Mary Robinette Kowalâ€™s â€œScenting the Darkâ€ (Apex Online-Aug. 24) is enchanting, if not for the story itself, then for the intriguing use of a blind main character. An apt metaphor for a human exploring a new planet with only a few supports, this tale of space tragedy is textually vibrant, all without using the sense of sight.
…donâ€™t let the surface innocence of the story fool you. Kowal delves into shades of gray and exposes the grayness in a fairy-tale style trapping often used (at least in modern times) to compare the usual black-and-white view of morality. All these reasons and more make this story well worth reading.
This is a fun little steampunk parable whose apparent moral lesson (pride comes before the fall) is somewhat subverted by the cold, calculated nature of Chickadeeâ€™s schemes.
What’s interesting to me is that I thought about putting an actual moral at the end, but decided not to because it defused the story. I asked some early readers what moral they would put and they all said, “Well clearly it’s [x].” Except [x] was different for every one of them.
So, now I’m curious. What do you think the moral of the story is?
I’ve had a copy of Cherie Priest’s Four and Twenty Blackbirds sitting on my shelf for over a year now. The stack of “please read me” is very tall and I look at it with longing, but the thought of adding a book to all the other things I’m lugging around the city is not appealing.
Then Tor solved my problem by releasing it as a free ebook. I downloaded that sucker faster than you can say download and have to wonder why I waited so long to read it. Granted, my family is from Chattanooga, so there’s an immediate connection there, but more importantly, the story and characters are compelling.
How compelling you might ask? When Eden was — no spoilers, suffice to say she was in deep, I went an extra stop on the train and then walked back READING. You think walking while reading a book makes you look nerdy? Walking while reading a palm pilot… now that’s dedication.
If you haven’t read it, and the idea of Southern Gothic horror sounds appealing, let me recommend Four and Twenty Blackbirds. I’ve got a copy of the next book on order. I just wish I could get it as an ebook.
The story is, in turn, playful and charming, well thought out and deliberate, and Kowal appears to have written her own version of an O Henry story.
O’Henry was really my first love in the world of short stories. Sure, I’d read others and enjoyed them. Really, my first love should have been Ray Bradbury, but I think O’Henry captured me because his stories were deceptively simple. There were no elements of wonder, like Martians or rocket ships, just people living ordinary lives. And then, with one turn of phrase, he could change the entire meaning of everything you’ve read. When people want to write twist endings, what they really want is to write an O. Henry story.
Last Thursday, you may recall, I posted a bunch of my one-star Amazon reviews and challenged other authors to do the same, the idea being, you know, that there are worse things in life than a negative Amazon review. And what do you know, authors have begun taking me up on the challenge, posting choice one and two star reviews they have received. How very healthy of them.
I thought I wouldn’t get to play along, not having any novels out, but, behold! One of the anthologies I’m in has a one star-review.
The title of this book clearly tries to capitualize on the popular sci-fi motion picture “Solaris” and the underlying work, but nothing could be further from the truth. These stories at are best second rate, and most are third rate. The plots are often interesting but the prose is pedestrian, the charaters are wooden, and the outcomes are guessed a mile in advance. Save your money for the Tessaracts series
Wooden characters! Pedestrian prose! Predictable!
Scalzi was right, you can take a certain amount of joy from a negative review.
Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Evil Robot Monkey” is an affecting snapshot in the life of a chimp with an implant in his head that increases his intelligence. Unfortunately for him, that lands him in the “hellish limbo” of being “too smart to be with other chimps, but too much of an animal to be with humans.” He becomes the subject of ridicule of children in what is presumably a school where he spends his time behind a pottery wheel. The interesting premise is delicately overlaid with emotion by having a single human show the chimp some compassion, resulting in a quick-and-dirty sf short story that is both charming and memorable.
Jason Sizemore is the guest blogger on The Horror Library’s Blog-O-Rama. He’s talking about three women of horror that he knows and has included me. He opens my section with this:
Mary Robinette Kowal is better than you.
No, she doesnâ€™t think this. ((I don’t.)) And sheâ€™ll kill me for making such a statement. ((Yes, I will)) But I stand by the assertion. ((Such a dead man…))
Sheâ€™s the female equivalent of MacGuyver, ((Okay, maybe just maimed, because I have a weakness for MacGuyver)) able to build anything from a paper clip and the remains of a crappy late 90s horror chapbook. ((All right. If you’re going to resort to blatant flattery, I’ll let you live.))
A word of fair warning if you click through. It’s all lies.
Mary Robinette Kowalâ€™s â€œEvil Robot Monkey,â€ the shortest piece in this anthology, is a smart tale about monkeys with implants and a cautionary tale of how intelligence can sometimes be very lonely.
This is Shimmer’s first review at The Fix and so far I’m pleased. It’s nice to have another short fiction review venue, especially one that doesn’t pull punches.
Save for the first story, which was written based on the cover illustration, the art and the stories they inspired are printed together. Unfortunately, this means the art is printed in black and white on plain paper stock, often resized to accommodate text on the same page and apparently printed with a standard printer. Given the detailed linework that features in so many of the pieces, this isnâ€™t the best approach. Images are blurred and details are lost, and while this is likely the result of budget constraints, when the art is the purpose of the publication, it canâ€™t help but have a negative impact. Only the illustration on the cover, â€œPennyâ€™s Graveâ€ by John Picacio, is printed on heavier paper stock, sized so that the details are fully visible.
Ow. I have two reactions to that, one is that we used our regular printer, which I believe is offset. And two, that the reviewer is right. Some of the images are not as crisp as I would like. This has been a problem in previous issues, but one that I thought only bothered me or at least, no one else seems to notice it. And that, is the value of a good negative review when they say something that can make you acknowledge a flaw.
Now, there are also things in there that just make me giggle. Like the reviewer wishing that Chrissy Ellsworth artwork had been printed in color. It’s funny because the original image is black and white. Only one was created in color and that’s Carie Ann Baade’s beautiful artwork in Kuzhali Manickavel’s story. Nor did I resize anything to accommodate the text. The half page images were horizontals, so they don’t fill a full page when their width is the same as a vertical. But, the point is taken that it would be nice for our next art issue to have bigger pictures and to really talk to our printer about the importance of clean images.
Fortunately, the reviewer loves our fiction. Here’s the last line of the review.
Despite the formatting problems with the featured art, this is a solid example of good fantastical short fiction, and an issue of Shimmer well worth acquiring.
The Guardian has a review of Solaris’s Book of New Science Fiction which opens with this line.
Early in 2007 the science-fiction imprint Solaris marked its launch with The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. A year later, editor George Mann returns with a follow-up, this time featuring strong stories from Kay Kenyon, Michael Moorcock, Mary Robinette Kowal, Eric Brown and others.
I’m so stunned that all I can see is “stories from celebrity, celebrity, me, celebrity…”
I was given an ARC of Scott Mebus’s Gods of Manhattan The basic premise is that a parallel, magic, Manahatta exists throughout Manhattan. It is inhabited by the Gods of Commerce, The Best China, Guilt, Opposite Side of the Street Parking, and the like. These gods used to be mortals, but after their death if they lived on in memory, they could become elevated to godhood. People like Peter Stuyvesant and Babe Ruth run through these pages along with two totally believable kids.
I started jotting down favorite parts but then got caught up in the story and forgot to keep doing it. So here are two from close to the beginning.
He knew she couldn’t see what he was seeing. Because he was going crazy and that’s not really a team sport.
When Bridget picks up her only Barbie (she doesn’t normally pay with “such girlie things” and had given it a makeover) we get this fabulous bit.
This was Malibu Death Barbie. A fashion-conscious dealer of justice. The last thing her enemies saw before their horrible dismemberment was a flash of pink lipstick and a really big knife.
If you’ve got a teen reader in your life, look for Gods of Manhattan when it comes out. History, adventure and magic! What more can you ask for?
One of the things Mom had wanted to do while she and Dad were here was see some theater. So, her birthday present to me was to take us all out to see Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart. When we realized that we had two tickets available, Rob and I invited Rick Bowes and Emily DeCola to accompany us.
All of us agreed that this was the best production of Macbeth we’d ever seen. Start with a good strong cast. Then, my god, give them a production design that is about as close to perfect as anything I’ve seen. Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s sharpest plays and this dives right in and cuts.
It’s hard to explain why it’s so good, without spoiling some surprises for people who are planning on seeing this production. So — don’t click on the cut if you don’t want to know. Before I get all private on you…
(Tor Books — August 21, 2018) Continuing the grand sweep of alternate history laid out in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars. Of course, the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, […]