Have you preordered this book yet? It’s the debut collection by one of the best writers of short fiction alive, and it comes out on October 3rd. Inside you’ll find stories playful and dark, sexy and heartbreaking, so structurally inventive they’re like nothing else you’ve seen. Also, it happens that it was just among the ten books longlisted for the National Book Award. If you like fiction but aren’t reading Carmen Machado’s then you are making bad life choices.
Category: Books (page 1 of 9)
This anthology will be coming out soon, but for the next week you have the opportunity to win a signed copy. Tachyon Publications is having a Goodreads giveaway of the book that you can enter here, which runs through May 22. If you want to know more about the book, just look at the contents at Tachyon’s site. Every one of those stories that I’ve read is a knockout, and the ones I haven’t read are climbing my to-do list just by virtue of their inclusion.
At WorldCon in Kansas City I got the chance to join Jo Walton on the Coode Street podcast, hosted by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe. We talked about writers that characterize different eras of science fiction, how science fiction differs rhetorically from fantasy (more detail on that here), and whether there’s a difference between the kinds of literary experimentation in the past and what is pursued today. As tends to happen, I fell a little bit into just listening to Jo be enviably clever, but I did get a chance to talk about the Iowa Writers’ Workshop’s modern support for genre writing, and contemporary writers who inspire me (going on for a bit about Carmen Maria Machado and Meghan McCarron and Carola Dibbell). You can listen to the episode on the Coode Street site, on your podcast player of choice through iTunes, or via the embedded player below.
I’m quite please to say that “The New Mother” has been selected for inclusion in Lethe Press’s Heiresses of Russ 2016: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction, edited by A. M. Dellamonica and Steve Berman. This will be the first time my work appears in a reprint anthology. It looks to be a gorgeous book, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it and learn who I’m sharing the TOC with. “Heiress of Russ” is an appellation I never would have claimed for myself, but couldn’t be happier to receive. You can buy the book from Lethe’s site here.
I did very little reading this past summer, my attention instead consumed by other responsibilities. These are the only books I managed the last few months.
- Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton – A book I’d saved for a time when I wanted to read something I was absolutely sure I would enjoy. It’s impossible to overstate how delightful and sly this is. I’ll be, I’m certain, revisiting this novel as comfort reading in the future.
- Drinking at the Movies by Julia Wertz – I’ve been reading Wertz’s comics online off and on for years, and it was nice to revisit these earlier strips.
- Astro Boy vol. 10 by Osamu Tezuka – Borrowed from Ada Palmer’s library, this volume collects the story arc in which Astro Boy must fight the robot Pluto. I read this so that I can at some point return to Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto with greater appreciation.
- Domu: A Child’s Dream by Katsuhiro Otomo – Another book borrowed from Ada Palmer, this is one I’d been wanting to read for a long time, I think since it was reviewed on Artbomb in the early 2000s. I love Otomo’s Akira, and this book in many ways feels like an earlier experiment in creating that world. It also reminded me that there has still never been another mangaka who draws action quite like Otomo does. I’m going to be buying a copy of this for my own collection.
- Engine Summer by John Crowley – Crowley’s prose is pristine, and much as in The Deep, here he employs a shadowy frame narrative that maintains an undercurrent of curiosity even as a hundred pages go by without the story glancing that way. This book is lyrical and contained, pleasant but not major. Still trying to work myself up to giving Little, Big another shot.
- Blindsight by Peter Watts –I think I fundamentally disagree with the philosophy of mind at the core of this novel, but very much enjoyed it nonetheless. I stayed up all night reading it in one go. Watts writes excellent, cutting sentences to hold some big science fiction ideas. I have many nitpicks, but Blindsight is a novel of real ambition and menace. I admire that.
April was an overwhelmingly busy month, and I only finished one book. But what a book it was.
- The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell – I had been recommended this book by enough people I trust that I already owned a copy when the Tiptree Honor list came out, with Dibbell’s novel featured. That was enough to bump it up to the top of the stack. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in years, tackling favorite themes like the compromises of parenthood, or the intersection of biology and identity, with such an assured voice and a slow-burn thoroughness that I was left in awe. My envy that someone else wrote this book instead of me is surpassed only by my gratitude that it exists at all. This is Dibbell’s debut novel, and it’s perfect. I feel honored to share an award list with her. I’m on to my next book now, but I keep being tempted to put it down and read The Only Ones again from the beginning. It’s that good.
- This Census-Taker by China Miéville – The first of his books that I’ve read since Embassytown, this short novel is a bit of a departure. It’s a study in voice and character that resists plot resolution in favor of mounting tonal stresses. Somewhat similar to Jeff VanderMeer’s Adaptation in that regard. And like that book, one I found pleasant enough while reading, but didn’t overly impress. I liked seeing a stylistic departure, though, even if it wasn’t my favorite thing of his I’ve read.
- Beasts & Children by Amy Parker – Amy is a friend from grad school, and her debut is a collection of linked short stories that look at caretaking as understood by children from their parents, parents toward their children, and humans toward animals. Each of these stories is strong on it’s own, but there’s a delightful momentum as you watch the main characters grow into adults, meet each other, face old problems from new angles with the weight of personal history behind them. The book gets better and better as it goes along.
- Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte – Another debut from a grad school friend. Tony’s novel has been getting deservedly glowing reviews all over the place, for its hyperliterate prose, its blistering satirical edge, and its photorealistic capturing of a familiar millennial mood. I read this straight through in less than a day, and then went back and re-read chapters that had lodged especially deeply.
- Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman, J. H. Williams III, Dave Stewart – Probably my favorite thing I’ve read by Neil Gaiman since The Graveyard Book, with typically astonishing art from J. H. Williams III. Made me want to go back and reread all of Sandman.
- Odd John by Olaf Stapeldon – I’m continually impressed with the breadth of Stapledon’s imagination, and how many of his ideas have since been reinvented and made cliche in ways he could never have anticipated. Odd John is the story of the birth, rearing, and death of a superhuman, perhaps an early member of one of the species of humanity described in Last and First Men. I found this book completely enjoyable right up until chapter 16, where there’s a huge knot of anthropological racism: a superhuman from Africa is characterized in ways that read to the modern eye as buffoonish stereotypes. The volume on such caricatures is turned down thereafter, but never quite goes to zero. It’s a shame, because the book is otherwise wonderful.
Another year, another book tracking tag. Whereas last year I made a point of focusing on gender diversity in my reading list, this year I’m focusing on something much more personal: working down the huge collection of books I own but haven’t read yet. These will be interspersed with more newly-released books than usual, as I have many friends with books coming out this year.
- The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi – I loved the first book in this trilogy, The Quantum Thief, and found the second book, The Fractal Prince, interesting. I really wanted to like the conclusion of the story, but I closed the book disappointed. It wasn’t bad, but where the previous books of the series seemed to constantly deepen the grand conceptual premises on offer, The Causal Angel feels much more shallow. The plot feels heavy-handed where previous installments seemed organic, and leads up to a deus ex machina conclusion that would actually be pretty satisfying except Rajaniemi gives the reader no tools to understand the consequences of the climactic change. That said, the writing remains as gripping as ever, and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.
- What Belongs To You by Garth Greenwell – The first of a bunch of books coming out this year from folks who were at Iowa with me. I didn’t actually know Garth, he showed up towards the end of my time there, but we have many friends in common, and heard rumblings about this book long before it hit shelves. It’s a short novel about an American teaching in Bulgaria and the intermittent relationship he has with a young male prostitute named Mitko. The novel in is in three sections, the first detailing the narrator and Mitko’s sexual relationship. The prose is pristine throughout, but for me the book really becomes impressive in the second section, a near stream-of-consciousness rumination on the main character’s childhood after he learns of the terminal illness of his father. The third section looks at the main character and Mitko’s relationship again, in light of our new understanding, as the relationship turns medically and socially fraught. A memorable book that’s been receiving absolutely glowing reviews. I’m not sure I feel as strongly about it as some of the people writing for major publications do, but it’s easy to recommend.
- Our Expanding Universe by Alex Robinson – Robinsons first book, Box Office Poison, was really important to me during my teens, and I’ve followed his career since waiting for another of his books to hit me that hard. None has, and maybe none will, but I’ve not regretted the journey. This book is about people in their late twenties and early thirties, negotiating their feelings about settling down, having children, giving up (or not) their childish ways. The scale isn’t ambitious, but the naturalistic dialog is fairly absorbing, and what grace notes there are all work.
- Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer – In his mid-80s, having already done every other damn thing under the sun, Jules Feiffer decided to pen a graphic novel. That should really be all you need to know, but I’ll add that it’s an intricately plotted, gritty story of family enmity and mistaken identity in the 1930s and 40s. Guns and dames, twists and turns. Great fun.