February Reads, Part 1

Forgiveness, by Leah Cypress (Asimovs February) is a thoughtful and well-characterised YA story of relationship violence, and the impact on the mental state of the victim. It’s a smart, emotionally complicated story.

The Sound of Useless Wings by Cecil Castellucci (tor.com)  is a nice SF/fantasy story about a young alien, bullied by his bigger brothers and doomed to a life of drudgery, and his dreams of better things. A sweet story with an engaging alien species, well told.

Karma Among the Cloud Kings by Brian Trent (Analog March) is an interesting story about a future society of Jainists trying to reconcile their moral code with life on an alien planet. I found the climax a touch contrived, but nonetheless, found it an enjoyable story, with an engaging central premise.

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January stats

Just in case anyone is interested, a couple of stats.

During January, we recorded 213 short stories published in the venues we follow.

Of those, I’ve read or partly read 73.

The distribution of my scores for the stories I’ve read looks like this:

5 – 1

4.5 – 2

4 – 4

3.5 – 5

3 – 46 

2.5 – 5

2 – 10

As you can see, 3 is my default score, for a story that’s competently written but for whatever reason, doesn’t grab me. A story has to be particularly hard to read to score a 2 or a 1, and has to be above average to score a 4, and a great story to score a 5

Anyway, it’s February! Onward…

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January Reads, Part 3

I enjoyed Headwater LLC, by Sequoia Nagamatsu (Lightspeed), a sad fantasy story about a young girl who discovers a group of mythic creatures and winds up being the cause of their enslavement. Gentle and well-characterised, with some nice fantasy touches.

In Animal Magnetism by Shannon Peavey (Urban Fantasy), Harry has a ghost in his throat, and his wife Della is seeking a cure. They are given snails to help them communicate, but the cure is unusual and complicated. I loved this story; a really imaginative idea, and some lovely ambiguous touches, and really nice writing. Another new author I’ll be keeping an eye on.

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January Reads, Part 2

The Apartment Dweller’s Bestiary by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld) is a list of imaginary pets, pests and other creatures that share the apartments of people. It’s not so much a story as it is a snapshot of various moments and feelings. It’s a nicely written, evocative story.

Sometimes there’s an element of sychronicity in a  writer’s career. Every so often a writer seems to come out of nowhere and suddenly they appear to be everywhere. It’s partly perception, of course. And it helps if they have as memorable a name as Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam.

I enjoyed He Came from a Place of Openness and Truth (Lightspeed), a real-feeling love story about two young guys, one of whom is an alien. Some lovely relationship moments.

Even more enjoyable was her story, Nostalgia, in the January issue of Interzone. It’s a story about a young woman and her addiction to a nostalgia drug. As with the previous story, it’s not so much what happens as how it’s told that makes the story stand out. Believable relationships and some interesting gender concepts, written with a subtle but powerful touch. Moving.

Definitely a writer I’ll be keeping an eye out for!

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January Reads Part 1

So it’s the new year! Welcome to 2015, gentle reader. (/s?)


Here are a couple of stories I’ve enjoyed in the very early stages of the year.


Ninety-Five Percent Safe by Caroline Yoachim (Asimovs January)

A sad YA-feeling story about future Earth and its colonies, a young girl who wants to get away, and the consequences


Cabaret Obscuro by Julian Mortimer-Smith (Crossed Genres)

An evocative imagining of life in a fantasy city where non-humans are oppressed and converge on a small cabaret/strip club for community. A well written story with some imaginative fantasy touches.

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*tap tap*

Is this blog still working? It’s been a while, right?

Is anyone still following it, or did you all lose it when bloglines shut?

I’ve suddenly found myself reading short fiction again, after a long break. So I thought I’d share a couple of stories I’ve enjoyed.

Sixty Years in the Women’s Province by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (Giganotosaurus) is a lovely story about a woman in a world that moves at a time-scale at odds with Earth’s, so time moves faster her than there. It’s an all-women society where women marry and reproduce by drinking from a river. It’s a fun story with lots of cool ideas, but it’s the characterisation that really stands out; the central characters are really well drawn and their relationships are poignant. 

I also really enjoyed the author’s story in the latest Solaris Rising anthology, so she’s definitely an author I’ll be looking out for more stories from.

Somewhat different in tone, I also enjoyed A Marriage of True Minds, by Samantha Memi (Birkensnake). It’s pretty much an absurd nonsense story, but it made me smile.

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Brave New Love, edited by Paula Guran

My short story reading has dived badly this year, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up! In particular there are a bunch of anthologies I’m keen to get through, so I am hoping at least to put a solid list of favourites together by the end of the year.

Brave New Love, edited by Paula Guran, is a solid YA anthology looking at dystopian love stories. I was impressed at how cohesive the tone of the book felt, considering that the range of dystopian societies is quite wide and varied. And I was very pleased at the diverse interpretations of what ‘love story’ entailed.

The standout story for me was Diana Peterfreund’s “Foundlings,” which takes the current societal/media trend of publicly shaming and distrusting pregnant women, and extends it to what should be absurd proportions but, um, aren’t actually that unrealistic. In a world where teen pregnancy is outlawed, and pregnant teens are “disappeared” from society for their own protection, one girl has to risk everything to keep her twin sister safe. I thought this was a rich, thoughtful story which prioritised sisterly love over romantic (though there’s a hint of that too) and added another important story to a growing body of YA science fiction dealing with themes of fertility and biology.

Another standout story for me in this anthology was William Sleator’s “Eric and Pan” which presents a love story between a US boy and a Thai migrant boy in an only slightly-future where homosexuality is outlawed. I thought that the culture of fear and illegality was conveyed well, as was the different vulnerabilities/privilege levels of the two boys. Plus a rolicking good story.

I also really enjoyed Nisi Shawl’s “Otherwise,” Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s “The Up,” and Elizabeth Bear’s “The Salt Sea and the Sky.”

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Mondy’s Recommended Reading – May 2012

Here we go with my May recommendations.  No commentary, I’m a bit short on time, but I am curious to know what you thought of these stories and what else you liked in May.

For May I read from the following markets:

  • Apex – May
  • Clarkesworld – May
  • Lightspeed – May
  • Aurealis 50
  • Strange Horizons (the May stories)
  • Tor.com (the May stories)
  • Asimov’s – July
  • Black Static – April / May
  • Giganotosaurus.com (the May story)
  • Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan (Twelfth Planet)

Lightspeed – June

Dale Bailey, The Children of Hamelin

Apex – June

Rachel Swirsky, Decomposition

Asimov’s – July

Megan Lindholm, Old Paint

Allen M Steele, Alive and Well, A Long Way From Anywhere

Strange Horizons

Nghi Vo, Tiger Stripes

Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan.

The whole collection is great, but I really loved Bajazzle.  It’s a bug fuck sort of story in a good way.  (Actually, when is bug fuck not good).

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Mondy’s Recommended Reading – April 2012

Apologies for the hiatus.  My Writer and The Critic duties meant that I didn’t read a single short story for two and a bit months.

For April, I read from:

  • Apex – April
  • Clarkesworld – April
  • Lightspeed – April
  • Aurealis 49
  • Strange Horizons (the April stories)
  • Tor.com (the April stories)
  • Asimov’s – June
  • Fantasy and Science Fiction (May / June)
  • Interzone – March / April
  • Giganotosaurus.com (the April story)
  • One Hundred Stories

Asimov’s – June

Megan Arkenberg, Final Exam – This is the second story from Megan Arkenberg that I’ve recommended this year (the first being this one Megan Arkenberg, How Many Miles to Babylon).  Due to its structure, this story could have been pretentious and forced, but I thought it worked.

Bruce McAllister, Free Range – I just adored this hilarious, but played straight, story about alien owls and chickens.

Fantasy and Science Fiction – May / June

Michael Alexander, The Children’s Crusade – I’m not entirely sure what narrative momentum is other than I know it when I see it.  This story has it in droves.  I’d certainly read a novel or suite of stories set in the same Universe.

Matthew Corradi, City League – I wasn’t that keen on Corradi’s last story for F&SF, but this one did bring a lump in the throat.  It’s about the bond between father and son, but also about what happens when a parent can’t let go.

Interzone – March / April

Suzanne Palmer, Tangerine, Nectarine, Clementine, Apocalypse
Awesome title matched by a very good story and a neat piece of far SF world building.

One Hundred Stories (Rob Shearman)

Lura Poland – Pillow menus!… and Craig Boardman – The best story about circus clowns you’ll read this year.

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Cracklescape, Margo Lanagan

You know what? I haven’t been keeping up. I haven’t read all the regular zines I’ve been meaning to. Not a fraction of them.

But what I have read is Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan. And it’s brilliant!

I’m in an awkward position when it comes to recommending the Twelve Planets series, published by fellow Last Short Storyier Alisa Krasnostein, because not only is she a friend and colleage, but she published my book as part of the series. But this is Margo freaking Lanagan, okay? (also a friend) It’s pretty much destined to be an important book that gets talked about.

So no pressure there. But I was blown away by this little collection of four stories, which feel like the queen of weirding-you-out literary fantasy has levelled up yet again. She’s writing here about ghosts and aliens (or ghostly aliens, or alienating ghosts) but with those lyrical descriptions that make you wonder, actually, if you know what’s going on at all.

And instead of a fantastical OtherPlace as so many of her most well known stories are set, the Cracklescape pieces are firmly lodged in Australia, in modern suburbia or near history, in beach and sand and dust and grit and heat.

I think my favourite story (the one I personally like best and want to be friends with) is The Duchess Dresser, and not just because of the excellent title, and because it’s a suburban sharehouse story about a haunted piece of furniture because, come on. Awesome premise.

By far the best of the four, though, is the emotionally charged, tragic and complex and thoughtful Significant Dust, which is the story that needs a World Fantasy award thank you very much. It’s science fiction by only a few more brush strokes than Karen Joy Fowler’s The Pelican Bar was science fiction, but that hardly matters. People who argue if the story is speculative enough will be arguing about the wrong thing. The question is, is this story better than Singing My Sister Down? I don’t know the answer to that, but I think it’s the closest Margo has ever come, and my response to Significant Dust was to stop and then re-read it again all the way through and I never, ever, ever do that.

The other stories are marvellous too, not lacking in any way. The Isles of the Sun is a painful story of teenagehood and motherhood and loss, and the literal metaphor of children that need to fly far from home. Bajazzle is a cheeky, quirky and slightly wicked tale which takes that middle aged man bored with his marriage literary tradition, and doesn’t just poke fun at the trope, but chucks it off the train and waggles rude signs at it.

And I do really like The Duchess Dresser.

But oh, Significant Dust.

I want to read it again.

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