like the current white Western default, which builds the sense of this being a different place very effectively.

Archana and Chandni by Iona Sharma
Indian wedding … in space! I loved it, from the convincing portrayal of enduring culture into the future, to the spaceship sibling, to the wedding couple and the feeling of family. Just lovely. I have to thank [twitter.com profile] karaspita who linked to it. (and now I have Yet Another source of short fiction to fail to keep up with, yay!)

Alnwick by Iona Sharma
Also brought to my attention by [twitter.com profile] karaspita; this time about a bureaucrat in a British space program getting called out of a tedious party to respond to an accident affecting one of the key staff. I really like how the characters and the background culture feel completely real and believable, and the overall feeling is optimistic.

(and at this point I looked up the author’s website, realised that Nine Thousand Hours which I wrote about last time is also by Iona Sharma and think maybe I rather like this author?)

Noise Pollution by Alison Wingus
I really like the worldbuilding this story, where music is magic and there’s evil/chaotic noise that has to be fended off with singing, or at least a walkman playing some good music. Lots of fun. (and oh hey the author also writes comics)

The Totally Secret Origin of Foxman: Excerpts from an EPIC Autobiography by Kelly McCullough
It’s pretty much what it says on the tin: another variant on the superhero origin story, complete with former friend/nemesis and unexplained arrival of powers, but done well and interesting me enough to stick the imminent novel-in-the-same-universe on my wishlist.

Kin, Painted by Penny Stirling
I read this because the accompanying artwork was by Mia, whose work I adore. I’m often find highly stylised writing puts me off, if I’m noticing the style more than the story, but I think here the style and the story work together well and I enjoyed reading this, and admiring how Mia’s painting fits it so well.

(And Lackingtons looks interesting, if by its focus on stylistic writing, somewhat outside my comfort zone. I didn’t have enough short story publishers to keep up with, clearly!)

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
... in that I found out about it from a friend on irc who'd just bought it.

First chapter is on Bujold's Goodreads blog.  I got through the first chapter and promptly bought it.  (bah, to-read pile and budget doom, it was worth it)

Penric's Demon is set in what was the Chalionverse and is now apparently the World of the Five Gods, and the story is set in yet another country we haven't previously visited, though with references to the existing known polities.

(I was mildly taken aback / smuttily amused when I searched for it on Amazon UK and got asked if t to search for penis demon.)

As you discover in the first chapter, Penric is a young man on the way to his betrothal, who accidentally acquires a demon from a dying sorceress, thereby missing the betrothal.  Instead he gets dispatched to the big city and the religious authority over demons, all the while trying to understand his new situation, his new passenger, and what they can do together.

I liked it very much; maybe not quite as much as The Hallowed Hunt but that's praising with faint disparagement.

Also posted at http://rmc28.dreamwidth.org/589402.html with comment count unavailable comments.
rmc28: (books2010)
I'm reading slightly faster than I'm writing up short stories (but only slightly), and I'm still figuring out how to write about them.

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
This is the first short story paid for by Kameron Hurley’s Patreon (so for now you have to be a patron there to read it, minimum cost approx $1 every two months, though hopefully this one will get sold somewhere with a wider audience).
It is weird and interesting milSF: told by a soldier who’s part of a cohort that are literally turned into light and “beamed” into position to fight the war, and as the story unfolds you learn more and more about the war and the enemy and the effect of making people into this kind of weapon.

Somewhere I Have Never Traveled (Third Sound Remix) by E. Catherine Tobler
A mysterious sound is disturbing a worker on a helium mining station orbiting Jupiter. I really liked the imagery of Jupiter in this:
“The red spot spun itself out in our sixth year, the storm succumbing to another that is the colors of Earth’s seas: teal and turquoise, indigo and lapis. Sometimes, when the sunlight angles across, the storm shines like a great opal, cracked with orange lightning.”
But I got a bit lost in the mystery and still don’t feel quite clear about what was going on, especially in the second half of the story, even after reading it through a couple of times.

Trigger by Courtney Alameda
A "modern vampire hunting" short story with an exceptional young woman repeatedly facing a big scary monster vampire culminating in a motorbike chase across San Francisco. I quite enjoyed it but it felt like it was part of a longer story; in the comments I discovered it was a prequel to a young adult novel, Shutter.

By Degrees and Dilatory Time by S. L. Huang
A young man gets new cyborg eyes and adapts to them; that’s basically the entire plot, in a fine sf tradition of what-if stories. I thought it was done well.

Nine Thousand Hours by Iona Sharma
A fantasy story about a magical accident taking all the words out of the world, but also about home and how people change.

…And I Show You How Deep The Rabbit Hole Goes by Scott Alexander
A fun exploration of a set of possible superpowers, with an ending that surprised me, in a good way.

Also posted at http://rmc28.dreamwidth.org/587098.html with comment count unavailable comments.
rmc28: (books2010)
I find reading (and writing about) anthologies / magazines difficult.  I need to take breaks between each short story, and then when I get to the end I've mostly forgotten what happened in the first 75% of the stories, and then writing about the anthology turns into a marathon, and then I give up.

And I have just acquired all 60 back issues of Lightspeed, via the Queers Destroy SF! Kickstarter, which is a lot of short fiction.

So, as "do a little each day" is working well for my studying, I thought I'd take a similar approach to short stories: write up one or two a day, post them six at a time.

This set has 2 stories each from anthologies acquired this year:

Women Destroy Fantasy! (which I got because it had a T Kingfisher story in it)
Women Destroy Science Fiction! (which I got because I enjoyed Women Destroy Fantasy!)
Kaleidoscope (recommended by [personal profile] ceb )

The Scrimshaw and the Scream by Kate Hall (WDF!)
A story about people who seem to be turning into birds, in a society which thinks this is terrible and the signs of turning into birds are because of bad behaviour. I did actually find it a bit too Obvious Metaphor / Message Fiction so it didn't work for me.

Making the Cut by H. E. Roulo (WDF!)
An interesting take on female superheroes but I found the Surprise Terrifying Birth hitting my pregnancy+birth buttons badly. I'd like to read more by this author without that plotline.

Each to each by Seanan McGuire (WDSF!)
Genetically modified women soldiers in the Navy (modern mermaids), facing mysterious attacks. I really enjoyed this, and if it's more typical of McGuire than Parasite, I should seek out more by her.

A Word Shaped Like Bones by Kris Millering (WDSF!)
Rather creepy tale of an artist going quietly mad on a long space journey. It unfolded very well; I think better to say I appreciated it rather than enjoyed it ...

Cookie Cutter Superhero by Tansy Rayner Roberts (K)
A rather different superhero story to the above, rather pointed about how superheroes generally are viewed, and about how female superheroes in particular are treated/seen in superhero teams. I really liked this one and would like to read more by the author.

Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon by Ken Liu (K)
I find it hard to write about this one without spoilers. A young couple discover that a myth is true, but is also not quite what they thought. I liked it a lot.

rmc28: (books2010)
Second round, library books and recently acquired ebooks:

Angel's Blood by Nalini Singh
An urban fantasy about a young woman hunting vampires, so far so cliched: but the vampires are captured, subdued by a technological fix, and returned to angels to whom they owe a contract.  The first chapter does a good job of setting the scene and convincingly making the angels seem scary.  Will continue.

Queen of Nowhere by Jaine Fenn
A protagonist gets asked to come in for questioning by local police on a space station.  The first chapter establishes that she's going by an assumed identity, that she's working against an enemy, that she's suffered tragedy, and that too much attention from the police could get her in real trouble.  Will continue.

Justice Calling by Annie Bellet
A game/comic shop in a town full of students and shapeshifters and other magical creatures, run by a woman who is hiding her real powers.  In walks a shapeshifter "Justice" accusing her of murder.  Will continue.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
First of the very famous Swedish crime novels that I never got round to reading yet, but picked up the first one free on a special offer. The prologue, introducing an old man receiving rare flowers and an old detective who's still baffled by this unsolved case, drew me in and I'm looking forward to reading more.  Will continue.

Draykon by Charlotte E. English
This starts with a young girl going into a fairy ring and being trapped ... and then rescued by her mother almost immediately, and taken home with the baby animal she also found trapped in the ring, which in turn triggers a family argument.  Will continue.

This round did not reduce my to-read pile at all!  But it has enthused me to crack on and read some of my lurking library books and recent acquisitions.

rmc28: (books2010)
This is my attempt to clear my to-read piles a bit faster, by reading just the first chapter and seeing if I want to continue. For now, just ebooks and library books: the physical to-read pile has already been through multiple rounds of culling and I've generally been much pickier about new aquisitions in paper since I started reading ebooks.  I'm not nearly so picky about either ebooks or library books.

First round, focusing on books acquired recently:

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho
I had forgotten this was only a novella; also it doesn't have chapters. But I read the first few pages and found it hilarious and decided it was a definite keeper. (I went straight back and finished it after I'd read the remaining four first chapters.)

Younger by Suzanne Munshower
This was a Kindle First offering last month. The prologue totally has me sucked in: a woman going on the run, her boss suddenly dies, there are secrets afoot to do with an experimental treatment that makes people look younger? Keeping this one.

The Book of Deacon by Joseph Lallo
The God Decrees
by Mark E. Cooper
Defender by Robert J. Crane

I got all three of these in: Quest: Eight Novels of Fantasy, Myth, and Magic, which I was alerted to by Lindsay Buroker, whose first novel (which I've read and enjoyed) is in it. Sadly all three of these were boring me before the end of the first chapter.

I was a bit worried I was getting "bitch eating crackers" about epic fantasy, so I went back to Buroker's The Emperor's Edge and confirmed I still like that first chapter. These three just aren't my thing.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I stayed up way too late last night reading the latest book by Courtney Milan: Trade Me which got released yesterday.

I started reading Courtney Milan for her historical romances, and I was particularly smitten with the Brothers Sinister series, set in Oxford and Cambridge during the late 1800s, with women mathematicians, scientists, newspaper editors (and the aristocratic men who fall for them). She does all the emotional connection and struggle and happy endings that I love reading romance for, while quietly including a whole range of characters who aren't just aristocratic white straight neurotypical people with perfect mental health.

Trade Me is a billionaire novel.  There are lots of billionaire novels, especially since Fifty Shades of Grey and mostly I ignore them because I find conspicuous consumption and rescue narratives a turn-off.  But this is a Courtney Milan billionaire novel so I couldn't wait to see what she did with it.

And I loved it. 

The trouble is, the things I especially loved are basically spoilers.  So let me see.  It's a trading-places novel, where Blake, the heir to a huge tech company swaps his life with that of Tina, a poor immigrant fellow student, only he isn't doing it for laughs and she insists they make a proper agreement, and they become friends and eventually a romance happens.  The novel isn't very fond of the "rich man rescues poor woman from poverty" narrative, and Tina isn't passive or a victim or stupid, and Blake is a rich boy with a problem, but not in a woobie manpain way. 

So you have Blake washing dishes to pay rent on Tina's horrible bedsit and trying to figure out his problem, and Tina planning the new top-secret product launch and worrying about her family.  (And the actual tech product launch scene, very near the end of the book, is brilliant and funny and spot on and I kind of want to get [livejournal.com profile] fanf to read the book even though he doesn't really like romances, just so I can laugh about it with him.)  There are lovely minor characters, and people feel believable, and there isn't any minor character being one-dimensionally horrible to provide artificial conflict, and the ending is great and doesn't tie everything up happily ever after.

I am so glad that there are two more books in this series, and I am particularly excited for book 2 and the characters it's apparently going to focus on.  I also want to see more about how Tina and Blake and their families go on from where they've got to at the end of this book.

Two other things of note:
  1. There is a trans character who just happens to be trans, and it only gets mentioned as a background thing to explain a particular response to a conversation.  That character has way more lines/scenes that aren't about their being trans.
  2. There is extensive portrayal of an eating disorder.  I think it's a portrayal done well, but it's unavoidably there in the story.
Trade Me is available from all the usual ebook stores, including DRM-free and in multiple formats at Smashwords, and also in paperback rather more expensively.


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