What I’ve Been Reading: January 2015

Illustration by Sandro Castelli for “The Half-Dark Promise”

In an effort to keep track of my reading, I’ve started writing down the stories I’ve been enjoying. Here’s this month’s round-up. All of them are linked, where applicable. If there’s something I’ve missed, or that I should totally read, leave a comment or send me a note at nanoonino [at] gmail [dot] com.

War Dances by Sherman Alexie. Alexie has been one of my favorite writers for years, ever since a college roommate showed me a video of Alexie and Saul Williams at the World Heavyweight Poetry Bout from 2001. (If links exist to this anywhere, holy shit, watch it and then tell me.) This is a newer collection (published in 2009) of Alexie’s stories and poems, both of which exemplify his casually heart-breaking style. Alexie is an incredibly nuanced and empathetic writer, but he can be absolutely brutal when he wants to be. HURTS SO GOOD.

War Stories: New Military Fiction edited by Andrew Liptak and Jaym Gates. I’m reviewing this for Future Fire. I’ll link to the actual review of it when it’s been published.

Folding Beijing” by Hao Jinfang, translated by Ken Liu. Holy shit, this story. This story has a really compelling world-building hook–Beijing is now made of three cities, all of which fold up and get tucked away during certain periods, to make room for the other cities, like a set of clockwork nesting dolls. It’s also a critique of wealth disparities and society’s disregard for the working class and the poor. Rather than just writing an allegory, though, Folding Beijing’s big ideas are anchored by its main character, a garbage sorter named Lao Dao, and his mission to make enough money to send a little girl to a good kindergarten, so she can have a chance at a better life. I really can’t emphasize how brilliant this story is. Seriously, just go read it.

Short Stories
The Unofficial Guide to Traveling With Kin“, by AJ Fitzwater, in Betwixt. Amanda is a classmate from Clarion, so I’m totally biased, but this story is wonderful, playful and fun while socking you right in the feels.

The Half-Dark Promise” by Malon Edwards in Shimmer. I’m a sucker for speculative stories set in Chicago, and if that wasn’t enought, this story has, in no particular order: a monster that eats children, a child fighting that monster WITH MACHETES, complicated family dynamics, and complicated histories. This story is, frankly, beautiful, and I immediately fanboy-ed all over Edwards on Twitter about this already. The protagonist is a young girl, a recent immigrant to Chicago from Haiti, and Edwards incorporates Haitian Creole into the prose with an amazing rhythm and poetry. (He talks about how and why he decided to use Creole in an interview here.)

Of Blood and Brine” by Megan E. O’Keefe. Shimmer is killing it this month with its stories. “Of Blood and Brine” is a wonderful story to read side-by-side with “The Half-Dark Promise”, since they’re both about young women coming into their own power. This story takes place in a secondary world where its citizens identify themselves by scent rather than name, and the as-of-yet unnamed protagonist works as an apprentice perfumer.

Flash Fiction (<1500 words)
How to Murder Your Friends” by Libby Cudmore, in Stoneslide Corrective. Apparently, this story won Stoneslide’s Snap Contest”, and it deserves it. I loved this story, even as it disturbed me. It’s charmingly fucked-up, a neat, compact story about deeply messy relationships.  Quote: Murder is so personal; you don’t know how much someone really loves you until they’ve admitted how they would end your life. (Trigger warnings for violent fantasies.)

Unconventional Advice for the Discerning Reader” by Sophie Wereley in Daily Science Fiction. Flash fiction is a great way to play with formats, and Wereley’s story takes the form of a witchy advice column. There’s beautiful imagery and some genuinely wonderful advice herein.

The Queen’s Aviary” by Yoon Ha Lee in Daily Science Fiction. An excellent grimdark fairytale about power and prophecy.

Comics/Graphic Novels
2015 is apparently the year that I devour every comic that Matt Fraction has ever written. I read through the first two volumes of Hawkeye when I was sick early this month, and bought the first volume of Sex Criminals two weeks ago. Fraction’s writing is smart, funny, and emotionally intelligent. His characters have rich interior lives, which they consistently fuck up through questionable life choices. He seems to work with amazing artists as well: Chip Zdarsky on Sex Criminals and David Aja, whose style is very reminiscent of Chris Ware’s, on Hawkeye.

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