February is one of those months when I'm grateful to do lists like this. I've been so busy with healthcare problems and editing that, until I checked the list, I thought I hadn't read anything special. Life can get so busy that it's easy to forget all the great art that flies by.
As usual, I'm collecting great short fiction and non-fiction that's free to read on the web.
"Between Dragons and Their Wrath" by An Owomoyela and Rachel Swirsky at Clarkesworld
-No short story has haunted me more in the last month than this. The dragons are a metaphysical terror, casting a shadow of mutations across the landscape of two absolutely lovely characters. With scenes whipping by, each has a punch, even in the last line.
"43 Responses to In Memory of Dr. Alexandra Nato" by Barbara Barnett at Daily Science Fiction - I love stories that creatively use unusual real world formats, and here's a story told through a Comments thread. It's a bunch of believers who might be experiencing a haunting, since one of their dead friends seems to have shown up and is poking at their insecurities. It can't help but be funny and creepy at the same time, which is hard to pull off, especially with such limitations. Masterful work.
"Lotus Face and the Fox" by Nghi Vo at Uncanny Magazine
-Two god-masked figures pull off a little robbery in the dead of night, and it keeps up its creative enthusiasm from there. It feels flash-length despite being longer because of energetic pacing and a lovely handling of its world.
"Ars Longa, Amor Brevis" by David Twiddy at The Sockdolager
-Two pretentious master-artists bicker over their accounts of a calamity that their magical arts *may* have brought about. A fine use of homunculi! I actually beta read this story, but it's only grown stronger since the version I saw in 2015.
"Into the Wreck" by June Oldfather at Strange Horizons
-The captivating story of two undersea explorers on a descent to explore a mysterious behemoth. What's haunted me about the story is what the two mean to each other, in their struggles to figure out the behemoth, and the possibility of their having to flee. There's a wonderful warmth to it that I can't recall ever seeing in an underwater setting, which shouldn't be so novel, and yet it is.
"Scientists Crack A 50-Year-Old Mystery About The Measles Vaccine" by Michaeleen Doucleff at NPR
-On how the vaccination for measles seems to have drastically reduced other diseases that weren't vaccinated against.
"Assimilation: The Borg Must Like It When You Don't Fight Back" by S.L. Huang at the PoCDSF Kickstarter
-Huang shares how her father traded his Chinese heritage for assimilation and success immigrating to the United States, and her own internal struggle to reach for what he lost. She writes, "My father sawed off half my family history so I would fit in." All of the guest essays for People of Color Destroy Science Fiction are worth a look, but Huang really got me thinking.
"Six Quirks of the Human Genome" by Dan Koboldt at Clarkesworld
-Breezy and still one of the best-written introductions to genetics I've come across. Koboldt explains how enormous a gene is, and how so many of those parts affect us, or are pure junk, leading to both all the heritable traits in the world, and to nonsense. It's something I'd forward to any first-year Bio student.
"Customer Letter" by Apple, on their own site
-We can't go through this month without discussing Apple's struggle with the FBI over building backdoors into all their products. It was a bold letter that rightly put the public behind Apple. The NSA proved the U.S. government can't be trusted with unfettered spying capabilities, and a week on any hacker community will convince you there's no way to build an "exclusive" backdoor that only the FBI could access. That ignores the U.S. demanding power over a company they'd never allow another country to have. If China, Russia, or Iran wanted a backdoor for security concerns on everybody's phone, how would our politicians act?
"Burnout, creativity, and the tyranny of production schedules" by Elizabeth Bear at antipope.org
-Elizabeth Bear, who is a measuring stick for productivity in novels and short fiction, boldly reveals all the things that have tripped her up in her career, and why she has to take a break. For anyone who feels too much pressure with their work: read this.