Saturday, February 6, 2016

Great Things I've Been Reading (December/January Combo Edition)

December ended busily with Books of the Year and Games of the Year posts, so I couldn't fit my normal short story/non-fiction round-up. January is now in our rear-view mirrors, so I figured I'd lump the two months together now.

As always, the rule is that whatever I link is free-to-read with no paywall. The selection will be bigger for this post, but it still feels too short, mostly for the December stories that melted from my memory with the pressure of deadlines and the holidays.

"St. Roomba's Gospel" by Rachael K. Jones at Diabolical Plots
-The trials of the Roomba that cleans Pastor Smythe's church. It listens, learns, and persists like any good saint should. It's got those quirks that Jones is so deft tat.

"America, America" by Okafor Emmanuel Tochukwu at Flash Fiction Online
-Achingly beautiful story of a young man who moves from Nigeria to the U.S., and comes out as gay to the parents he left behind. In his homeland he'd spend years in prison for this, yet they view it as an infection. There are ample (and vital) stories of immigration criticizing new homelands, but this hits an angle on what the old homeland deprived, while still being defined by love within both places.

"Thundergod in Therapy" by Effie Seiberg at Galaxy's Edge
-A retired Zeus finds his way into therapy. Seiberg does a great job filtering the curmudgeon stereotype through Zeus's classic history of being an antisocial monster, and does so for great fun. You can only take so many old people resenting self-help in fiction, right? But Zeus, who once ruled the world, struggling with self-improvement is just a delight.

"Re: Little Miss Apocalypse Playset" by Effie Seiberg at Fireside Fiction
-A February story I'm adding because it's too short and too good not to add. Told through internal e-mails at a corporation that may have accidentally introduced a super-plague into the world through their latest toy line. It made me smile on a bad night.

"Bucket List" by Erica Satifka at Lightspeed
-One of the finest pieces of List Fiction I've ever read, using strikethroughs brilliantly. It's all about changing our priorities in life. I defy anyone to come up with a better story using this title. If you liked my "Making Her," then "Bucket List" will make you hurt in all the right ways.

-I just freaking love Arkady's worldbuilding. I love it in inarticulate, profane ways that do her prose style a disservice.

"Girl in the Blue Dress (1881)" by Sunil Patel at Fantastic Stories of Imagination
-Sunil is a great humor writer, but he keeps leveling up his drama. Here he creates an eerie portrait of the people gawking... at a portrait. Go, go soak up his ambiance.

"The Gold Farmer's Daughter" by Aidan Doyle at Fireside Fiction
-The MMO-based comedy we all deserve. Both adorable and an excellent example of how to do rising humor, accumulating in greater laughs in the way a more pedestrian narrative arc would generate greater tension.

"And the Balance in Blood" by Elizabeth Bear at Uncanny Magazine
-One of my favorite stories yet in Bear's prolific career. I keep revisiting to re-read bits.

-16 years ago, Lena Paahlsson lost her wedding ring. She thought it'd been lost in her kitchen, but last month found it stuck around a carrot in her garden. It'd been gradually growing up to return it to her.

-An exchange of letters with one of the U.S.'s most important cartoonists, revealing some very common fears about doing representation poorly, and how little nudging it took to create history.

-The curious case of Iceland legally requiring citizens to pay tithe to their churches, even if they don't go. The mandate sent people towards a Sumerian religion that promised to give them their money back.

-One of two pieces I want to share about being better to each other at conventions. It benefits us all to be more accepting, and here Ferrett peels back his insecurities to talk about how he he hides them, and opens up some of the troubles in approaching people.

"On Kindness and Conventions" by Kameron Hurley at her blog
-The second piece on conventions, doing a splendid job of encouraging people to open up their "conversation circles." It is excruciating to be new at a con, know few people, and see everyone in the bar talk in closed clusters. You don't want to impose, don't walk to force your way in, and risk making a terrible in impression if you overcome those issues. The remedy is often in extroverts and consciousness connected people opening up their circles. The rewards are immense.

-Not the fight over Literary Fiction looking down on Science Fiction, YA, and Dinosaur Erotica, but the problem of internships, MFAs, and other great writing opportunities belonging almost exclusively to the wealthy who can afford all the expenses and time off. Even college itself has become an obscenely price-gated venture. I've recommended the Viable Paradise workshop to many writers, but I know it's only financially possible for a few.

-While you weren't looking, physicists temporarily created four new atoms, including the long-fantasized-about Number 118. This fills out a full row of the table and makes my teenage chemist self supremely happy.

-Encapsulating some of my problems with The Force Awakens in how, while doing a great job of empowering Rey, it so often short-changed Finn. This is the first and most robust critique I've found on the angle.

-The more I think about, the more I enjoy this. You can easily slot yourself somewhere on here, and just as easily spy people you're sure are in slots above or below. But the real clincher for the hierarchy is that the Ted Chiang within us laughs at us all.


  1. Lots of temptation here - thank you.
    On the kindness question. I think the whole world would benefit. And all the inhabitants.

  2. I don't recognize a lot of these names. Thanks for passing these along!


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