June is over! It has been conquered, and there is no more of it. I'm back from the first of three conventions this summer, and had a wonderful time on panels at 4th Street. While I was on the road, I read some fantastic shorts and non-fiction that I'll share with you today. As always every piece is free to read, no pay wall or anything. If you like what you're reading, though, please consider sharing it, or tipping the zine or author's Patreons.
Flash Fiction and Short Stories
"Other Metamorphoses" by Fábio Fernandes at Lightspeed Magazine
-The third paragraph positively killed me - one of the funniest reveals in any flash I've ever read. This flash is a great twist on Kafka's classic novella, and as badly as I want to discuss Fernandez's worldbuilding, it'd spoil the reveal. The story is too short to give away. Just click and come back when you hit "dreamtime."
"The Blood That Pulses in the Veins of One" by J.Y. Yang at Uncanny Magazine
-A vicious piece of second-person narrative, explaining how you are being physically cut out of the narrator's body, and then dissected. The most uncomfortable story Uncanny has yet published, dark and ponderous, where the real game is figuring out the context for why all this is happening, and what you and the narrator are.
"Lullaby for a Lost World" at Aliette de Bodard at Tor.com
-Excuse the deja vu if this feels familiar. You start the story dead, being buried (at least you're not autopsied this time!). This is another story about using events to build context, figuring out who the "you" was before death. You owned a doll, you had favorite books, your master visits your grave. Without ghosts, it becomes a haunting tale of what happens to the living, told through instances in them reflecting upon or visiting "you."
"The First Confirmed Case of Non-Corporeal Recursion: Patient Anita R." by Benjamin Kinney at Strange Horizons
-Excuse the deja vu if this feels familiar. The main character starts the story dying (at least it's not you this time!). A researcher accidentally ghosts herself. It's better than my Senior Project in college, at least, following her attempt to break the cycle of reliving her last moments and proving that she's real (and really dead?) to a skeptical audience.
"To Give Birth to a Dancing Star" by K.B. Sluss at Luna Station Quarterly
-The winner for this month's best opening line: "Dr. Mai Pham wasn’t looking for music when she found it fossilized in an Antarctic glacier." Damn, right? These fossilized tunes suggest culture before ours, or pre-culture before our physics, that tantalize the researchers. The story is packed with bits of researcher life culture, almost artifacts of the lives they're taking for granted as they pursue oddities. The ancient sounds they discover open up wonderful brain-teasers, such as, if music created the universe itself, why is everything so chaotic?
"Failed Interview with the International Convocation of the Damned" by Luc Reid at Daily Science Fiction
-A rejection letter from an arcane society that doesn't think you're a good candidate for vampirism. A short bite of humor fiction that, if you've been writing long, works well with the tropes of rejection letters. The best is why they can't offer their best wishes in your submissions elsewhere.
"Singapore now has vending machines that sell books" at Mashable
-BooksActually, a Singapore bookstore known not just for selling books, but curating and picking good literature, has now put out a series of vending machines with their favorite titles. It's the opposite of the Kindle's easily accessible and wide variety program, instead focusing on making books they think will speak to the public available outside the reach of their storefront. I know I would have glommed onto this sort of thing in high school. Hell, I'd like one in my home town right now.
"Dr. Henry Heimlich uses Heimlich manoeuvre to save a life at 96" by Joana Walters at The Guardian
-All these years of people telling me the Heimlich Maneuver didn't work led to this. Dr. Heimlich, pushing a century of age, saved a life at a retirement home. Guess how he did it.
"Rare Dinosaur-Era Bird Wings Found Trapped in Amber" by Kristen Romey at National Geographic
-Fodder for more arguments over whether feathers ruin dinosaurs, to be sure. Discovered in Burma, the fossils could provide enormous insight into ancient life. The promotional image also just looks awesome.
"Gay Romance Novels Are Not Queer Romance Novels" by Brandon Taylor at his Tumblr
-This is not my genre, nor my orientation, and even I knew this was a problem decades ago. There's a profitable history of straight women writing idealized (or deliberately disturbing) gay male sex that bears no resemblance to the way gay men experience it. They're objects for the pleasure of an audience that doesn't include them. Taylor does an excellent job digging into what is missing in so many of the books he reads, from the range of personalities, to the tension at the moment men get into bed. This is one of the finest "writing the other" pieces I've read, and its broader themes can apply to so many kinds of literature.
"Federal Court: The Fourth Amendment Does Not Protect Your Home Computer" by Mark Rumold at EFF
-Getting less attention than recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, a Virginia district court announced that while civilians are supposed to have a right to privacy, that doesn't include their computers. Police are not allowed to enter your home without invitation or a warrant. In most cases, they aren't even legally allowed to search your pockets. This protects against abuse. But if this precedent isn't challenged soon, police will be free to hack and tap everything you do on your laptop.
"My four months as a private prison guard" by Shane Bauer at Mother Jones
-Trigger warning for pretty much everything that could upset you. Bauer exposes how few credentials you need to become a guard, and how weak the screening process is, in order to work for basic minimum wage, being in charge of the lives and safety of thousands of inmates in a brutal institution. From not knowing how to handle rape cases, to encouragement to abuse prisoners in order to maintain psychological hierarchy, it's thoroughly disturbing. This is exactly the sort of thing that put it at the heart of my current novel WIP.
"Why The World is Better Than You Think in 10 Powerful Charts" by Peter Diamandis at SingularityHUB
-Worldwide, people living in absolute poverty has dropped 30% in the last 30 years. In the U.S., violent crime has dropped 30% in the last 40 years. You might not know what Guinea Worm is, but if you google it, you'll be glad to learn it's almost been eradicated. While the two stories directly above this one are distressing, and June had terrible events, it's often easy to think the world's going to hell. Much of the data disagrees. While it's good to grapple with the evils in the world, in order to best address how to improve things, it's also important to recognize larger progress. I'm the sort that takes encouragement from hard data. The data is often on our side.