Saturday, October 31, 2015

Cool things I read in October

Happy Halloween, everybody! While I prepare for World Fantasy, I wanted to share some of the great things I've been reading. I'm only linking short fiction and articles that are freely readable online, no paywalls, and no novels.

If you want to hear about novels I've loved recently, well, just ask me about Beloved.

"Dear Monsanto CEO, This is the Sentient Strain of Corn You Developed and We Need to Talk" by Tyler Young at Daily Science Fiction
-A case of writer envy. The title alone tells you the brilliant premise, twisted by particular satire at Monsanto, a pernicious American company whose genetically modified crops are subject to constant debate. But here the corn tells us it appreciates all we've done for it. It's learned from us like a child. Why, it's even learned about mutually assured destruction...

"Glaciers Made You" by Gabby Reed at Strange Horizons
-Bonnie keeps finding messages on her skin, and they keep peeling off, relating to some mystery in a distant mountain. The language is exquisite in this one, lines carefully chosen as well as often chopped up. Scenes end prematurely and in anxiety; passages of poetry Bonnie finds peeling off her skin suggest a far greater whole than she understands. It doesn't feel like a cheap tale of weirdness that turns out to be madness. Rather it's about a girl's growing obsession with mountains her skin has told her about, and wanting to be soothed over what seems so baffling in his world. It's a sort of Literary Fantasy any aspiring writer should read, to remind themselves this too is possible.

"The Apartment Dweller's Bestiary" by Kij Johnson at Clarkesworld
-One of those shorts that gets accused of "not being a story," which reminds me that fiction doesn't need to be a story. Rather this short is a list of the bizarre creatures found around an apartment, their natures reflecting the flaws in a couple that are falling apart. There's an obvious and heart-aching story hinted at throughout the entries, getting a troublingly deep strike at what makes us tick, but the point isn't the alluded tale. It's a unique Kij Johnson experience, which is why I keep re-reading it.

"Ro-Sham-Bot" by Effie Seiberg at Fantastic Stories of Imagination
-Originally appearing in Women Destroy Science Fiction, this gives me all of Ex Machina I want in a twentieth of the time to consume. It's a story of robot manufacturing with literal heart. What do the characters want to do with that heart? Click through and find out.

"8 Steps to Winning Your Partner Back (From the Server) " by A.T. Greenblatt at Daily Science Fiction
-Another very short one that makes me want to shoo you over there rather than tell you anything about it. It's one of few recent Online Games-ish stories to get me, in part because its told in eight very tiny installments with precisely chosen language, so each plot cog whirs pleasantly. You don't get more romantic than, "Only the most difficult and exclusive two-player mission will do."

Monday, October 26, 2015

29 things a character might do at the end of a scene rather than faint (with affection, for Arkady Martine)

This will make very little sense to most readers, but sometimes it's good to review how a scene can end. While I was stuck in the doctor's office, I came up with as many ways to end a scene as I could before they came for my blood pressure.

1.      They are rendered unconscious by deliberate usage of an ironing board

2.      Their pings to the server drop and they disconnect from the cyberpunk dystopia

3.      Being a ghost, their visible form loses its connection with our corporeal plane

4.      Being a corporeal person, their astral presence loses its connection to the higher (or lower) plane

5.      They resolve a personal and/or plot goal, making both them and the reader a little more satisfied in their journey through this book

6.      They have to exit to prepare for an attempt at resolving a personal and/or plot goal

7.      They are about to resolve a personal and/or plot goal, but are interrupted by villains (bonus: they can resolve this wrinkle in the climax of a later scene)

8.      They discover their love in the arms of another and must leave, lest they are indiscreet

9.      They discover their love in the arms of another and join in the poly fun (fade to black ending for modesty)

10.  The torrid sex comes to a climax

11.  They pretend to pass out in order to avoid a conflict

12.  They turn around, and their companion has vanished! A cursory search does not reveal the companion's location, requiring investment in a new scene

13.  They are consensually teleported to another location (bonus: the setting of the next scene)

14.  They are non-consensually teleported to another location (bonus: the setting of the next scene; bonus ii: conflict!)

15.  They catch their sidekick, who has just fainted

16.  The family of slime molds tells them the coast is clear, and they should get some rest; the drama seems over for now

17.  There's a knock at the door, and they are distracted and tell the party to enter, only for the party to be someone of such awkwardness for the protagonist that they themselves are rendered most comfortable by leaving (bonus: social cowardice that they can overcome in resolving a climax to a later scene)

18.  They spend the scene in transit, and arrive at their destination too early; they must stop and wait

19.  They conclude a revelatory dialogue that is not at all cryptic or annoying, and does not leave the reader yelling at the book that two more sentences would have explained this whole thing

20.  They are interrupted by an invitation from a mysterious party to have an interlude that is not meant for sensitive ears

21.  They just barely fly the ship through the asteroid field, escaping and leaving the enemy fleet behind

22.  They are abruptly pursued by a bear (bonus: several scenes end in abrupt bear chases until resolving the bear subplot is the end of its own scene)

23.  The guy who could solve all of this and seemed like a would-be hero is publicly executed (bonus: you get a seven-book series of scenes out of this)

24.  Their seemingly unbreakable sword is shattered, and they are impaled to death (problem: POV switch probably necessary in following scene?)

25.  They arrive with the wrong wine and have to return to the vineyard through the moonless night

26.  They upload their mind to the mainframe of the space shuttle, making a scene-break tonally appropriate for the shift in perception

27.  Their schizophrenic episode reaches a close

28.  The surreal world-warping event reaches a close

29.  They jump to moon to avoid talking to their aunt (bonus: next scene gets to open with an explanation on how the hell they can do that)

If you're wondering, my blood pressure was below normal.
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