09 April 2015

Stories for the month of March (and a little bit of April)

Here are fur­ther sto­ries read recently. In no par­tic­u­lar order, because I’ve been very bad about keep­ing up my records, but I have been read­ing. Remember, these are not rec­om­men­da­tions or endorse­ments unless indi­cated. They’re just very brief notes and records towards my goal of read­ing 365 sto­ries this year.

Story 79 — Pay Phobetor by Shale Nelson (Lightspeed)

Clever, remind­ing me a bit of Ghost in the Shell.

Story 80 — The Shape of My Name by Nino Cipri (Tor​.com)

Well-​​written, inter­est­ing time travel story, focused more on the per­sonal character.

Story 81 — The Book Seller by Lavie Tidhar (Clarkesworld)

Recommended. Nobody writes quite like Lavie in this multi-​​cultural far future setting.

Story 82 — The Clear Blue Seas of Luna by Gregory Benford (Clarkesworld)

Some really detailed, inter­est­ing world-​​building. Literally.

Story 83 — Coming of the Light by Chen Qiufan, trans­lated by Ken Liu (Clarkesworld)

Recommended. Some inter­est­ing cul­tural crit­i­cism as SF.

Story 84 — All Original Brightness by Mike Buckley (Clarkesworld)

Dark, some great descriptions

Story 85 — Cassandra by Ken Liu (Clarkesworld)

Interesting superhero/​supervillain story. Good char­ac­ter building.

Story 86 — Slowly Builds An Empire by Naim Kabir (Clarkesworld)

Recommended. Alienating, dark, strange.

Story 87 — Acrobatic Duality by Tamara Vardomskaya (Tor​.com)

Recommended. Great voice.

Story 88 — The Last Surviving Gondola Widow by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Clarkesworld)

World-​​building was interesting.

Story 89 — Pareidolia by Kathleen Batholomew & Kage Baker (Asimov’s March 2015)

Some really inter­est­ing sci­ence under­ly­ing this (and I was really happy to see Zeus Inc. again)

Story 90 — Twelve and Tag by Gregory Norman Bossert (Asimov’s March 2015)

Really neat stories-​​within-​​story structure.

Story 91 — Tuesdays by Suzanne Palmer (Asimov’s March 2015)

Another inter­est­ing struc­tural piece, with a UFO angle.

Story 92 — Military Secrets by Kit Reed (Asimov’s March 2015)

Dark and emo­tional and very slip-​​streamy.

Story 93 — Holding the Ghosts by Gwendolyn Clare (Asimov’s March 2015)

Recommended. Reminiscent of the show Doll House.

Story 94 — The Endangered Camp by Anne Leckie (Forever Magazine, Issue 2)

Really fun and inter­est­ing species-​​building stuff.

Story 95 — Mitigation by Tobias S. Buckell and Karl Schroeder (Forever Magazine, Issue 2)

Recommended. Just fan­tas­tic cli­mate change SF.

Story 96 — Paul and His Son by Joe M. McDermott (Asimov’s April 2015)

Recommended. Well-​​told story of a father and his son deal­ing with men­tal ill­ness. Of sorts.

Story 97 — The Marriage of the Sea by Liz Williams (Asimov’s April 2015)

Very well written.

Story 98 — What I Intend by Robert Reed (Asimov’s April 2015)

Another Fermi Paradox answer attempt. Wonderfully writ­ten by a mas­ter of the genre.

Story 99 — Willing Flesh by Jay O’Connell (Asimov’s April 2015)

Biting satir­i­cal, good. Annoyed me because I had a sim­i­lar idea I was writing!

Story 100 — How To Walk Through Historic Graveyards In The Post-​​Digital Age by Fran Wilde (Asimov’s April 2015)

Ghosts meet SF. Second time this year I’ve seen that hap­pen. I like it.

Story 101 — The Sentry by Frank Smith (Asimov’s April 2015)

Vignette about a dam­aged war­rior, relat­ing to his chil­dren. Wonderfully writ­ten, great punch at the end.

Story 102 — We Are the Cloud by Sam J. Miller (Lightspeed)

Recommended story of young rela­tion­ships and poverty and abandonment.

08 March 2015

Short Fiction for the the Week of March 1

First, some back­story. I’ve been work­ing on read­ing at least 365 sto­ries for 2015 as a way of build­ing my read­ing mus­cles up in the wake of hav­ing my son, and to help reded­i­cate myself to writ­ing short fic­tion. Reading is the first step towards improv­ing as a writer.

I have been post­ing a few short words about the sto­ries, but I do not say any­thing neg­a­tive. These are not cri­tiques of the fic­tion or reviews, they’re just some notes for myself. If I think some­thing is really great and rec­om­mended read­ing, I might men­tion that. But don’t take any­thing I post here as a rec­om­men­da­tion. I have to read a lot of sto­ries to meet my goal, and it’s just unlikely that I am going to like all of them.

This past week, I worked my way through most of the March issue of Lightspeed Magazine. If you don’t have a sub­scrip­tion to Lightspeed, then you’re miss­ing out on great monthly fic­tion. /​plug

Note that all sto­ries pre­vi­ous to these were logged and noted on my Facebook, but as I’m try­ing to stop using Facebook as much, I’m mov­ing my notes on this project to my blog. All three of you still read­ing this will be delighted, I am sure!

Story 74 - Hot Rods by Cat Sparks

Really great, solid ground­ing in a place that I was intrigued by. Good voice and char­ac­ter in the narrator.

Story 75 — The New Atlantis by Ursula K. Le Guin

Had an ephemeral, dream-​​like qual­ity, and some ele­ments of retro-​​futurism that were really fascinating.

Story 76 - The Way Home by Linda Nagata

Sometimes a good story just involves some ordi­nary peo­ple in an extra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tion, and this is one of them. Nagata is a great writer and this is no excep­tion to that.

Story 77 — The Good Son by Naomi Kritzer

Heartbreaking in all the right ways. Also some­what dream-​​like.

Story 78 — Documentary by Vajra Chandrasekera

Strange and won­der­ful, with the weird­est exam­ple of lycan­thropy I’ve ever seen.

24 February 2015


Dumbo Octopus

Amazing crea­tures. I have great sym­pa­thy for any­thing that even seems to have enor­mous ears.

(via red­dit)

23 February 2015

27 January 2015

Men of Unborrowed Vision live on Lightspeed Magazine

My lat­est story, “Men of Unborrowed Vision” is now live on Lightspeed Magazine. It’s an unusual story for me, in that it’s an attempt at deal­ing with pol­i­tics and cur­rent events. I am pretty sure it’s my only bit of near-​​future sci­ence fiction.

I wrote it con­sid­er­ably before the events of Ferguson, Missouri. There was a moment dur­ing edits that I con­tem­plated whether or not I should men­tion Ferguson in the story, but ulti­mately, it was too soon after the shoot­ing for me to feel like I had any­thing cogent to say about it. It felt like per­haps I would come across as tak­ing advan­tage of the pain and suf­fer­ing to drive home points I wanted to make in the story. So if you read this and won­der why Ferguson and Michael Brown weren’t men­tioned, that’s why.

I have noticed in early reviews that the cen­tral moti­va­tion of the tit­u­lar char­ac­ters was per­haps unbe­liev­able. I will just say that this was inten­tional on my part (but you can still find that unsat­is­fac­tory. I can under­stand that).

I have two other sto­ries I would like to tell in this sequence. Let me know if you’d like to read them.

09 December 2014

On Baby Clothes

Matty, posing like a female comic book character

Matty is com­ing up on six months old, so I think it’s fair to say that I am now a par­ent­ing expert. And as I par­ent­ing expert, I have a sub­ject I would like to address with the world:

What’s the $#%!ing deal with baby clothes?

Approximately 76% of all of Matty’s clothes fea­ture the face of an ani­mal. The vast major­ity of those fea­ture the animal’s face on his bottom.

Who thought: “you know what baby clothes need? Faces on the butts.” This seems pretty cute and harm­less at first, but that’s only until you see that smil­ing, car­toon lion weep­ing brown tears when Baby has a blow-​​out.

Some of the clothes have ani­mal faces on the hoods, the butt, and the FEET. Now we’re into “ser­ial killer in train­ing” ter­ri­tory. It makes my kid look like he’s been wan­der­ing the for­est, adding new vic­tims to his collection.

Oh, hello, Mr. Rabbit–”

*snaps rabbit’s neck*


Look, I’ve said it before; the only thing keep­ing babies from being can­ni­bals is the fact that they don’t have teeth. Anybody’s whose fin­gers have strayed too close to the mouth of a teething baby knows this hor­ri­fy­ing truth in their heart. So really, babies are ter­ri­fy­ing as it is with­out look­ing like creepy Mountain Men, cov­ered head to toe in ani­mal carcasses.

I think we’ll just dress him in burlap sacks from now on. Burlap never goes out of style.

03 December 2014

Just how crazy is the Batman?

When peo­ple talk about how insane the Batman is, they’re most often using our own world to eval­u­ate that level of crazy. “You’d have to be nuts to dress up and go fight crim­i­nals.” The Nolan movies kind of take this approach for the most part.

I’d argue that the comic book Batman is even cra­zier, because you need to put his par­tic­u­lar psy­chosis in con­text. In the Batman’s world, there are real, honest-​​to-​​God mon­sters, croc­o­dile men that are nine feet tall. There is a bad guy who is LITERALLY a giant man bat. A woman who can con­trol plants. A guy made of clay that can suf­fo­cate you.

An ordi­nary human who dresses up as a bat and fights crime in our uni­verse is plain-​​old nuts. But in DC’s world, it’s not just crazy; it’s sui­ci­dal. In that con­text, it makes sense that Bruce would do every­thing he could to con­vince peo­ple he was some­thing more than just a guy in a cos­tume. He’d deploy all kinds of weird psy­cho­log­i­cal tricks. Stage magic. His dis­ap­pear­ing trick is essen­tial to his sur­vival as an ordi­nary man liv­ing in a world full of extra­or­di­nary threats. It makes peo­ple think he’s more than he is.

Bruce needs the aver­age street crim­i­nal to believe in the mythos of a super­nat­ural Batman. If you real­ize that the Batman is just a guy and you start to won­der, oh, hey, where does this guy sleep dur­ing the day. What’s his deal? Next thing you know, all the gangs in Gotham are burn­ing down Wayne Manor (again) and you’re strung up from a lamp post.

There’s a moment in the new 52 Justice League where the Green Lantern real­izes that Batman really is just a guy in a cos­tume. It’s hilar­i­ous, but it shouldn’t be. Bruce should be scared shit­less that some­one has fig­ured it out.


Bruce Wayne’s biggest secret is not that he’s the Batman. It’s that the Batman is just a human. He should be will­ing to do any­thing to keep that a secret.

10 October 2014

Ikea Dreams

Yesterday, the wife, son, and I made our first-​​ever trip to Ikea. It was all a bit over­whelm­ing. So much so, I had what was either the best Ikea dream ever or the DUMBEST Ikea dream ever. You decide:

It was staged like a fan­tasy action movie. You see, Ikea had announced a new Wardrobe line called PÖRTOL. They were made with a rare Nordic wood, and some­thing was very fishy about them. Me an my team were rac­ing against time to put a stop to an evil plot.

Ikea, you see, was a front for an ancient evil race of Swedish fey, and they intended to invade our world by sell­ing every­one cheap PÖRTOLs and then attack­ing through them with huge armies, direct into our homes. Yes, the wardrobes were por­tals to another world.

There was a lot of run­ning around in an Ikea ware­house being chased by bad guys that looked like the elves from Thor 2, and a lot of hammer-​​smashing Ikea fur­ni­ture to bits. I’d like to think that Thor would approve.

06 October 2014

An Electronic Magazine Idea: Call & Response

Electronic mag­a­zine for­mats are a bit stag­nant in our field lately. There’s this model that’s shown some suc­cess and a lot of oth­ers have cropped up to imi­tate it, which is totally under­stand­able. Magazines need to at least break even to con­tinue, so any­thing you can do to match the suc­cess of oth­ers makes sense, but it leaves me won­der­ing what ideas are being over­looked. So some­times I’ll find myself day­dream­ing ways to tweak the tra­di­tional for­mat that has evolved.

This is another one of my shower ideas. The for­mat for the mag­a­zine would be a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. It would be called Call & Response. That should give you a basic idea of what it’s about right there. The premise is this: you pur­chase one larger piece, per­haps novella length, some­thing that’s boldly explor­ing some ideas pop­u­lar in the genre. Maybe it chal­lenges a com­mon con­ceit. You pub­lish this piece on your web­site, like most elec­tronic mag­a­zines do. Then you open up to sub­mis­sions for a cou­ple of months. The guide­line is, you must write a story that is a response to the ideas, char­ac­ters, what­ever of the novella. The edi­tors select 4–5 shorter pieces, bun­dles them together, and sells *that* as an ebook issue. They would sort of be like lit­tle themed antholo­gies released on a reg­u­lar basis.

The rea­son­ing for this is, I think there used to be a larger com­po­nent of dia­logue in the field of sci­ence fic­tion. Especially when it was smaller and no so dif­fuse. Stories were often writ­ten in responses to other sto­ries, but I don’t see that hap­pen­ing nearly as much now, and when it does, there’s a good chance you never read the orig­i­nal. So the notion here is to insti­tute a mag­a­zine based on that tra­di­tion for format.

Would read­ers enjoy this sort of thing? I’m really not sure! A care­ful cura­tor of course would be nec­es­sary. But I’d love to see some­one try it, so the idea is yours if you want it.