Thursday, August 4, 2016

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.
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