Skip to main content

What I Read in June

Another tough month to whittle my favorite stories to five or so I prefer for this column. In particular Nightmare and Clarkesworld offered several fine stories.

  1. The Wanderer, in the Dark of the Year by Kris Millering (Clarkesworld) Now this is why I read Clarkesworld. Fantastically invasive story that reminds me of Michael Swanwick’s Passage through Earth last year. A kidnapped correspondent bonds with an alien taken in by anti-Roma terrorists. The alien described as a kind of mitochondrial mat and the unusual structure of the narrative: multiple beginnings and endings communicates effectively how much was lost and gained during the encounter. 
  2. Five Spikes by Nicholas Diehl (DSF) Excellent macabre story about a boy, a witch, and zombie spikes. The closest thing I’ve read to a Shirley Jackson story in a while.
  3. The Cellar Dweller by Maria Dahvana Headley (Nightmare) Another great story from Headley. This dark fantasy is a little bit Gaiman, a little bit Barker, and a whole lot of something very distinct and appalling. In an unspecified village, a girl grows up as a kind of exterminator for the hungry spirits in old homes.
  4. The One Mission by Patricia Russo (DSF) An example of what Daily Science Fiction does so well - giving a venue for tiny perfect stories. Russo’s central idea is that the various departments of a generation ship have devolved into a series of tribes keeping the functions of the ship going on the basis of interlocking oral traditions. There is so much here that cries out for more stories. Very, very good.
  5. The Hole in the Hole by Terry Bisson (Clarkesworld) An interesting character study about two friends who stumble on to a wormhole to the moon, hidden in a difficult-to-find junkyard. A very Rudy Rucker set-up becomes a Neal Stephenson-style tale of entrepreneurial mayhem. Of particular note is how Bisson uses urban fantasy motifs in telling a science fiction story.
My favorite reprint last month appeared in the Weird Fiction review, Mutation Planet by Barrington Bayley. A longer story detailing the weirdness pervading the universe and the uniqueness of the human preoccupation with exploration. I marked this as an older story even before I had it confirmed in the post-script. The language is somewhat clumsy, the dialogue rang false, and the politics of the piece are not encouraging. Even so, the sheer volume of ideas in the is piece and the refreshing Barlowe-style aliens are very interesting. One of the better pieces I’ve read this year on the basis of sheer weird ideas alone.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Reading Response to "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

Reader Response to “A Good Man is Hard to Find” Morgan Crooks I once heard Flannery O’Connor’s work introduced as a project to describe a world denied God’s grace. This critic of O’Connor’s work meant the Christian idea that a person’s misdeeds, mistakes, and sins could be sponged away by the power of Jesus’ sacrifice at Crucifixion. The setting of her stories often seem to be monstrous distortions of the real world. These are stories where con men steal prosthetic limbs, hired labor abandons mute brides in rest stops, and bizarre, often disastrous advice is imparted.  O’Connor herself said of this reputation for writing ‘grotesque’ stories that ‘anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.’ This is both a witty observation and a piece of advice while reading O’Connor’s work. These are stories about pain and lies and ugliness. The brutality that happens to characters …

Arisia 2019: Wrap Report

Arisia 2019 is over!

It’s back to the real world this week after an entire weekend in Arisia 2019. I go to this convention every year, but this one will definitely be special to me. For one thing, this is the year that felt, at least for a moment, like it wasn’t going to happen. If the debacle with the e-board wasn’t enough, there was the strike at the Westin. The convention felt slimmer this year for sure. A lot of people self-selected to not come this year and honestly with the smaller, more confined venue of the Boston Park Plaza, that was a decision enormously beneficial to my enjoyment of this con.
I had a blast. I was more invested in the panels this year because I wrote a portion of them. It’s one thing to go to a panel and listen for reading suggestions, or new ideas, or people to follow on social media, but it’s quite another to put together a panel of people to create a very specific conversation and then get to sit back to see how the discussion plays out. I loved that aspect…

All Words Are Made Up

The title of this post (and the panel I’m participating in for Arisia 2019) come from a random exchange between Thor and Drax in last year’s “Infinity War” movie. It’s what Thor replies when to Drax when the always literal-minded hero doubts the existence of Niðavellir its forge. It’s a funny throw-away line and the title of this post because I think there’s always been a bit of defensiveness on my part when I add some invented vocabulary to a story of mine.

The art and craft of inventing new languages has a surprisingly long history. A 12th century nun by the Saint Hildegard is credited with one of the first (sadly incompletely recorded) constructed language. There was also a period during the Enlightenment when the creation of ‘philosophical languages,’ meant to resolve age-old problems and reshape society, were the vogue. Gottfried Leibniz, for example, tried to a create a language that was logically self-consistent. The task proved too much for him, but that drive to bring the peop…