Two people I know in real life are traveling down under this spring, to New Zealand, not to attend WorldCon, home of the Hugo Awards ceremony, but just for vacations. Although, I wonder if their plans have changed since I last spoke or saw them over two months ago now. Much ado about something is occurring everywhere now, but don’t even compare it to 1918. Regardless, a trip to New Zealand would check off two items on my bucket list: 1) to see the Southern Hemisphere’s night sky (stars and constellations I cannot see from 39 degrees north latitude) and 2) to visit the closest thing to Middle-earth on this Earth.Continue reading “Hugo Hiatus”
Last week, I finished listening to or reading the rest of the short fiction I had earmarked for perusal before end of year in a previous post. I’m very grateful to the podcasts of various SFF magazines that fit perfectly into my daily commute. Many of the authors below are new to me. Only Aliette de Bodard, KJ Parker and Sarah Pinsker have I read previously.
December 16th I listened to “Portrait of the Artist” by KJ Parker (3.5-4 stars) published in a special double-issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. After dinner I read “The Imaginary Palace of the Winter King” by Sarah Tolmie (3.5-4 stars) from the February 2019 edition of Strange Horizons. “Winter King” was also available via a podcast but I felt like reading the ebook edition I receive as a Patreon of that magazine.Continue reading “Second Wave of Short Fiction”
Last week I wrote about my annual reading goal, which got me thinking about all the science fiction and fantasy magazines and podcasts I subscribe to. I support two at Patreon: Uncanny and Strange Horizons. I follow several more via my Podcast Addict app on my phone: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Escape Pod, Lightspeed and Podcastle. My Patreon magazines also have audio podcasts of select stories.
Most of the year, I’m heads down in full length books and novels. Only when I reach December, when my book clubs take a break for the holidays, do I come up for air enough to review any novellas or novelettes published in any of the magazines listed above. So I spent some time earlier this week, scrolling back through my Patreon posts to find all the ebooks I forgot to download for Uncanny and Strange Horizons. Then I scrolled through all the podcast episodes for authors I liked or had heard of for any works at least 40 minutes long (the length of half of my daily commute). I added several to my playlist and downloaded the ebooks to my tablet. My commute and lunch time reading was taken care of for the entire week.
Last Sunday, I read “A Time to Reap” by Elizabeth Bear (published in Issue 29 over the summer) and gave it four stars. At lunch on Monday, I read “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye” by Sarah Pinsker (published in Issue 31 very recently) and didn’t like it quite as much as Bear’s story, so gave it a 3.5-4 star rating.Continue reading “End of Year Short Fiction Dash”
Anthology Contents (courtesy ISFDB)
- 1 • The Miracle of the Lily • (1928) • novelette by Clare Winger Harris (3.5 stars)
- 24 • The Conquest of Gola • (1931) • short story by Leslie F. Stone (3.5 stars)
- 44 • The Black God’s Kiss • [Jirel of Joiry] • (1934) • novelette by C. L. Moore (variant of Black God’s Kiss) (4.5 stars)
- 80 • Space Episode • (1941) • short story by Leslie Perri (4-4.5 stars)
- 88 • That Only a Mother • (1948) • short story by Judith Merril (3 stars)
- 101 • In Hiding • [Children of the Atom] • (1948) • novelette by Wilmar H. Shiras (4 stars)
- 146 • Contagion • (1950) • novelette by Katherine MacLean (3.5 stars)
- 185 • The Inhabited Men • (1951) • short story by Margaret St. Clair (3.5 stars)
- 197 • Ararat • [The People] • (1952) • novelette by Zenna Henderson (4 stars)
- 227 • All Cats Are Gray • (1953) • short story by Andre Norton (as Andrew North) (4 stars)
- 236 • Created He Them • (1955) • short story by Alice Eleanor Jones (3.5-4 stars)
- 249 • Mr. Sakrison’s Halt • (1956) • short story by Mildred Clingerman (4 stars)
- 258 • All the Colors of the Rainbow • (1957) • novelette by Leigh Brackett (4 stars)
- 287 • Pelt • (1958) • short story by Carol Emshwiller (3.5 stars)
- 300 • Car Pool • (1959) • novelette by Rosel George Brown (3 stars)
- 321 • For Sale, Reasonable • (1959) • short story by Elizabeth Mann Borgese (3 stars)
- 325 • Birth of a Gardener • (1961) • short story by Doris Pitkin Buck (4 stars)
- 340 • The Tunnel Ahead • (1961) • short story by Alice Glaser (3.5 stars)
- 351 • The New You • (1962) • short story by Kit Reed (3 stars)
- 365 • Another Rib • (1963) • short story by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Juanita Coulson (as John Jay Wells) (3 stars)
- 388 • When I Was Miss Dow • (1966) • short story by Sonya Dorman (3.5 stars)
- 404 • Baby, You Were Great • (1967) • short story by Kate Wilhelm (variant of Baby, You Were Great!) (4-4.5 stars)
- 422 • The Barbarian • [Alyx] • (1968) • novelette by Joanna Russ (4 stars)
- 448 • The Last Flight of Dr. Ain • (1969) • short story by James Tiptree, Jr. (4 stars)
- 457 • Nine Lives • (1969) • novelette by Ursula K. Le Guin (3.5-4 stars)
Earlier this year I listened to an interview of the editor, Lisa Yaszek, via a Wired Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast (Episode 346), and I immediately added The Future is Female! to my TBR shelf. Months passed and I remembered to check the catalogs of the various libraries I patronize (recently increased to six cards with a trip to Lawrence last month). I was also recently challenged to increase the print materials circulation statistics of my closest library branch. A happy miracle occurred when I found The Future is Female! in the catalog of the Kansas City Public Library. A hold was placed and a few days later all eight requests, including this one, arrived at the Plaza branch for easy (translate that two ‘why did I forget my large tote bag at home?’) pickup.
I like reading anthologies; they are a great break for my usual longer epics. I can read a story or two a day, when I get up over my morning breakfast tea, or right before bedtime. Weekends, of course, I could squeeze in more stories. When I read a short story anthology, I post a GoodReads status update as soon as I finish it with a rating and any comments I have upon completion. Here’s an example status posted about “Space Episode” earlier this month:
Finished “Space Episode” (1941) by Leslie Perri (4 stars – very short but very impactful, almost gut wrenching) and “That Only a Mother” (1948) by Judith Merril (3 stars) — Nov 13, 2019 05:57PMJon Moss is on page 100 of 531
My Favorite Things
My top five stories from this anthology are:
- C.L. Moore’s “The Black God’s Kiss” (sword & sorcery & horror & adventure)
- “Baby, You Were Great” by Kate Wilhelm (this one really gets in your head, literally).
- Andre Norton’s “All Cats Are Grey” (space opera-ish but some hard SF)
- “Space Episode” by Leslie Perri (hard SF but with heart like only a woman can write it and experience it)
- And a tie between Joanna Russ’ “The Barbarian” (a nod to C.L. Moore’s Jirel with Russ’ Alyx – so more sword & sorcery & adventure but with some SF elements) and Doris Pitkin Buck’s “The Birth of a Gardener” (beautiful hard SF – again as only a woman can relate it).
I had previously read “The Black God’s Kiss” and “The Last Flight of Dr. Ain” (by Tiptree). Surprisingly, the latter did not hold up as well to a second read. It had shock value (sort of) the first time I read it, but the luster was gone on a re-read. I was also disappointed in the last story included in the anthology by le Guin. Again, it was probably groundbreaking at the time, but just didn’t wow me like some of her work does.
Some of these stories were my first exposures to the writings of these women. But many of them I have read numerous books by. I’ve read all of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover novels and short stories. I’ve read most of Ursula K. le Guin’s novels – Earthsea, of course, but also many of her famous science fiction novels. I’ve read most of C.L. Moore’s fiction, at least what I can get my hands on. Also Leigh Brackett, but I like her work less than CLM’s writing, which is very hard to put down. Another one I try to read but is often hit-or-miss for me is James Tiptree, Jr.
I’ve read a few novels by Andre Norton, but since I don’t care of young adult fiction, I skip most of her canon. Kate Wilhelm I discovered last year, listening to her only science fiction novel Where the Late Spring Birds Sing. I found that book thanks to a recommendation I found in a review by Jo Walton of a book on clones (Never Let Me Go) I was reading for one of my many book clubs.
Ad Astra Per Aspera
I read most of the biographical notes and found that at the time of publication, three of these amazing authors were still alive. However, upon closer examination this morning, it grieves me to relate that Carol Emshwiller, author if the intriguing “Pelt” tale, passed away on February 2, 2019. Katherine Maclean, author of “Contagion,” very recently passed on September 1, 2019. Which leaves Juanita Coulson (pseudonym John Jay Wells above on the story “Another Rib” co-authored with Marion Zimmer Bradley) as the last woman standing from this august company of pioneers.
The stars have aligned recently in my personal universe allowing me to enjoy audio podcasts once again. Years ago, I used to listen to them via my laptop, a web site or perhaps my Palm Pilot (yeah, remember those)? I never owned an iPod but my children had a couple. I liked the concept, but for the most part I preferred listening to audiobooks (and still do for the most part).
I’m a Patreon supporter of an author (Kameron Hurley), who recently started producing podcasts on a monthly basis. Rather than download yet another application to my smartphone, I decided to use an existing installed app to listen to her podcasts. I downloaded the audio file and placed it in my audiobooks folder so that my Smart Audiobook Player app would pick it up automatically. It found the new file and I was able to listen to it through my Bluetooth headset and through my new car’s stereo system while commuting. I’ve listened to both episodes and enjoyed them both (although I do warn you that profanity is prolific). I even submitted a question for a future podcast to her. Kameron has made the podcasts available to everyone via her website at this URL: http://www.kameronhurley.com/podcast/
This listening experience reminded me that there are other podcasts to be discovered. I did some searches for best podcasts of the last couple of years for science fiction and fantasy. I found two that seemed to fit my bill: Sword and Laser and Wired’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (GGG). I subscribed to both of them and downloaded the most recent episodes to my Google Music app.
For the next two months (plus a week or so), I’ll be reading the following, except where indicated (as in I’ve already read the item or have no plan to do so). I will keep updating this post as I finish reading these finalists.
2078 ballots cast for 652 nominees.
Votes for finalists ranged from 156 to 480.
- All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books) – Read 01/15/2017; liked it
- A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US) – Read 10/29/2016; loved it
- Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus) – Probably won’t be able to read this one because I haven’t read the second one in the series.
- Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books) – Read 5/19/2017; liked it
- The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books) – Read 11/23/2016; liked it
- Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer (Tor Books) – Might not have time to read this one but it’s in the Current Month queue
1410 ballots cast for 187 nominees.
Votes for finalists ranged from 167 to 511.
- The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle (Tor.com publishing) – Read 03/29/2017, liked it
- The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson (Tor.com publishing) – Read 06/04/2017, liked it
- Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com publishing) – Read 12/3/2016; liked it
- Penric and the Shaman, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency) – in Current Month queue
- A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com publishing) – in Current Month queue
- This Census-Taker, by China Miéville (Del Rey / Picador) – Read 5/23/2017; completely unsure of whether I liked it or not
Yesterday I finished the fourth Best Novel (2016 Hugo Awards) nominee out of five. Butcher’s Aeronaut’s Windlass surprised me. I’ve previously read selections from his Dresden Files and from the Codex Alera series, but this novel, the first in his new Cinder Spires steampunk series, really impressed me. I simultaneously listened to the audiobook and read the ebook (more the latter towards the end because I read much faster than the audiobook progresses, although I don’t do voice characterizations nearly as well as voice actors do). I gave it a solid four stars out of five, but when compared to the other nominees, I’m afraid it will fall mid-pack behind Lemke’s Ancillary Mercy and Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. And I’m having trouble classifying this as fantasy or science fiction, although it does fit well within the subgenre of steampunk. Both scientific and fantastical elements abound.
That leaves me just one more novel to read to complete the Best Novel nominees for 2016 – Stephenson’s Seveneves. But before I bury myself in hard SF, I turned my eyes to the Retro Hugo Awards (for 1941) and started reading Slan by A.E. van Vogt.
I found a copy of this book via my local library’s access the regional library system in Northeast Kansas. Nearby Atchison kept an edition published as part of the Garland Library of Science Fiction (1975) described as a “collection of 45 works of science fiction selected by Lester del Rey.” I started the book early afternoon on Sunday the 3rd and would have finished it by ten o’clock if I hadn’t kept nodding off – not because I wasn’t interested, but just because I was up past more normal bed time. I picked the novel back up this morning with less than fifty pages to go to the end.
Slan kept my interest despite dated technology and the lack of technological development aside from the usual 1940s fascination with atomic power. The only interesting tech bit was anti-gravity, which was more of a plot device than an actual technological achievement. Colonization of Mars assumes water and a breathable atmosphere, both of which seem laughable to us today. The psi powers of the slan are pivotal to the plot, but not in the way you would imagine. I found Slan to be an enjoyable, fast read with a bit of adventure (typical for the time period and the rampant serialization in SF magazines). I gave Slan a solid three stars out of five.
Next up for the Retro Hugo Best Novel nominees will be T.H. White’s The Ill-Made Knight, which I found in audiobook format via Hoopla. I’ve previously read Doc Smith’s Gray Lensman, so there’s no need to re-read that one. The other nominees are on request via InterLibrary Loan and I hope will arrive soon to give me time to complete them before voting closes at the end of July.
For the last few years, I’ve paid a supporting membership in Worldcon so that I could nominate and vote in the Hugo Awards. This year, I actually get to attend Worldcon, since it’s hosted in Kansas City, Missouri this August. The cost of actually attending MidAmeriCon was quite a bit steeper than the supporting membership, but I’m hoping it will be worth it. I haven’t attended an SF con since DragonCon five years ago. So I’m do for some geeky fun.
Best Novel (3695 nominating ballots) (for the rest of the categories, click here)
- Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
- The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (Roc)
- The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
- Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow)
- Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
I need to read four of the above five nominees before the end of July (when voting closes). I read Ancillary Mercy by Leckie almost the moment is was released (I pre-ordered the ebook). I’m currently listening to Uprooted by Novik. I have Aeronaut’s Windlass and Seveneves queued up for listening and Fifth Season is waiting for me to crack open the book if my ears get tired.
You can check my reading progress right here on my blog via the “Currently Reading” widget found in the right-hand pane of this page.
Leckie has set a high bar with her Ancillary trilogy, but only time will tell if Breq will retain my vote.
Excellent book review posted on my uncle’s blog:
Book Review: American Tumbleweeds by Marta Elva Four Stars “Tragedy of condemning children to the consequences of their parents’ deeds.” Compelling and heart breaking. An already-fragile family rips apart in the border-straddling communities of El Paso and Cuidad Juarez, isolating its youngest member at a vulnerable time of her life. Inez’s sad tale of paradise […]
Like many other Star Wars fans, I was seduced into a dark movie theater this past weekend to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens. My husband and father accompanied me to the show. But all was not unicorns and rainbows even from the start.
I recently learned that my favorite movie theater complex for the past ten years, the Legends 14, changed hands. Almost mirroring the movie I was about to see, the Phoenix rising from the ashes of better distribution contracts fizzled before the dawn of AMC, which is anything but “amazing” (a snide reference to their marketing mantra).