January 31, 2015

Short and Sweet Banner copy

Welcome to the first edition of the doubtless-irregular and potentially short-lived Short and Sweet, featuring unformed thoughts on speculative short fiction I’ve read and liked in the last week. I have two goals, here: First, to sort of participate in the digital curation of great short fiction.[1] Second, to take note of useful “lessons” buried in these stories, for myself and folks like me, who aspire to write more, better, and more bravely. (more…)

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The Animal Women

My short story (novelette, for the technical-minded) is now up at Strange Horizons (Part 1, Part 2). Because I’m a compulsive over-sharer who can’t let art stand on its own spindly legs, there are a few things I want to say.

“The Animal Women” started as a bulleted timeline of 1968. It metamorphosed into a ramble-y story about a young girl in eastern Kentucky with a Polaroid camera and a speech impediment. At its most successful,[1] it would be about the fractured cultural landscape of the 1960s, the changing nature of race politics, white backlash, women’s voices, and magical transformation.

I think it’s my favorite thing I’ve written.[2] Not for any super objective reasons, but just because everything in it is…kind of very close to my heart.

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Me and my Dad, sometime after the Berlin Wall fell but before NAFTA.

It’s about Kentucky. The place I grew up, the place I circle back to, the place I hold in my heart next to the word “home.” Sometimes, when the light’s just right and the cicadas are so loud your teeth rattle and everything smells like wet summer clay—I think it’s just a half step away from heaven. Sometimes, when you’ve driven by four Confederate flags and a dozen “Coal Keeps the Lights On” stickers on your way to class only to have a student tell you racism ended in 1965—I think my partner and I should just drive north until we hit Nunavut and live like polar bears.

Maybe everybody feels that way about their home. (more…)

The Best Stuff I Read, Saw, or Stumbled Across in 2014

Read that title again. It’s an awful title—vague, colloquial, jumping awkwardly onto the bandwagon of best-of-the-year posts and award nominations. Except that it actually won’t be useful for award-list types, because I’ve failed to confine myself to new releases and have organized it with the same care and skill I apply to my grocery shopping (“Screw it, just throw it in the cart.”). However, here they are: A few of my favorite things. (more…)

Administrating Imaginary Empires: Ancillary Sword and The Goblin Emperor

Ancillary_Sword_Orbit_coverThis is not a ploy to review two books at once because I’m like a thousand books in review-debt. I swear.[1]

Instead, this is what happens when you read a super-sci-fi-y story about spaceships, aliens, and AI, then switch to a classically fantasy story with goblins and elves, and find out they’re actually fascinatingly similar books with a lot to say about power, empire, and administration.

Both of them delighted me. Both of them disappointed me. Both of them are worth reading. (more…)

A Tale for the Time Being

tale for the time being 1Continuing my mission to read more recent “literary” fiction—that suspiciously nebulous genre, united only by the absence of spaceships and wizards, as far as I can tell—I recently read Ruth Ozeki’s Booker Prize-nominated A Tale for the Time Being. My feelings for this book are split very precisely down the middle. You know that creepy character in A Nightmare Before Christmas who spins his face from happy to sad? Yeah. That’s what reading this book was like. (more…)