Friday, May 6, 2016

Great Things I Read in April

Well, this is late. I've been sacked by a bronchial affair, one truly pesky insurgency that's left me lucid for less of this week than I wanted. I'll do my best to keep this round-up comprehensible. Like at the end of every month, I'm collecting a list of excellent short stories, flash fiction, and journalism. This is probably a little less complete than usual on account of it feels like my furniture is floating. All the stories and articles below are free and can be read just by clicking the link.

Short Stories and Flash Fiction
"Deportations to Begin" at The Boston Globe
-Allegedly this fictional front page of The Boston Globe hurt Donald Trump's feelings. The Globe is an unusual outlet for Speculative Fiction, and yet that's inarguably what this is: speculation on what a Trump presidency will mean for immigration, abuse of law, and the economy. Balder than 1984, and a far sight more likely in its ugliness.

"Foxfire, Foxfire" by Yoon Ha Lee at Beneath Ceaseless Skies
-This belongs on the syllabus for Fantasy classes next year. I love the language. I love the worldbuilding. I love that two paragraphs in, you realize you aren't just hearing this from a human civilian, and not in a clunky line like, "I was born a vampire," but subtly, with, "Better to return to fox-form, surely, and slip back to the countryside..." I love the narrator's indignant place in the society, not utterly helpless, but feeling the pressure of what's coming and expected. Whenever you can establish your world enough that the characters can push back against it in favor of how it should be without it all feeling contrived, you've created a genuine Fantasy. Here the fear of tigers and tiger-sages, and the rush of evacuation, is all potent. It's a story that I thought was going to be shorter, and then was sad to find ending so soon.

"Down the Twisting Alleyways" by Kelly Jennings at The Sockdolager
-A story bursting with character and unusual takes on time itself. I recommend reading it while you're of sound mind, as it triggered something during my fever on the re-read. It has an almost tragic grip on its time and place, even when it's letting it slip.

"Memory and Iron" by Kelly Sandoval at Fantastic Stories of Imagination
-A story of quiet tension, not told through the family snapping at each other, but through the third person narrator having to frequently break and assure the main character that she is a good mother and wife. It builds a sense of dread for what she might be about to do. Tight, efficient, and delivering much more than a shock ending.

"Future Solar Panels Will Generate Energy from Raindrops" at Science News Journal 
-The classic objection to solar panels is that they don't work when it's raining. That was always nonsense, but solar paneling is set to become even more efficient, by absorbing the energy from raindrops striking their surfaces. The energy is transferred and process not unlike sunlight, into usable electricity.

"Film's lost Nessie monster prop found in Loch Ness" by Steven McKenzie at the BBC
-The kind of story that makes me happy to be alive. A research team searching for the Loch Ness monster used advanced technology to find… a Loch Ness monster prop. It was used in filming a movie decades ago, but was lost during the shoot. The team has happily brought the monster prop back to the surface. Maybe Nessie was using it to play dolls.

"Emotional Labor and Diversity in Community Management" by Jeremy Preacher at Medium
-The text of a GDC talk on how to manage incredibly large and potentially pesky groups of people on the internet. If you don't respect mods, you will after this one. Jeremy has been in community management since 2001, specifically de-escalating conflicts and navigating communities away from them entirely. She goes into the tricks of handling trolls, tone policing and its mirror opposite. I've kept revisiting this for the last month and keep getting more applications out of it.

"Yes, Bernie Sanders Knows Something About Breaking Up Banks" by Peter Eavis at the New York Times
-A month ago, before coming up short in New York and then losing most of Super Tuesday, it felt like it mattered more what Mr. Sanders wanted to do with the U.S.'s banks. Another banking crash is a global catastrophe only second to Global Warming, and it's alarming how few candidates take it seriously given that the banks have changed so little about their policy since the last crisis that they caused. In this article, Eavis explains that Sanders was never as naive in his approach to banking reform as Clinton painted him. Eavis uses it as a great springboard into explaining how important banking reform actually is. If you ever intend to be able to pay for something with money in the rest of your life, you ought to be reading about this.

"How not to talk about African fiction" by Ainehi Edoro at The Guardian
-An introduction to the mental framework that leads so many African authors to have their work viewed through a pandering lens. This applies to much more than how African writers are received in England - if you've been reading or writing long, then you've met a Writer of Color who is tired of being pigeonholed. There a pernicious streak in literature of viewing anything outside of our narrow notion of genre or convention as a gimmick, or a holistic other-ness that is not treated with the same weight or depth. It's a fine article for checking how we read.

"How to Stop Sexualizing Everything" by D.C. McAllister at The Federalist
-I've put friendship above romantic love for most of my adult life. That our culture guides people to read sexual intent into everything you do is insipid, often objectifying, and always reducing the options for relationships between people. So I don't have the same problem with "bromance" as the writer here, though we come to it from the same point of frustration. It's perceived as this one alternative to romantic love, so viciously defined that it's constantly in conflict with forms of love. What we need are notions like Phileo and Passionate-Platonic that can help our culture better appreciate non-romantic love.


  1. I will come back and explore at my leisure later. Thank you.
    The first story filled me with fear. A triumphant Trump is a truly frightening thing.
    Loved Foxfire, Foxfire. Intriguing.
    I hope your health improves quickly. V quickly.

  2. Thank you for passing these along! Too funny about the Nessie prop. I wonder if they saw the image and were excited, thinking they'd found her. I'll have to read through these.

  3. Thank you for the reminder about the Globe page. When I first saw it, I thought, "If there isn't a category this can win a Pulitzer in, they need to invent one." For speculative fiction it was also amazing journalism -- I didn't catch anything they hadn't taken straight from Trump's speeches.

    I've got "How to Stop Sexualising Everything" up in another tab, and will read it once I'm done this comment. The first thing I thought of was a critique group I used to be in, because there were two individuals (out of a group of four) who assumed that any time I had a man and a woman talk to each other in a story, there were sexual undertones. That included a time when a man had his arm around his wife and talked to a second woman casually about something happening in the neighbourhood. I figured either I was the most oblivious writer of innuendo in the history of the written word, or else they were full of it.


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