To see out the death of 2007, HorrorScope assembled a team of experts within the field of horror and dark fantasy to compile an experts’ choice recommended reading list.
If you click through and scroll down to “International authors to watch in 2008,” somehow, my name wound up on the list. This is funny because I don’t think of myself as a horror writer. I know I write it sometimes, but I have a different picture in my head of myself. One with less blood and pain.
All the good SFWA boys and girls seem to have dutifully posted about the pending close of the Nebula preliminary ballot on December 31. On the off-chance that you are a SFWA active member and haven’t recommended any fiction yet, I would like to recommend a simple strategy.
My opinion on the Nebulas is that one of the primary benefits comes from the ballot itself. Simply put, any story that makes it on the ballot will automatically get a much wider readership as people review stories for voting. So, when I’m recommending stories, I’m choosing stories that I think people ought to read, whether or not I think the story is ultimately likely to win the award.
Getting on the ballot is a boost to writer because it does raise their profile, and thus, people are more likely to notice their other work later. It might not be a conscious thing, but you see someone on the Nebula ballot and next time, by golly, you’ll see their name and think, “I’ve heard of her.”
So here are writers who I want to support and think that you should read their stories.
Andrea Kail: The Sun God at Dawn, Rising from a Lotus Blossom (Writers of the Future Volume 23) This is a brilliantly done epistolary tale told in a series of letters from Tutankahmen to Abraham Lincoln. Trust me, it makes perfect, chilling sense when you read it. Beautifully and heart-breakingly done.
It also has eight recommendations and its eligibility ends in March. Go! Recommend it! Do you really want to see it not make the ballot because you didn’t take the twenty minutes it will take to read this gorgeous story? I didn’t think so.
Ted Kosmatka: The Prophet of Flores (Asimov’s, Sep07) Holy cow! This is a freaky blend of SF and alternate history. The deep-story to this one? Intelligent design is real. The earth is only 5800 years old and carbon-dating proves it. And then someone finds a fossil that turns everything upside down. Seven recommendations thus far, but this one has eligibility until September, so I’m not quite as frantic about it making the ballot. But, you’ll be missing out if you don’t read it.
Livia Llewellyn: The Four Hundred Thousand I don’t know how to describe this one without giving away the creepy turns this chilling SF story takes. To grossly over-simplify it, this is about the right to choose. But, look, there’s a link so you can go read it. And do.
Jennifer Pelland: Mercytanks The person who pointed this one out to me said that it was the first time they’d really seen far-future done well. And how.
Richard Bowes has two I liked: A Tale for the Short Days (Coyote Road, Trickster Tale) and King of the Big Night Hours(Subterranean, Sep07). The thing that he does, particularly with the King of the Big Night Hours, is tell a story that seems so absolutely, totally grounded in reality that it makes you wonder why you haven’t noticed any magic happening in your life. I mean, these seem like they are things that actually happened.
Vylar Kaftan: Kill Me Extremely evocative SF. The story is deceptively simple. A professional masochist has a device which records her thoughts so that she can be killed and brought back. But there’s a price; there’s always a price.
Andrea Kail: Soft Like a Rabbit I read this the first time as I was typesetting Fantasy. It stopped me cold. I forgot what I was supposed to be doing and just read the story. When I finished I couldn’t understand why I’d never read anything of Andrea Kail’s before. She’s a power-house and tells economical and wrenching stories. Have tissues standing by when you read this.
Nancy Kress: End Game I listened to this one at Escape Pod. Again, SF. Have you ever wished you could just concentrate on one thing at a time? Listen to this and rethink your wish.
David D. Levine: Titanium Mike Saves the Day This is probably the first light-hearted one I’ve mentioned. People always need tall tales; why should outerspace be any different? A fine example of yarn-spinning.
Lisa Mantchev: Six Scents Six tales in one. I could sum this up as tales of famous fictional women and their favorite perfumes, but really, it would not do justice to the brutally clever writing here. For example: â€œMen find it hard to fall in love with a dead girl. They tell her itâ€™s a turn-off that they take her hand at the movies and a finger lands in the popcorn.â€
Joy Marchard: Pallas at Noon lives in the uncanny place between things that could actually happen and the magic that lies just on the other side of that. I don’t even know how to describe this story, but definitely find a copy of Interfictions and read this. It will make you weep and feel hope and despair all at the same time.
Holly Phillips: The Oracle Spoke is quite possibly my favorite story this year. It’s the one that I desperately wish I had written. Please read it.
Cat Rambo: Foam on the Water You think Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid has a chilling ending? Ha! He could have taken lessons from Cat Rambo’s story.
I’m not doing mini-reviews of the novels, because I know you won’t have time to read any between now and then. But here are some that I think you should read after the first of the year.
Chris Barzak, One for Sorrow; Tobias Buckell, Ragamuffin; Jay Lake, Mainspring; Ekaterina Sedia, The Secret History of Moscow.
And finally, I will finish with a totally shameless self-pimp.
Look! For Solo Cello, op. 12 has six whole Nebula recommendations. This is makes me squee with girlish pleasure.
All right folks, there’s still reading to do. Go forth recommend stories! (And I hereby open this up for shameless promotion. Got a story you want read? Link away!)
I decided to replace the “I am reading” section of my sidebar with “Recommended Reading.” Why? Well, these days, I’m reading really slowly because I almost never have time to sit down with a book. Plus, since it’s gift-giving season, I figured that I’d point out books that I’ve enjoyed. So, it’ll randomly show books that I think are worth reading.
Meanwhile, if you are looking for books for a reader in your life, may I recommend these as my top picks?
For the early reader in your life
AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First, by New-York Times Best-Selling author, Alethea Kontis. In my brother’s paraphrased words, “That was my favorite book to read to my daughter. Wow!”
For the YA reader
Strongbowby Judson Roberts. I passed this to my nephew after I finished reading it. His first question upon finishing it? “When does the next book come out?”
For the YA reader suffering through a horse fixation
Born To Trot one was one of my favorites growing up.
Good heavens. If you know a kid who likes horses, this is the right book.
Want an anthology of short fantastic fiction?
Try Prime Codex Yeah, I’m in it, but I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t think that the rest of the stories are really, really good.
How about a novel?
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch would be my pick. (I might change my mind when I finish The Secret Life of Moscow.)
Now… I’ve recommended some books for you. I want some books to add to my Christmas wishlist. Your suggestions, please?
I just finished reading The Surgeon’s Tale and Other Stories by Cat Rambo and Jeff Vandermeer. I gotta tell you, this slim volume of tales had me on every page. The title story, a collaboration between the two authors, owes its roots to Poe and Shelley; it’s like a literary fairy tale take on Frankenstein. Everytime you think you know which dark path the story is going to turn down, it spins down another one that’s even darker. It alone would be worth the price of admission.
“The Farmer’s Cat,” by Mr. Vandermeer, though set in Norway, reminds me fondly of Iceland. The way the farmer-protagonist handles his troll infestation is that I can imagine some of my co-workers doing.
Also of note is “A Key Decides its Destiny” by Ms. Rambo. My heavens. This is the sort of story that turned me on to adult fairy tales in the first place. It feels like a much older tale and something that would have found its way into the Datlow & Windling fairy tale anthologies if they were still compiling them.
I’ve just mentioned half the stories in the anthology, any one of which would be worth picking it up for. There are three more stories every bit as good.
Not only that, but it’s pretty too, with interior illustrations by Kris Dikeman and a cover by James A. Owen. Definitely think about picking up a copy. The Surgeon’s Tale is so slender, it would make a lovely stocking stuffer for the reader on your list.
I got a phone call last night that went something like this. “You were recommended to us and I’m calling to see if you had time to build a giant moth this week for our show.”
“Maybe. What’s the actual due date?”
I laughed, knowing what the last minute pressure of a show is like. “No, really.”
“Tomorrow. I know. We thought our prop builder could do it, but it turns out that we need a puppet builder.”
Yay! While it’s frustrating that the build is now at the last minute, I’m delighted that they now understand the difference between a puppet and a prop. The two have many overlapping qualities but are not the same.
I went down and met with them last night and agreed to do the build but explained that I wouldn’t be able to deliver until Thursday. So now I’m off to shop and then to build a giant moth.
By the way, when I say “giant” I mean the size of a kitten with wings, not Mothra.
I know that all the cool kids are doing this but… Locus Online just posted the Locus Magazine’s Recommended Reading: 2006, which includes Twenty Epics, edited David Moles & Susan Marie Groppi. (Wheatland Press/All-Star Stories) Since one of my stories is in there, I feel almost as pleased as if my actual name was on the list.
I’m even more please by the number of folks that I know who were listed by their actual names. Neat!
While searching for a perfect pirate beverage for World Fantasy, I stumbled upon CocktailDB, which is a beautifully laid out website. Rob and I have lots and lots of liquers in our cabinet from when all the puppeteers left the country. Everyone cleaned out their cabinets and dropped the supplies off with us. So, tonight I plugged in three of the ingredients from our cabinet and the database recommended a Menlo Club Cocktail. It’s very citrusy and not one I think I’ll order again although I imagine that it would be lovely on a hot summer night. I’m sipping it very, very slowly because it’s also quite potent.
Steve and Alethea had spent the night at our house. We all spent a liesurely morning and opted not to return to Chattacon. I know that is shocking, especially since there was a puppet show on the schedule, but somehow the muffins that Mom made seemed more enticing.
After Chattacon ended, Jason and Justin, of Apex Digest, came over to the house. We had lunch and then went off to explore the world of used books. I picked up some cookbooks, including The Unplugged Kitchen, which Fab Girl had recommended ages ago.
Sarah, Jodi, Sam and I hung around in Greenwich Village and the East Village for most of the afternoon. We took Sarah to Pizza in a real NYC pizza joint (recommended by a native) and then to have a canoli. Good fun.
As I was heading back up to catch the train for Katonah, I had a bit of time to kill so I stopped in Union Square and wrote for a bit. When it started to rain, I decided that it was time to catch the subway, so I headed down to catch the 4,5,6. There was a huge crowd on the overpass looking down at the platform. As I came up, three cops came running flat out and yelling “outta the way!” It turns out that someone had been hit by the subway. I didn’t see much, although it was hard not to rubber-neck like the rest of the crowd. There’s something about an accident that just pulls ones attention. I don’t know why. It’s not like I wanted to see a tragedy, but there seems to be something hardwired in to turn and look at accidents.
They carried him out on a stretcher, so I think he was still alive.
(Tor Books – July 14 2020) Mary Robinette Kowal continues her Hugo and Nebula award-winning Lady Astronaut series, following The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, with The Relentless Moon. The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and […]