Saturday, July 1, 2017

Great Things I've Been Reading, June 2017 Edition

Nebulas: Done!

4th Street Fantasy: Done!

College Reunion: Done!

The blitz of Spring turning into Summer is almost over. I just have one convention left - Readercon, ironically the only place I won't be doing panels or hosting. As much as I'm looking forward to seeing everyone, I'm equally anticipating all the sleep I get to catch up on afterward. Plus Spoonbenders and Little Witch Academia are calling my name.

Over June, I read some brilliant short fiction and rattling non-fiction. It's a great way to keep the mind sharp in a bunch of airports. As always, everything linked here is free to read in full. Simply click the link in the title of each piece and away you'll go.


"Small Changes Over Long Periods in Time" by K.M. Szpara at Uncanny Magazine
-"My attacker holds me like he did on the dance floor" is one of those lines that tightens your guts. Immediately after learning that our narrator was once attacked and turned into a vampire in an alley, we learn it was by their date. The story uses the tropes of vampire fiction to take us through the criminally less-exposed trans experience, including our narrator getting socked by the politics of the Federal Vampire Commission for having an "atypical body." It all builds up to an absolutely beautiful final exchange with their attacker, in which metaphor and power structures get grabbed by the neck.

"The Existentialist Men" by Gwendolyn Clare at Diabolical Plots
-Come for the play on comic book titles, stay for a sweet profiles of people with odd powers (or equally odd absences of powers). Clare swiftly gives you a sense of the community between the people, even if their powers made it difficult for them to always coexist. My favorite is the shortest entry: "Julie could disappear, but only once. We all miss Julie."

"Water Like Air" by Lora Gray at Flash Fiction Online
-Tom Hatcher doesn't believe in ghosts, but something stranger than the average haunting comes dripping to his doorstep. The story opens with Elodia, a mysterious woman, being covered in slime and heaving her way out of the lake. It's all part of her coming home - to Tom. This is one of those creeping flash fictions that only gives you full context after you've gotten goosebumps. The flood inside Tom is calling to her.

"Secret Keeper" by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam at Nightmare Magazine
-A story that's uncomfortably confessional - and that's a good thing. This is the tale of an urban legend befriending the newest girl in school. The urban legend is sometimes called "Ghost Girl," who went missing at her first week of school, but never left. She haunts the place as a presence rather than absence - she is an ache seeking to be filled, and Chrissie, a new girl with a beautiful voice, stirs something in her. Just how present the ghost girl is gets perplexing, veering from Horror to Slipstream, which is particularly appropriate when talking about semi-phantasmic things. It's a story beautiful for all its insecurities, and the rules people make up to keep them in check.

"Elena's Angel" by Aimee Ogden at Apex Magazine
-Ogden wields a personal angel as an array of metaphors. At different points it is a captor for Elena in her apartment, or a convivial roommate, or even a supportive friend who'll follow her. All its sides unfold as we come to appreciate how Elena attracted this thing in the first place - or did she create it? The whole story builds to a need for escape like the need for fresh air.


"Man who mowed lawn with tornado behind him says he 'was keeping an eye on it'" at CBC News Calgary
-Some Pulitzer Prizes just award themselves. This is a little investigation into June's best viral photograph, of a Calgary man who wanted to finish mowing his lawn before seeking shelter from an oncoming tornado. I feel a profound kinship with him, as once you've worked up a good sweat, there's nothing worse than having to quit and come back to the yard later. And sure the tornado might uproot some of your grass, but will it do it evenly? Not for free, it won't.

"Sometimes, Horror is the Only Fiction That Understands You" by Leah Schnelbach at
-An essay that mostly focuses on Stephen King, but is quite applicable to the change in Horror after his emergence: the focus on the personal, non-Horror lives of characters as they came to intersect with Horror. This unromantic view of childhood, marginalization, and hardship hasn't quite been replicated as the standard in any of the other genres, and is often why good Horror can *get* you like nothing else. Schnelbach focuses on IT, which gave her and a mentally ill friend the full range of emotional language they needed to cope with hallucinations and real life struggles. It's a beautiful testament to the gifts that stories can give us.

"Notes from the Meat Cage" by Fran Wilde at Jim C. Hines's Blog, and in Invisible 3: Essays and Poems on Representation in SF/F
-As of this blog post, the full collection of Invisible 3 is available for purchase, but Fran's essay is still up at Hines's blog. Her she's scratching at a familiar itch shared among disabled people: the desire to be more in fiction than an entity that overcomes disability. So she identified more with ships that had degrees of sentience than characters who rode inside them. I never thought about Moya from Farscape like this, but it makes great sense. Viewers looked at the star ship as a novelty for being alive, and every serious kickback of emotion she provided changed the scope of the entire show. That sort of representation is a "thunk" inside of our fiction Fran's essay is devoted to. We need more thunks.

"'Battlegrounds' Finds Streaming Success With Tense Human Drama" by Bruno Dias at Waypoint
-Playerunknown's Battlegrounds is my favorite game to watch. I don't watch much game streaming, but when I do, it hits the same spot in my brain as live sports - the game just needs a rule set that is equally compelling. In this game, one hundred players parachute onto an island and seek out randomly distributed weaponry, in order to be the last person standing. A match only lasts 15-20 minutes, and as it goes on, a circle shrinks around the island, turning everything outside it into unsafe space that increasingly damages slow players. Thus everyone is herded together, navigating to wherever the shrinking circle forces them this time - sometimes in forests, or concrete buildings, or in open grasslands where there are only two rocks for cover. It's a delight because people have to strategize how they'll spend their time on the island, and because every player is so vulnerable than missing just one split-second of motion over a hill could spell the end. You have to get your gear, get moving, and are quickly wrapped up in the game's final chapter. If you fail? There's always another match. This tribute to Battle Royale has already sold over three million copies in three months.

"LePage: Released prisoners could fill job vacancies in tourism industry" by Kevin Miller at Portland Press Herald
-With summer looming, Maine is struggling to find people willing to work in tourism, particularly at restaurants and hotels. The industry makes up one sixth of all the jobs in the state, but the pay is so little that teens would sooner leave the state than do it. At the same time, Maine is closing one of its prisons on account of it crumbling and desperately needing repair. These things seem to have lead to the governor's proposal: commute the sentences of low-risk, non-violent offenders so they can reintegrate into Maine's society and work these jobs.

"Letter: Wonder Woman" by Richard A. Ameduri and Steve Adler at
-You always hope you'll have this much poise when a jerk knocks on your door. Ameduri wrote an incredibly insulting letter to the mayor of his city to complain about women, their incessant demand for "rights," the sheer inhumanity of a screening of Wonder Woman that was just for women, and what a coward Adler must be for allowing it. Adler's response? Kindly informing Ameduri that his account must have been hacked, for surely whoever he was, he would never have sent such an ignorant whine out into public.

"What to do, if your identity is stolen" by Shane Halbach on his blog
-Shane was mugged earlier this year, and his identity was subsequently stolen. He's been generously public about the many frustrations of losing personal information to criminals, helping warn others what might befall them. Here he compiles both his personal knowledge and research. You hope you'll never need to know all this, but it's a great primer.


  1. The Wonder Woman response is funny.
    Now I have to go check out the photo of the man mowing with a tornado approaching.

  2. Thank you. Lots of intriguing reading here. I will bookmark and come back when I have some time (queue hysterical laughter). Bookmark and come back when I should be doing other things...

  3. Thanks for sharing these links! I can't wait to check them out.

  4. Thanks for sharing the essay about Stephen King. I just read it and liked seeing what another Stephen King fan has to say about the appeal of his work.

  5. I love the mayor's response! "The existential Men" sounds deeply intriguing. That quoted line is funny and sad at the same time.


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