Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Great Things I've Been Reading, May 2017 Edition

May kicked off my busy summer, as I finished a novel and visited the Nebula Awards for the first time. This travel is wiping me out, but it's a pleasure to see so many people on the road. Editing has severely eaten my reading time, but I still have some flash, short stories, and non-fiction that I positively have to share.

As always, everything linked here is free to read with no paywall. Just click the title of any piece that interests you. If you like what you read, please consider subscribing to the zine or the author's Patreon.

As never before, there's also this fish. The fish make more sense later.

"Carbon Dating" by Effie Seiberg and Spencer Ellsworth at Galaxy's Edge
-No focus group could have honed a story more precisely for me. The Internet becomes self-aware, searches itself to decide it must become happy, and then goes about trying to find true love. But dating sites aren't so wieldy for the incorporeal lovers of this world, and love isn't so rational thing. Thusly, The Internet winds up in love with a mountain has a comely array of glaciers. It is, as our authors put it, "a rocky relationship." It's whimsical, weird, and unlike anything else I've read this year. It makes an off appeal to anthropomorphism, because our internet might well become self-aware (or sprout several self-awarenesses), making this not quite implausible - just that it's an unusual idea for the direction self-awareness might take it. Really, it's among the nicer directions such an event could go.

"The Barrette Girls" by Sara Saab at Liminal Stories
-I love how “The Barrette Girls” spirals out from intrigue into absolute weirdness. It begins with these mysterious and eponymous "barrette girls," a homogenous group of kids with a vague Children of the Damned vibe, traveling somewhere, but we don't know where. Saab keeps describing them as a single unit; they rest in a lump of sleeping bags, and if one of them can't sit, then they all stand. But it doesn't go to a Horror payoff. It goes to an increasingly weird place, one scene describing a decoy school bus, and the next theorizing about the nature of helium. The story is a trip, in both senses of the word.

"Auspicium Melioris Aevi" by J.Y. Yang at Uncanny Magazine
-I fell in love with this story one sentence into its second scene. After an opening with the stinking remains of the British empire in Asia, with the fiftieth copy of Harry Lee in a war he doesn't understand, and us being yanked out of a VR simulation to be interrogated? The next thing we read is, “What did you think that would achieve?” I adore how disorienting Yang makes the twists of this story, and how there are occasional cheeky references to the effects both on the character and the audience.

"Traveling Mercies" by Rachael K. Jones at Podcastle
-One of the warmest things I read in May is this reflection on coming home. Even without the podcast reading, it *sounds* weary, and grateful for shelter. Jones follows a possibly immortal traveler who is seemingly always on the road. Fortunately, they've built up address book of people who can help in their endless journey.

"Sun, Moon, Dust" by Ursula Vernon at Uncanny Magazine
-I was so tired when I started this story, and though it was late when I finished, I felt rested. Vernon again plays with great tones, opening the story with a dying grandmother who doesn't have time for your politeness or sorrow. She's got to give this famous sword to her grandson, even if he absolutely doesn't deserve. It lies somewhere between funny and charming, despite front-loading loss. The story checks off certain Fantasy tropes, but never rests on them, always giving the world weird quirks, all the way to a certain goat shooting the cast a dirty look at the close.


"Polish Artist Illustrates His Fight Against Depression in Mysterious Dark Paintings" at BoredPanda
-Dawid Planeta is one hell of an artist. His haunting drawings depict people encountering beings of mythical proportions, all in haunting and grainy black and white. He's mastered a sense of ethereal glow, giving the beasts not just a menace, but a sense of spiritual importance. Planeta says the art was about combating his depression, and many of the pieces show an amazing struggle, and even the capacity to coexist with or conquer things much larger than the humans in the shadow of myths. The art is sumptuous.

"The Making of a Friendly Microbe" by Ed Yong at The Atlantic
-For your casual science needs: how scientists are trying to encourage microbes to get along with our insides. We're typically afraid of germs, but the things make our digestive track work, and are crucial to the development of our organs. What researchers found here are microbes that seem to "turn off" the parts of their genetic code that might harm their hosts in order to prolong the symbiosis. It could lead to breakthroughs in treating pathogens. For now, it's a fascinating bit of courtesy from our non-conscious neighbors.

"This site will send your ashes to a Republican congressperson if Trumpcare kills you" by Samantha Grasso at the Daily Dot
-If you missed it, Republicans are busily trying to pass an even crueler version of February's Trumpcare. The original package was estimated to cut insurance for 24,000,000 Americans, including millions of disabled, elderly, and chronically ill citizens. The new bill was rushed through a vote without oversight or scoring such that no one who voted on it could know its ramifications, but exposure of the text shows it has even worse cuts to insurance for vulnerable groups. At the very least, thousands of people will die if the bill passes, and the Congresspeople who voted for it deserve to have that thrown in their faces for the rest of their lives. Enter a service that will cremate you and send you to a Congressperson responsible for your death, should you die because of this evil bill. It's macabre in exactly the way the GOP deserves.

"Lake Michigan Is So Clear Right Now Its Shipwrecks Are Visible From the Air" by Marissa Fessenden at
-This one's more to look at than to read, Fessenden's article goes into insights on why this time of year allows the sights. Just as the ice of Lake Michigan melts for spring, but before the algae blooms, people are given a perfect look into the depths. This includes aerial views of shipwrecks - you can look out of a helicopter and see right to the sunken vessels at the bottom of the lake.

A comment on "Stephen Fry blasphemy probe dropped after gardai [Irish Police] fail to find 'sufficient number of outraged people'" By nkrera on Reddit's w/WorldNews
-One ridiculous story in May was British television personality Stephen Fry being charged with blasphemy for approximately his eight thousandth negative comment about God. It was both ridiculous that there was a law to prosecute people for such claims, and that somehow he'd never violated it before right now. What this commenter on Reddit elucidated, better even than the linked article, is how such a law came to get established in Ireland in 2009. Much of the pressure to prosecute such a famous and powerful man was in order to get attention on how ludicrous the law was and to advance the process of striking it down. It's easy to decry the charge as a sign of dangerous fascism in Europe, but it actually looks more like a few Christian bigots that picked the wrong fight with a secular world that hates an unjust law.

"The US Department of Justice is literally prosecuting a woman for laughing at Jeff Sessions" by German Lopez at Vox
-Desiree Fairooz was sitting in the back of the room during a hearing on Jeff Sessions's worthiness to become Attorney General. When he claimed, contradicting his record, that he has never behaved in a discriminatory way, she laughed. He is now trying put her in jail specifically for laughing, claiming the freest of free speech was disorderly conduct. Video evidence shows the laughter didn't affect the hearing (it's questionable if the people in the front of the court could even hear it). It's also a grotesque statement about this administration's hatred for even the mildest disagreement. Worse, after the article ran, Fairooz was convicted. The jury said the law was so broad that they couldn't not find her guilty, even though they thought it was ridiculous. She now faces jail time for failing to get up fast enough when officers tried to eject her from the court. This is exactly the kind of evil people think the Stephen Fry case embodies. Comedians everywhere should be championing her laughter.


  1. I read that article about Lake Michigan as well. Amazing.

  2. I will come back and explore.
    Jail time for laughter? Hiss and spit. And no doubt that would attract punishment too.


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