Skip to main content

What I Read in July, 2016

Now, this was more like it. The great thing about having a month off is I could really dig into my favorite magazines and journals for the best of current speculative short fiction. That luxury has produced a list of a few stories I think worth your time. At the bottom of the post, I also have a link to the most recent chapter of "Agent Shield and Spaceman."
"Ley Line" by Morgan Crooks (2016) 
  • "Floodwaters" by Kristi DeMeester (The Dark). A ghost story is about the past, a ghost being the literal embodiment of something passed. This story hints and suggests, slowly filling in the gaps of a family's history until the flood waters submerge everything. The language here is simple, direct, and brutal while still preserving a dark species of poetry. One of my favorite works last month and that's saying a lot. 
  • "Some Pebbles in The Palm" by Kenneth Schneyer (Lightspeed). A really excellent philosophical piece concerned with many of the same topics as Andy Weir's classic flash piece, "The Egg:" death, resurrection, and the point of it all. Compared to Weir, Schneyer is a bit more dour in his appraisal of the universe and our role within it, but I have to say the overall impression of the piece is oddly hopeful. Perhaps this stems from the narrator of the piece addressing the reader as the only thing real in the story. The closing passages resemble an exhortation, one particularly powerful coming from a voice at once world-weary and unapologetically empathic. 
  • "Sic Semper, Sic Semper, Sic Semper " by Douglas F. Warrick edited by Ann VanderMeer (Tor.com). Amazing work of slipstream mind bending. A time traveler attempts to escape the demons of his past by transporting himself into Lincoln's head in the frozen moment before his assassination. There's a little bit of Lynch here and Charlie Kaufman but mostly this is a story about how intention forming habits forms the fractal iterations of our own over-determined histories. In addition to being evocative, the story seems to open up some new terrain in time travel speculation and fantasy literature. 
  • "Find Me, Mommy" by Gwendolyn Kiste (reprinted by The Wicked Library). I would strongly suggest listening to the podcast - it's very short and super creepy. This is the third story I've read of Kiste's centering around disappearance and unexplained loss. This is a shorter, more spooky piece than "Once Gone, Lost Forever," and last year's superlative "Ten Things to Know About The Ten Questions," but also one more knit into a plausible world of quiet imperturbable weekends and grim hospital beds. Like her other stories, disappearance is a complicated phenomena, simultaneously providing a sense of dread and hopelessness but also a curious source of strength. 
  • Fish Dance by Eric Schwitzgebel (Clarkesworld). Interesting look at a future religion centered around the creation of immortal post-humans and their moral choice to become a record of humanity. The ending is what counts here: poetic and surreal, horrifying and tender, the final words answering a question asked at the story's beginning. I am fond of how Schwitzgebel weaves world-building throughout the story, suggesting the course of his imagined future while still keeping the focus tight on the plight of his narrator. 
***

In other news, the next chapter of my weird espionage thriller "Agent Shield and Spaceman," is now available. As Spaceman attempts to infiltrate Gunther Thulewaite's ranch, he takes time to pursue two of his favorite hobbies.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Review of I Wish I Was Like You by S.P. Miskowski

Even 23 years later, I remember 1994 and Kurt Cobain's death. I experienced that moment as a kind of inside out personal crisis. I felt ashamed by his death. As though his exit in someway indicted my own teenage miseries. "I wish I was like you," goes the verse in 'All Apologies,' "Easily amused." I felt as though a check I hadn't remembered writing had just been cashed. 


SP Miskowski's book, named after the first half of that line, is in the words of another reviewer, a novel that shouldn't work. The narrator is unlikeable, unreliable, and dead. The plot is almost entirely told as a flashback and long sections of the novel concern the inner processes of the writer. The daily grind to summon up enough self-esteem to carry a sentence to its logical conclusion is a real struggle, people, but it ain't exactly riveting.

But the thing is, this novel works. It is one of the best things I've read all year and a real achievement in weird ficti…

What I Read in 2017

The third in my series of year-end lists is literature. As in past years, I've divided this post into two categories: Novels and short stories. Each of these stories made 2017 just a bit brighter for me and I hope this list includes at least a writer or two new to you.


Novels:
I Wish I was You by SP Miskowski: This was the subject of a review earlier this year. The way I feel about this novel, the tragedy of a talented person crippled by anger and regret, transformed into a monstrous avatar of wrath, has not really left me. Beyond the perfection of its prose and its preternatural subject matter, I feel like this is one of the best evocations of the mid-nineties I've seen published. There's something about this book that lingers with me long past the concerns of its plot and characters. I guess what I'm trying to say is this work moved me. 2017 would have been a lot dimmer if I hadn't read this work.New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson: Robinson writes next-level sp…

Review of "Pretty Marys All in a Row" by Gwendolyn Kiste

Part of the reason American Gods works is that it offers a kind of reward to folk lore mavens and religious study majors. Do you have a working familiarity with obscure Northern European mythologies? Are you able to describe what Neil Gaiman got right and what he fudged a bit in terms of the Egyptian religion? Then the guessing games of that novel - just which Middle Eastern Goddess is this? - magnify its other charms. 
"Pretty Marys All in a Row" by Gwendolyn Kiste (released by Broken Eye Books), is a novella for people, like me, who are waiting impatiently for the next season of Bryan Fuller's show. It's not set in that universe, certainly, but approaches the question of folklore from a similar perspective. Namely, that myths have a definite, physical explanation and your knowledge of such things will expand your enjoyment of the work. In the case of Pretty Marys, the stories are urban legends and nursery rhymes about young women. The main character, Rhee, is named…