Thursday, March 31, 2016

Great Things I Read in March


If I can say anything about reading in March, it's that my Favorites List is probably incomplete. Between illness, family emergencies, travel, and rebuilding my computer from scratch, I have forgotten an obscene amount of data this month. It's been easier to forget a good story because I read so many this March. While everyone else was (somewhat justifiably) freaking out over Donald Trump steamrolling the Republicans, I kept finding wonders from around the world. Here are a few of them.

Fiction

"Your Orisons May Be Recorded" by Laurie Penny at Tor.com
-A story that treats angels as switchboard operators for prayers. Our narrator is an experienced, ancient being who's been demoted a few times given their extreme fondness for human men. They keep screwing human men - and falling in love, but there are centuries of sexual indiscretions too. Once they married a country pastor. The scenes are quick and spry, the tone ceaselessly funny, resigned to their place in the cosmos, but also wry. It's the most fun I've had with a "fallen angel" story since The Screwtape Letters.

"The Curse of Giants" by Jose Pablo Iriarte at Daily Science Fiction
-The story about a giant growing up. Already you're envious of Iriarte's inspired premise, but it can be read literally or allegorically, about the abusive forces you encounter as you grow into your own strength and bravery. For something so short, the ending has a hell of a punch. And it hits back, too.

"Opening Move" by Xin Rong Chua at Flash Fiction Online 
-A striking slice of life piece of a struggling chess player, who's managed to escape the Girls category and instead plays in the Open. But that puts her up against the top-rated player in the entire league. It's a flash packed with milieu.

"The Corn Grows Back Every Year" by Riley Vainionpaa at Luna Station Quarterly
-The oddly sweet story about friends who are so excited to discover one of them can recover from any injury. You lost a hand in a thresher accident? That's awesome, can you do it again? It's not grotesque - hardly gross Body Horror - rather, tinged with a sweetness as they pursue the mystery of how this power came to her.

"The Shadow Collector" by Shveta Thakrar at Uncanny Magazine
-This is a case study in the shadows sentences can cast. Thakrar will tell you about how Rajesh steals shadows, but in doing so tells you what they're shadows of, and thus colors in the world we don't see. "Shadows of nectar–loving hummingbirds, shadows of laughing fathers, shadows of hawks who preyed on squirrels" tells us so much about the setting without even putting it into motion yet. It's sumptuous prose.

-Yoachim once again slam-dunks a premise. This is the story of you getting bitten - but it's also Choose Your Own Adventure. You could go to the sick bay and heal up from your curious injury, or go directly to Z for the bad ending. It gets more absurd the more straightly you read, and because it's so short, you'll obviously read through the entries in linear fashion, building up weirdo twists. It's something right after my own heart.

"If all stories were written like science fiction stories" by Mark Rosenfelder, archived at greaterthanorequalto.net
-Hardly a March publication, as the story is older than my career, and I only found it because this site archived it. It's the story of somebody taking a flight to San Francisco, but told with all the clunky exposition and contrived dialogue of a classic SciFi story. It's a superb parody of the way too many genre stories junk naturalism in favor of exoticizing and over-explaining everything. I've seen some people say it's just a mockery of Asimov, but I see things from this story in modern SF/F stories every week

Non-Fiction
-If you've followed the Syrian refugee crisis you've likely seen the extreme cases of cultural integration already. Refugees volunteering at churches and soup kitchens to help native homeless people in their host countries, or committing horrible crimes, or being stalked by native people. We don't get many stories of fringe integration, like this one, where Canadian Furries hung out with Syrian kids in a hotel. Just like most kids anywhere, they didn't know about the Furry lifestyle and found them adorable and fun, and the parents let them play. It's not just a weird or sweet story out of the crisis. It's an intersection of margins.

-We seldom consider how Kickstarter allows people who've never put something out in public before and lack the emotional experience and maturity to handle feedback to suddenly get tons of feedback. Professional artists go through careers of scrutiny (at the gentlest), and it toughens them. But the people behind Bear Simulator were new, and even confessed to not being skilled enough for what people wanted out of their game. It's an utter shame that they abandoned something they got so much money upfront to make, but the article is also an interesting view into how people who aren't ready to be public figures fall short.

"A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction" by Nisi Shawl at Fantastic Stories of Imagination
-I had no idea W.E.B. DuBois wrote a post-apocalyptic story and am tracking it down right now. Shawl does a concise job showing that black people have contributed interesting work to the body of Science Fiction since the 1800s. It didn't start with Delany and Butler - though they are naturally also on the list.

-An examination of why many of science's biggest advocates are clueless or dismissive about philosophy and intentionality, following Bill Nye's painfully naive criticisms of philosophy of making people argue in circles.

"The problem with a technology revolution designed primarily for men" by Suzanne Plunkett at Quartz
-Another one of those topics I'd never considered before. Voice-commanded technology like Siri and Google Now recognize "I'm having a heart attack" and respond appropriately, but tell the phone you've been raped you'll probably hear, "I don't know what that means." That's the introduction to an investigation into how smart technology routinely fails to help women consumers.

"South Korean MPs 'set world filibuster record'" at the BBC
-MPs seeking to block a fascistic "anti-terrorism" bill in South Korea filibustered for 192 straight hours. They lectured on the evils of the bill, rambled off the top of their heads, and even read passages from George Orwell's 1984. Ironically they used the seminal text on double-speak in order to weaponize speech in favor of liberty.

"#DinoDinaSeries" by Jorge Saenz at Instagram
-Technically not an article, but there have been several articles swiping his photographs for clicks in the last month, and I wanted to credit Saenz himself. A traveling photojournalist for the Associated Press, Saenz brings plastic dinosaur toys wherever he travels, then poses exquisite photos of their journeys. They overlook ruins, modern harbors, and city skylines. They're all wonderful. This is a hobby I want to pick up.

6 comments:

  1. You seem to have read some amazing things in yet another action packed and fairly fraught month. I have been tempted by quite a number of these. Thank you.
    And I love the dinosaur photojournalism thought.

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    1. Saenz is just brilliant with those. I love them to pieces.

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  2. When you start quoting a fiction book, your argument is in trouble.

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    1. Are you talking about the Korean filibuster?

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  3. "Your orisons may be recorded" sounds hilarious! My library's digital collection does not have it yet, but I'll need to keep an eye out for it. Thanks for the tip!

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  4. Thanks for sharing this list! I'll definitely check some out.

    https://ficklemillennial.wordpress.com/

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