Rejoice! It is a summer for dinosaurs! In July, Uncanny Magazine published Issue 23, a special shared-universe dinosaur issue! The stories revolve around abandoned islands, portals, dinosaurs, and the mysterious Owen Corporation. Yes, there’s a certain Jurassic Park-like flair to this prompt, and that’s totally fine by me. I especially enjoyed “Red Lizard Brigade” by Sam J. Miller, an enjoyable yet heart-breaking tale of betrayal, loyalty, love, and (of course) dinosaurs. And I’m absolutely enamored with K.M. Szpara’s “You Can Make a Dinosaur, but You Can’t Help Me,” a challenging but rewarding story about family and found family. And if that’s not enough dinosaurs for you, A. Merc Rustad is currently editing an anthology of original flash fiction stories about robot dinosaurs. I’d also be remiss not to mention that the folks behind Uncanny are currently Kickstarting Uncanny Magazine Year Five, so be sure to check that out as well.
My favorite story last month was “In the End, It Always Turns Out the Same” by A.C. Wise, which appears in The Dark Issue 37. It’s a smart, dark take on the Scooby Doo formula that pauses and asks, “Aren’t they too young for this?” Like poetry and space opera? Go read “I Sing Against the Silent Sun” by A. Merc Rustad and Ada Hoffmann, which appears in Lightspeed Magazine Issue 97. In this harrowing yet hopeful story, a poet-revolutionary is hunted by a god of silence. (Also, this story makes me happy because of its genderfluid and nonbinary representation.) I also enjoyed “The Sweetness of Honey and Rot” by A. Merc Rustad, which appears in Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue 254 (21 June 2018). It’s a story about the costs of resistance, and it features original, inventive worldbuilding and gorgeous, detailed prose.
This month, I have two stories that will give you heavy, negative feels (but in a good way, I promise!), and one story that can probably cheer you up afterward. In “One Day, My Dear, I’ll Shower You with Rubies” by Langley Hyde, which appears in Podcastle Episode 520 (May 1, 2018), a genocidal wizard is put on trial years after the war, and his daughter is called to testify against him. She won’t forgive him, and he won’t apologize. This story is challenging, unique, surprisingly real. Want a story about a succubus in the age of social media? Check out “Sucks (to Be You)” by Katharine Duckett, which appears in Uncanny Magazine Issue 22 (May/June 2018). It’s thoughtful and deeply unsettling in the very best way. Finally, I loved “Our Side of the Door” by Kodiak Julian, which appears in Lightspeed Magazine Issue 96 (May 2018). It’s a warm, beautiful portal fantasy that left me thinking about ethics and gender.
My favorite stories this month were either relationship dramas or haunted house stories, broadly construed. For a story about a trans witch falling in love, check out “Graveyard Girls on Paper Phoenix Wings” by Andrea Tang, which appears in Glittership Episode 51 (March 5, 2018). It’s a story with marvelous worldbuilding and really cute and likable characters. In “Assistance” by Kathryn DeFazio, which appears in Escape Pod Episode 621 (March 29, 2018), a nonbinary person with anxiety is emotionally supported by an assistive android. It’s a simple and mundane story that’s also incredibly gentle and moving. “All Profound and Logical Minds” by Bennett North, which appears in Escape Pod Episode 618 (March 8, 2018), is a relationship drama between two sisters that’s also a haunted space station adventure. It’s fun, gripping, and inventive. Finally, I was seriously spooked by “Red as Water, White as Ruin” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, which appears in Mythic Delirium 4.4 (April—June 2018). In this story, a shipful of exiles and outcasts investigate a planet that has suffered an inexplicable apocalypse.
In this light and charming novel, we see a side of author John Scalzi that will surprise his readers — a sense of humor. The writer best known for works like the tragic, grimdark space opera, Old Man O’ War, about an artificially intelligent military starship confronting its own obsolescence, or the biochemistry-driven hard SF thriller Reagent to the Stars, which famously inspired Peter Watts to comment, “I couldn’t finish it. Too intense. And would it kill Scalzi to crack a joke once in a while?” isn’t a name that we usually associate with comedy.
But I’m here to tell you, Scalzi can be funny. Who knew? [Read more…]
Capricious Issue 9 may have flown under your radar, but it shouldn’t have. Capricious is a speculative fiction magazine based out of New Zealand and edited by A.C. Buchanan, and Issue 9 is a special issue devoted to gender diverse pronouns, including singular they, common neopronouns (such as e/eir/em), and new pronoun sets created by the authors. I like that Buchanan chose the term “gender diverse” rather than “gender neutral,” since some of the stories in this issue feature more than two genders (which is awesome). The issue features a diverse array of genre tropes, and it spotlights two things I desperately want to see more of in SFF: inclusion of nonbinary gender identities, and experimentation and play with pronouns and gender systems. Here are my favorite stories:
Recently, I was rocked by a wonderful and startling revelation from my dad about his grandmother. My great grandmother was a herbalist and a travelling physician. From his tone, I could tell my dad admired her. She had “ben shi”, ability, talent. She could do stuff.
Yet, my grandmother, my great grandmother’s daughter, wasn’t that forthcoming. She let out her stories in weak spools. She didn’t talk about things that made her sad. According to my dad, she quarreled with her mother who forbade her to leave for Nanyang (the Chinese term for Southeast Asia). My grandmother left for Singapore soon after that. Imagine the wounds still unhealed, the words left unsaid, unvoiced. My grandmother passed away last year. [Read more…]
I told myself I wouldn’t write this essay. I’m not a fan of publicly criticizing another writer’s work, particularly a living author’s work. I’ll never do that to anyone. It’s not cool, and it’s definitely not professional. However, there’s a distinction between criticizing a work in order to make yourself look bigger and genuinely criticizing a work because it’s a culturally significant piece requiring extensive deconstruction in order to examine its effect upon those who it is supposedly supporting. I’ve had this discussion with other authors who happen to be women—and well…it’s time, guys. I’ll add that if you’re a fan of the novels I’m about to discuss, no matter your gender, good for you. I’m happy you found something you enjoy. That’s what SF fandom is all about: finding the thing you love. I don’t disrespect fans for their fandom. Therefore, the following is not a personal attack. It doesn’t mean the author is a bad person, either. It doesn’t even mean that the series in question should never have gotten published. Got it? Cool. [deep breath] Now, let’s do this. [Read more…]
Welcome to our newest review column! Skiffy & Fanty Speculative Fiction Short Fiction Review by our newest team member, Cameron Coulter!
It makes me really happy to write this: my favorite recent short stories are all either written by nonbinary authors and/or featuring nonbinary characters. I’m someone who has never been comfortable with masculinity, and I often wish we were more creative with gender in SF/F than we are. SF/F is a genre in which we literally make up new worlds, so there is plenty of opportunity to imagine people with alternate and/or no genders. Sure, there’s a few SF/F novels that are well known for the way they experiment with gender and pronouns, but I want more. Fortunately, I find that short fiction is somewhat ahead of the curve when it comes to diversity and inclusion. By my count, in the last two months, there have been at least six original short stories published in professional genre magazines that are either written by trans or nonbinary authors and/or featuring trans or nonbinary characters. Now, let the nonbinary party commence! [Read more…]
Bedtime Stories is a new column that will highlight Children’s Books with a diverse, global perspective.
Forgetful sisters Siba and Saba are always losing something. Sandals, slippers, sweaters — you name it, they lost it. When the two sisters fall asleep each night, they dream about the things they have lost that day. Until, one night, their dreams begin to reveal something entirely unexpected…
Sleep Well, Siba & Saba, written by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl and illustrated by Sandra van Doorn, is a gently rhyming and alliterative story with dreamlike illustrations that highlight the author’s Ugandan heritage. [Read more…]