Strange Horizons very kindly asked me to curate a reprint for their June issue. I picked Elisabeth Vonarburg’s “Chambered Nautilus” (translated from the French by Jane Brierley). I really like Vonarburg’s introspective, dreamy science fiction, and I think it’s a shame that so little of it got translated into English (you can pick up The Maerlande Chronicles from amazon–I prefer her Tyranaël series, but I think this stopped being translated after two volumes?). More info here at her English website.
Being an editor, even if it’s for a brief, one-story stint, means I read a lot of stories and didn’t have nearly enough space for all the stuff that I loved. Can I recommend you check out the following anthologies for great fiction? The Apex Book of World SF (volume 1, volume 2; and volume 3 which has recently been released), Afrofuturism, Mothership, AfroSF, and, if you have a copy lying around, Bloodchildren, which was a limited-time anthology by the Octavia Butler scholars and is sadly no longer available)? Also, anything by Yukimi Ogawa (she’s got a great story in this issue of Strange Horizons, “Rib”, a mordant tale of a skeleton woman and the child who befriends her), Zen Cho (her collection, Spirits Abroad, just got released, and that link explains how to get a copy from her), Benjanun Sriduangkaew (who is up for the Campbell Award this year, and whose story “Autodidact” ought to be on awards list next year if there’s any justice), and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (check out “Of Alternate Adventure and Memory” up at Clarkesworld, as well as her newest “Movements” column in this issue of Strange Horizons, which focuses on languages, hegemonies and translations).
That’s all from me for the moment–please do leave feedback on Strange Horizon’s website on the story if you’re so inclined.
Wow, it’s that time of year again (seriously, where did 2013 go?). I didn’t publish a whole lot in 2013: my favourite piece is “The Waiting Stars”, which originally appeared in Athena Andreadis’s and Kay Holt’s The Other Half of the Sky (published in April 2013). It was picked for Gardner Dozois in his Year’s Best, recommended by Ken Liu and Ada Hoffman (and singled out for praise by Rich Horton in his Locus review). It’s my Xuya space opera story, which has killer drones, signal processing and a lot of mindships 🙂
You can find it online here, and also in EPUB, MOBI (Kindle) and PDF format (if you need DOC or RTF, drop me a line via the contact form, and I’ll be quite happy to provide a copy. I just am not a big fan of putting Word formats online–too easy to modify them by mistake…). It’s eligible for the Hugos and Nebulas (in the novelette category), and for the BSFA Awards as well.
Now for the less selfish part of this post: the stuff I really liked from last year (a fair warning that a lot of the people involved are acquaintances or friends–that said, I wouldn’t recommend their stories if I didn’t genuinely like them and think them award worthy).
–“Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Clarkesworld December 2013. A woman comes back from the dead to deal with her former spouse. Awesome world building, crunchy thoughts on history and the manipulation of public and private record, and tantalising hints of a larger gender fluid society. I’m jealous.
-“Of Alternate Adventures and Memory” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Clarkesworld December 2013. The son of a former metal woman returns to the city of her birth, and must decide what to do with his inheritance. I was surprised this was a short story, because reading it I thought this was much longer: there’s so much packed into–thoughts on difference, on memory, on what is worth preserving. And as always, gorgeous prose.
–“The Knight of Chains, The Deuce of Stars” by Yoon Ha Lee. OK, so it’s always hard to pick a favourite Yoon Ha Lee story, but this was the one that most blew me away this year. I had the privilege of writing the introduction to the short story collection Conservation of Shadows, and regret that this wasn’t included in it. In a tower that holds all the games in the world, a woman who was once admiral in an unwinnable war comes to defy the Guardian for the ultimate game… Gorgeous prose, sharp observations and great ideas.
EDIT: -“Balik Kampung” by Zen Cho (in Solaris’s The End of the Road, available from Zen if you request it) is a beautiful tale of ghosts in modern-day Malaysia, New Year’s Eve and returning home.
–“The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” by Ken Liu, Lightspeed Magazine, August 2013. Pretty sure Ken will be on the ballot without my signal boosting, but I really liked this story of an Ancient Chinese litigation master, his relation with the legendary Monkey King, and the suppression and preservation of historical record.
–Boat in Shadows, Crossing by Tori Truslow, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, January 2013. You know that feeling you get when you read a fantasy book? That crunchy feeling that it’s a real place that happens to look nothing like our world? Truslow nails it from the get go. That it’s a story about gender and gender fluidity–and festivals, and gods–only makes it more appealing.
EDIT: -“Yseul’s Lexicon” by Yoon Ha Lee (published in her collectionConservation of Shadows): magic, language and the cost of erasure. Awesome.
–“Burning Girls” by Veronica Schanoes. Found out about this one too late for the Nebulas, so it’s fortunate it got on the final ballot without me. A great tale of immigration, family and dangerous pacts with demons, all steeped in vivid period detail.
–The Bone Flower Throne, by T.L. Morganfield, Panverse Publishing. T.L. Morganfield brilliantly brings to life Ancient Mexico in Toltec times, in a brilliant retelling of the myth of Quetzalcoatl that focuses on his sister. This reads like Mists of Avalon in Ancient Mexico: I love the focus on women and on what they have to do to survive, and the characters are very strongly drawn (TW for incest though–hardly avoidable as it’s in the original myth…).
Best Fan Artist:
-Ninni Aalto, who did the art for much of the Helsinki bid. See an example of her work here. And her blog is here.
Best Editor (Short Form)
-Jon Oliver, for his work as editor of the Solaris anthologies. For once that Worldcon is in the UK, I think it’d be awesome if more UK editors were recognised. Solaris puts out great books, and Jon is very good at putting together cutting-edge and diverse anthologies like The End of the Road.
Benjanun Sriduangkaew. She’s burst all over the SFF scene this year, with stories in BCS, Clarkesworld and various anthologies, and I really think she deserves a Campbell nomination. Her universes are intricate looks at gender fluidity and gender roles; her prose makes me ultra jealous; and I’m so looking forward to the day when she releases a longer work (I understand there’s a space opera novella in the works, so maybe I don’t have to wait quite so long!). Stories of hers worth reading: I already mentioned “Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade”, but if fantasy is more your thing, her “The Crows Her Dragon’s Gate” was absolutely awesome. And her “The Bees Her Heart, the Hives Her Belly” (not available online at the moment, you’ll have to buy Clorkwork Phoenix 4) was a reviewer favourite this year.
-The awesome Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and her sister interview Benjanun Sriduankaew:
I think of short stories as presenting a question, even if it’s something as simple as ‘how will the characters get what they want?’ It’s my hope that readers will be engaged by that question even if the story isn’t presenting a direct answer – so that’s what I hope they take away: a question. But I also hope to excite a sense of wonder and a sympathetic interest, when possible.
Read more here (and fully concur with the reminder that Benjanun’s eligible for a well-deserved Campbell Award for Best New Writer next year at Loncon3!)
Ok, so I’m biased because I wrote the preface for this, but you can now buy the e-edition of Djibril al-Ayad and Fabio Fernandes’s We See a Different Frontier here on amazon.
(I admit I’m not a big fan of the cover, but that’s my personal opinion, and the fiction collected in the antho itself is well worth a closer look)
The anthology collects SFF from the point of view of people outside the usual SFF hegemony, with countries such as Brazil, Singapore, the Philippines, etc.; and writers such as Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Joyce Chng and Benjanun Sriduangkaew. Stories focus on imperialism, the difficulties of navigating a postcolonial history and of being the silenced voices on the world scene–it’s a very chewy, fertile terrain in which to plant fiction, and by and large this is a stunning anthology. The stories I loved most were Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s “What Really Happened in Ficandula”, an angry tale of retribution and revenge that stretches across generations, Dinesh Rao’s “Bridge of Words”, an elegiac story about diaspora and losing one’s language, and Benjanun Sriduankaew’s splendid “Vector”, about the rewriting of history and the fight of the oppressed to impose their own voices over those of their oppressors.
Do give it a try. It’s a great read, and it’s stuff that needs to be tackled in SFF.
So… that time of the year again when people make eligibility posts 🙂 I had a busy year in 2012, but out of all the pieces I published I think “Immersion” (Clarkesworld, June 2012) is the one that had the most visibility: you can read it online here, listen to the podcast by the awesome Kate Baker here, and I’ve made EPUB, MOBI, RTF and PDF versions available (the downloadable versions include the lemongrass chicken recipe that is so central to the narration). If you’re a SFWA member, you can find those in the SFWA forums, here.
It’s eligible for the Hugos, Nebulas, and BSFA Awards, etc. if the fancy takes you.
On a less selfish note, here’s some stuff that was awesome, and that I intend to nominate this year:
-Short stories: Nghi Vo’s “Tiger Stripes” (Strange Horizons, May 2012) is a great story of a magical Vietnam where tigers take human shape, and where a widowed mother can develop a poignant relationship with the creature that ate her son.
I’m biased, but Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s “Song of the Body Cartographer” (Philippine Genre Stories, June 2012) is also well worth a look–great imagery, awesome worldbuilding, and the relationship between two very strong women, each with their own specialness.
-Novelettes: the single best thing I read this year is “Woman of the Sun, Woman of the Moon” (Giganotosaurus Nov. 2012) by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, a wonderful lesbian retelling of Houyi and Chang’e, with crunchy language, bittersweet choices, and always excellent worldbuilding. If SF is more your thing, can I recommend “In the Country of Machine-Gods” (The Future Fire, issue 2012.24), a far-future story about the heroine of a war and her special relationship with her machines and her squad-mates?
-Novellas/Novels: Ken Liu’s novella “All the Flavours” is a great tale of Chinese immigrants in the West; it sometimes lacks a little subtlety, but is a welcome antidote to the clichéd Western depictions of inexorable marches of progress which elude racism.
I don’t have much in this category; and would quite welcome recommendations this year. Bonus points for POCs and/or people beyond the usual Western Anglophone World.
(I mistakenly thought Benjanun Sriduangkaew was eligible for the Campbell, but it turns out she’ll only be eligible once her Beneath Ceaseless Skies sale goes live, so quite probably in time for next year. Saving my ammo on this one :p )
-Best Fanzine: The World SF Blog has been making a tremendous effort to showcase writers beyond the Anglophone World, and I think that also deserves recognition.
(Picture credits: bgrimmni on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Attribution Generic License)
–“Courtship in the Country of Machine Gods” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew: a lovely story of language and war in a future society. I particularly liked the depiction of the invaders as seen by Kanrisa, very apt.
–“Simon’s Replica” by Dean Francis Alfar: a sweet and heart-braking story of death and memorials and the passage of time. I love the language.
-J. Damask/Joyce Chng has a series of microfictions on her blog on Lady White Snake, accompanied by really cute illustrations.