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Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

Busy day today, and none of the three ideas I had for this post came together. Instead, have some fiction, this time read to you by Levar Burton. (You know, the Jeopardy host, and oh yes, Roots and Star Trek and Reading Rainbow and a few other things as well;)

His podcast is Levar Burton Reads, and he picks some of the best speculative short* fiction out there. So when you have a few minutes, sit back, listen, and relax.

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Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

* Shortish, anyway. Reading aloud always takes a bit of time, so a typical episode is about an hour.

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How does fiction help us reimagine the future of worlds, including our own? This essay explores the history of that relationship:

A Century of Science Fiction That Changed How We Think About the Environment

If we think about science fiction (sf) in terms of the genre’s connections to pressing issues in 21st-century culture, no topic is more urgent than climate change and the ways it promises to transform all aspects of human life, from where we live to how we cultivate our food to what energy sources will fuel our industries.

Preparedness discourse responds to change, understood as disaster, through strategies of containment. But science fiction offers something much more. It offers us a way of thinking and perceiving, a toolbox of methods for conceptualizing, intervening in, and living through rapid and widespread change — and the possibility to direct it toward an open future that we (re)make.

Here’s to thinking new thoughts, building new worlds, and making them.

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Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

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One of my favorite reads is the terrific* Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews.  

Here’s the first book:

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels, #1) by Ilona Andrews

This husband and wife team also have a number of other great books, all starring kick-ass women willing to go to any lengths to save what needs saving.

The writing is excellent, the plots fresh and unpredictable in the best ways, and the characters, even the bad ones, are complex and well-drawn. (The authors are particularly adept at helping readers understand, and at times forgive, even the darkest characters.)

What’s not to love?

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So when I decided it was time to learn how to make a vintage-style travel postcard, I thought of Atlanta. Not the vibrant city it is now, but as Kate sees it after magic returns to the world, complete with mysterious denizens, vampire Casinos, witch jungles, shapeshifter Keeps, ruins and one lone high rise. 

Welcome to Atlanta.

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Original photos by Shashidhar SMorica PhamHidayat AbisenaMichael DenningCory GazailleToa HeftibaAustrian National Library & Christopher Alvarenga on Unsplash

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* Feel free to disagree with me, I don’t mind. Just know that I am right;)

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Have I mentioned that I have a museum? Its archives are mysterious and its vaults are deep.

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Shadows of multi-dimensional butterflies, visible only once every two-hundred thirty-four years. Faithfully recorded by Miss Kara Ellen Swanlea.

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This is fun: 

Eat Like Jane Austen With Recipes From Her Sister-In-Law’s Cookbook – Gastro Obscura

If you’ve ever wondered what Jane Austen ate, or if the menus in her books were true to life, this is the link for you. Here’s the book the article highlights.

And if you’ve ever thought about what life was like on the other side of the scullery door, check out Longbourn by Jo Baker

In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. 

I found the world below-stairs fascinating, and not just because I’m the sort of person who likes to learn about practical and medicinal plant properties, or what chilblains felt like.

It’s good to give every person a chance to be the main character, you know?

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Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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This is an entry from my book of beginnings. It’s fiction, but inspired by my grandmother (yes, the whippersnapper).

She was loving and kind and sweet. She also lived through an alcoholic father, abandonment, and the Great Depression, and was a lot tougher than she looked. She and my grandfather were enthusiastic travelers. The family story was that she kept a series of journals about their trips, starting with their honeymoon. In Cuba.

If I’d ever found those journals, it would not have surprised me if she was also a spy.

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Cuba 1937

I was 24 when my grandmother died, the same age she’d been when she got married. My father called to give me the sad news. She’d been sick, but she lived a full life. She was the neighborhood bridge and poker champion in her neighborhood circle for most of the half-century she lived there and she led the women’s golf game every year. The next day I went to the house, to help my father sort through her things.

She was my favorite grandmother, and not just because she was a fantastic baker. My brother and I would sit at her kitchen table, eating pound cake and cookies while she told us stories. That’s what I liked best, the stories. She and Grandpa were travelers, starting when they got married and only stopping months before their deaths. That’s what they lived for, and listening to Grandma talk about souks, the Amazon rainforest, the glaciers of Alaska and the mountains of Italy, I thought I knew why.

“She left you something.”

My father had opened the door in a T-shirt, dressed for what was sure to be a messy task. Sorting through the remnants of eight decades would take us a while. I followed him into the kitchen and poured myself a cup of tea. I stood at the table waiting for the hot liquid to cool, and wondered what minor treasure I might receive.

“You’re lucky. The box they were in was sealed up nice and tight.”

The bundle was solid, and heavy. I set it on the table and unwrapped the musty fabric covering.

“I didn’t know anyone used oilcloth anymore.”

“These go back a long time.”

Inside the oilcloth envelope was a stack of books. They were different sizes and shapes, starting with a school notebook and progressing to leather-bound hardcovers. Each one had a short title written on the cover in my grandmother’s elegant script.

Looking over my shoulder, my father smiled.

“She knew how much you enjoyed her stories, so she wanted you to have her travel journals. This should be every trip she took over more than fifty years.”

Treasure indeed. Realizing that the most recent accounts were on top, I re-stacked the journals to uncover the oldest, her first trip. The black and white cardboard cover was grayed with age and blank except for her name. The pages were stiff, and for a moment I was afraid that the paper had completely fused together. A little work at the edges, though, and I was able to gently open it to the first page. Yellow with age, the corners cracked but the ink was still dark and bold.

She’d put the title inside, as if unwilling to announce it on the book’s cover.

“Cuba,” it read, “1937.”

This was where it all began.

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Photo by Dorothea OLDANI on Unsplash

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Good to Know

Recent chat transcript with my father (note the time stamps):

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Photo by Frank Busch on Unsplash

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Book Magic

Does this happen to you? Sometimes I read a book and it’s bad. Maybe I learn a few things about what not to do, but the characters are too stupid to live or the author wants me to root for an ass, the story ends too early or too late, or some essential plot point is broken. This drives me a little bit nuts.

I finish the book and am left not with the happy satisfying end of story feeling, but with bad book juju. Is that a thing? It should be.

I’m left a little cranky, and nothing is as it should be.

My drink is too hot or too cold. Lunch tastes weird. My clothes fit funny. Even cookies don’t have their usual delicious snap.

Until I find a new book, a good book, and all is right again:)

Just me?*

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Photo by Keenan Constance on Unsplash

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* Of course it’s not just me:) This is why authors work so hard to provide a satisfying reader experience. This is also why I reread books I know I love.

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Oh hey, just when I was running out of high-quality sci-fi, the universe gives me (drum roll please)… The 2019 Nebula Award Finalists!

Free links where available. Enjoy!

Novel

  • Marque of Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Orbit UK)
  • A Memory Called Empire, Arkady Martine (Tor)
  • Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey; Jo Fletcher)
  • Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing)
  • A Song for a New Day, Sarah Pinsker (Berkley)

Novella

  • “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom”, Ted Chiang (Exhalation)
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone (Saga; Jo Fletcher)
  • Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water, Vylar Kaftan (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Deep, Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes (Saga)
  • Catfish Lullaby, A.C. Wise (Broken Eye)

Novelette

Short Story

The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book

  • Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, Carlos Hernandez (Disney Hyperion)
  • Catfishing on CatNet, Naomi Kritzer (Tor Teen)
  • Dragon Pearl, Yoon Ha Lee (Disney Hyperion)
  • Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions, Henry Lien (Holt)
  • Cog, Greg van Eekhout (Harper)
  • Riverland, Fran Wilde (Amulet)

Game Writing

  • Outer Wilds, Kelsey Beachum (Mobius Digital)
  • The Outer Worlds, Leonard Boyarsky, Megan Starks, Kate Dollarhyde, Chris L’Etoile (Obsidian Entertainment)
  • The Magician’s Workshop, Kate Heartfield (Choice of Games)
  • Disco Elysium, Robert Kurvitz (ZA/UM)
  • Fate Accessibility Toolkit, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry (Evil Hat Productions)

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

  • Avengers: Endgame, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Marvel Studios)
  • Captain Marvel, Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck & Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Marvel Studios)
  • Good Omens: “Hard Times”, Neil Gaiman (Amazon Studios/BBC Studios)
  • The Mandalorian: “The Child”, Jon Favreau (Disney+)
  • Russian Doll: “The Way Out”, Allison Silverman and Leslye Headland (Netflix)
  • Watchmen: “A God Walks into Abar”, Jeff Jensen & Damon Lindelof (HBO)

 

*** pew pew! ***

Photo by Nathan Duck on Unsplash

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The folks over at Boing Boing have listed last night’s 2019 Hugo award winners, complete with links:

Best Novel: The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
Best Novella: Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells (Tor.com publishing)
Best Novelette: “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)
Best Short Story: “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)
Best Series: Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
Best Related Work: Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works
Best Graphic Story: Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
Best Professional Editor (Short Form): Gardner Dozois
Best Professional Editor, Long Form: Navah Wolfe
Best Professional Artist: Charles Vess
Best Semiprozine: Uncanny Magazine
Best Fanzine: Lady Business
Best Fancast: Our Opinions Are Correct
Best Fan Writer: Foz Meadows
Best Fan Artist: Likhain (Mia Sereno)
Best Art Book: The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin (Saga Press / Gollancz)
Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book: Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt / Macmillan Children’s Books)
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Jeannette Ng
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman (Sony)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: The Good Place: “Janet(s),” written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan, directed by Morgan Sackett (NBC)

So excited to see my favorite Murderbot and the Wayfarers series get some love, and I’m looking forward to checking out some of the others on the roster. For more reading material, check out Tor.com’s full list of nominees. Enjoy!

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