Solaris Rising 3, a 2014 science fiction anthology edited by Ian Whates, is a solid and memorable collection. There’s a story from Aliette de Bodard’s award-winning Dai Viet universe, a far future postcolonial space opera, that brings to mind the horrifying real-world consequences of left-behind minefields. Ken Liu’s anti-colonialist “Homo Floresiensis” is told from the perspective of modern biologists in Indonesia and contains my favorite line, as it encapsulates so succinctly the failure of the artistic legacy of the colonialist perspective: The jungle, he saw now, was neither Eden nor the heart of darkness. Beautiful, right?
The stories in this anthology are cerebral while also being pretty straightforward. I was really jonesing for some stuff in space, and I much enjoyed the very creepy aliens in Chris Beckett’s “The Goblin Hunter” and Laura Lam’s “They Swim Through Sunset Seas.” There’re also time traveling martial vampires and participants in an unethical dystopian experiment, amongst other subjects.
In this very even collection of thought-provoking stories, these two stand out to me most:
“When We Harvested the Nacre-Rice” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (yes, I am reading all the things) is my first introduction to her Hegemonic universe. Military science fiction with a feminine touch and a South Asian feel is a fairly rare combination, and this was the story that made it click that I love military SF, especially when it’s written by women. In this story two civilizations are at war, one that is fought not with bombs or artillery but across neural networks; attacks are waged by disrupting emotions, cognition, and memory. Payahal rescues a drowning stranger who, unbeknownst to her, possesses the power to change the course of battle. Arthropodous machines and imaginative culinary constructions (opal tea!) make this story a treat imagery-wise, as per usual for Sriduangkaew.
Within the anthology is also a stylistic celebration of space exploration from Alex Dally MacFarlane — I feel like “Popular Images from the First Manned Mission to Enceladus” (bonus points for cool title) could have been lengthened into a novelette or short novella. I think I just want more of it or stories like it; it’s super-refreshing to read a story about the excitement to discover the only sort of aliens we’re at all likely to find anytime soon — microscopically tiny multicellular organisms on one of Saturn’s tiny moons. The story deals with the conflict between science and business as well. The author brings her literary A-game; where Sriduangkaew excels with sensory imagery, MacFarlane does with cool narrative constructions and voice. As the editor alludes to in the introduction, these are two new literary heavyweights, and their careers will be fun to follow.
Only one story this week, as events have left me feeling so lost; I went about ten days without being able to focus on a blessed word of fiction. “Cold as the Moon” by Sunny Moraine, in which protagonist Susan loses her family to the cold and solitude, broke the hiatus. Favorite line: You used to think about walking away, about running but you stayed, because someone had to, because someone had to be human, because you thought there might still be some love buried deep down with the rot, and finally because you hated, because hate binds tight and cold as chains.
This one’s quite emotionally resonant, particularly if you’ve ever watched your family break down, and is told in the very engaging — and very real — voice of an adolescent girl.
I’ve tried to write. I’ve tried to read. But it’s pretty much impossible to concentrate on either when there’s some live Orwellian dystopian shit going down in middle America. I have Ancillary Justice on my e-reader, I have de Bodard and Griffith and Elizabeth Hand and I can’t even.
Media blackouts and snipers and tear gas and politicians/journalists being arrested for taking video recordings and because… what? Some folks did about as much damage in reaction to a cop killing an unarmed kid as you find in a southern town after a particularly exciting SEC football game? The Bill of Rights have been suspended in a city in America, a teenage kid is dead and more have been injured all at the hands of police, and if you care as much about some TV’s being stolen as all that? Stay the hell away from me.
I don’t have words. Not adequate ones, anyway. The racism in the media coverage (and lack of coverage) of these events has been appalling, as has the racism of law enforcement involved. I hope to be book blogging again soon, because I know that even though my brain doesn’t work that way, for a lot of people horror is made more bearable with the escapism that fiction provides.
But today, my mind and heart are in Missouri.
Scale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, a novella from Immersion Press to be published August 31. I’ve actually already read this as the author was kind enough to send me an ARC; but I’m looking forward to rereading it, which I’m going to now that I’ve read all the stories that serve as further background for the characters and the mythology. I’ll be reviewing this elseweb around the date it’s published, so for now I’ll just say: this belongs in your TBR pile. I’ve read a lot of great stuff this year. Stuff that won awards. That was nominated for ALL THE THINGS. And this novella along with its companion The Archer Who Shot Down Suns is one of the best. Evocative imagery, relatable — and adorable — characters, adventure and romance and the prose is just, damn, I still have to figure out how to review this without bursting into song. Continue reading
Trying something new: a weekly post spotlighting and micro-reviewing two short stories — one science fiction, one fantasy — both featuring diversity. The theme of this week is women warriors.
“Makeisha in Time” by Rachel K. Jones: A time-traveler lives a thousand lifetimes and fights a hundred thousand battles, the most consuming being black women’s erasure from history. Coolest idea: securing peace via polygamous marriage to vanquished lords’ daughters in order to form a community of loyal, capable government officials. Favorite sentence: Makeisha has seen the sun rise over prehistoric shores, where the ocean writhed with soft, slimy things that bore the promise of dung beetles, Archeopteryx, and Edgar Allan Poe.
“Woman of the Sun, Woman of the Moon” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew: Heavenly archer Houyi hunts demons, endures exile, and incurs the wrath of gods, but faces no challenge so daunting as the moon’s abduction of the serving-woman who captured her fierce warrior heart. Coolest idea: to with both wry humor and tragedy blend the struggles of women and LGBTQ couples into celestial China; the gender dynamics of this story could justify an entire post. Favorite line: There are stars in her mouth, and night in her bones.
The first story will stir your blood; the second will make your eyes tear; both will make you think, and delight in adventure.
I’ve blogged before about why Sansa is my favorite character in Game of Thrones, and other people have blogged better in defense of her being a feminist character. Yesterday Anne Perry at Pornokitsch posted an excellent essay that I almost entirely agree with (I particularly enjoyed the part about the princess-in-a-fairy-tale trope reversals), in which the salient point is that we may like Arya, we may identify with Arya — that Arya, who bucks the system and swears vengeance does what is right and proper in fantasy texts — but Sansa is who we are. (In fact, it calls to mind a great essay I can’t find — maybe by Mark Millar? — positing a similar argument about Batman and Superman, respectively.) Continue reading
It’s amazing, the responses you get, when you say that you read mostly women SF/F authors. It’s almost like the SF/F community bends over backwards to mansplain that reading mostly male authors is a signpost of simply reading quality fiction, but if you’re reading mostly female authors, you are TEH ONE TRUE SEXIST!!!1!1111!!
I have switched paradigms — dude authors must do something spectacular to get my attention. I have readjusted my mental antennae to receive female-authored broadcasts. Changed the default, if you will: in which it’s not “authors” and “lady authors,” but “authors” and “dude authors.” If the latter but not the former makes you uncomfortable, I’d posit that this is a good starting place for examining prejudice.
So here are some dude authors I’ve discovered recently whose works are sufficiently impressive to tune in: Continue reading
I read this book Game of Thrones a while back and it was just so full of emotions and angst and romance that it’s icky.
It opens with this scene that clearly indicates the brutality of the culture of Westeros, in which the Stark boys — Robb, Bran, and bastard-born Jon Snow — must watch their father execute a criminal. The Stark kiddos have a lot of feelings about this. They wonder how they’ll be able to do this job in the future, and do something like empathize with both their father and the convicted criminal. At the same time! They are like, ambivalent! Emotions more complex than rage? Cannot be borne. And if that’s not bad enough, on the way home, they pick up some direwolf puppies. For fuck’s sake. Puppies? Really? Yeah dudes, it’s a signpost of what’s to come: all the fee-fees, these characters have them. Continue reading
Feminism is not just an ideology. It’s a responsibility. While we all screw up, because we are all socially conditioned by patriarchy and dismantling the bad paradigms we absorb takes work, by assigning your space with the label “feminist” you are making a certain social unspoken commitment.
And part of that commitment is to not colossally screw up harassment cases.
I’m not going to go into the logistics of the fail because other people understand it far better (Natalie Luhrs has done a great job compiling the relevant information), other than to point out the fact that despite having zero connections to organized fandom I had heard of this guy and his bad behavior years ago. Instead I’m going to go over the messages sent and received.
It should be quite obvious, but in case it needs to be stated, catering in one’s rhetoric to the redemption narrative of someone who serially harasses women sends a message to harassers and potential ones that their behavior will be light on consequences, and that their comfort is more significant than that of the women they are harassing. It sends those same messages to those who have been harassed or might be.
It discourages people from reporting harassment, because once one has reported harassment one has a greater emotional stake in the results. Someone has put their ass on the line, because reporting harassment is never consequence-free — amongst other dangers, one faces the possibility of retaliation by the harasser and his or her supporters — and this particular failure added to those consequences.
When a self-declared feminist organization screws up a harassment case and follow-up this badly, including spreading dishonest victim-blaming crap that the harmed party then has to defend herself against, they add an icky layer of betrayal to an experience already, at best, highly unpleasant. And in this case, the harm caused to the reporters seems to be far greater than the consequences faced by the dude who harassed them.
If all that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. This is a reinforcement of rape culture.
I began this LGBT speculative fiction reading challenge a few months ago and it’s broadened my reading experience a lot. I started this and the women authors of color challenge for reasons that were political, a means to try to be an ally in one of the ways I’m most capable (i.e. reading books and talking about them a lot, something I’m well-versed in, ahem). The real boon of these challenges has been in the great books I probably never otherwise would have found; most of the time I forget the original purpose behind participating and frequently forget to mention that books feature LGBTQ protagonists when I review stuff. Hence this post. Continue reading