What I’ve Been Reading: September 2015

In an effort to keep track of my reading, I’ve started taking notes about the stories I’ve been enjoying. All of them are linked, where applicable. If there’s something I’ve missed, or that I should read, leave a comment or send me a note at nanoonino [at] gmail [dot] com.

Novels:

Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer
Spiraling weirdness, converging stories, and some explanations that do nothing to illuminate the greater mysteries of Area X. I think each of the three books in the Southern Reach trilogy stand on their own while also creating an amazing arc. Bravo.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Bradbury, I’ve decided, can write sentences and scenes that will pull the air out of my chest, but has a pretty serious myopia about the politics of censorship. For people interested in histories of the destruction of books (it’s depressing, but also incredibly interesting), I’d recommend two titles: Libricide: The Regime-Sponsored Destruction of Books and Libraries by Rebecca Knuth, and A Universal History of the Destruction of Books by Fernando Baez.

Anthologies

Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction From Social Justice Movements, edited by Walida Imarisha and adrienne maree brown. I’ll be reviewing this for Strange Horizons.

Podcasts

Limetown finally released a second episode. The story continues to intrigue me, but I’m not quite hooked. A large part of that has to do with the nature of serialized stories. I need consistency to maintain interest. When episodes are spaced out over a couple months, audiences tend to drift away, especially when there’s no backlog of episodes.

Selected Shorts produced a live reading of Stephen Colbert reading “The Enduring Chill” by Flannery O’Connor, and it’s sheer magic. O’Connor has a gift for skewering the well-meaning white liberal, and this story falls somewhere between Moliere’s Imaginary Invalid and Zadie Smith’s On Beauty; a pointed satire on race, religion, and intellectualism.

Reveal, produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, did a series of podcasts about missing persons and unidentified bodies in the US. This month, they’re tackling the water crisis in North America.

Two new-to-me podcasts recommendations: The Mystery Show and Transistor. Mystery Show’s host attempts to solve her friends’ mysteries, which can be anything from the fate of a New York video store, to Jake Gyllenhal’s real height. Transistor is a STEM podcast, with stories about things like Math Mimes and the when PMS was used as a legal defense.

Also, you should probably listen to Amal El-Mohtar reading her story, “The Truth About Owls” in Podcastle.

Short Stories

“A Letter From the Clearys” by Connie Willis, from The Best of Connie Willis, originally published in Asimov’s in July 1982. I can see why this won the Nebula back in the day. A slow reveal, a tight focus on family dynamics, a spirited narrator, and a rising tension. This story is brilliant.

Sleepless” by Natalia Theodoridou, published in sub-Q. An interactive story, “Sleepless” has multiple threads that branch out from its first page. Humans have stopped sleeping, and our narrator walks through a not-quite-awake world: listens to callers on a helpline, wanders through a nightclub, talks with the patrons and servers at a 24 hour diner. I’ve noticed that sub-q also has interactive stories by two of my other favorite contemporary short SFF writers: Yoon Ha Lee and Vajra Chandrasekera. I’m looking forward to playing around more on this site.

Ten Things To Know About the Ten Questions” by Gwendolyn Kiste, published in Nightmare Magazine. People are disappearing, and nobody can explain why, or where they’ve gone. The narrator is a young girl navigating strained family dynamics, friendships, and an oppressive school and government that seeks, above all else, to keep its people where they are. The questions in the title refer to a mandatory test for how likely one is to disappear, and these questions provide the framework for the story. I enjoyed this multi-layered story a lot.

All In a Hot and Copper Sky” by Megan Arkenberg, published in Lightspeed. In a series of letters, written only inside her head, Dolores Alvarez recounts how her lover Socorro’s crime, which has been made infamous in the intervening decades since her trial and conviction. Dolores and Socorro were both volunteers in a biosphere project, a real-time experiment to see if several hundred people could live in an isolated, locked-down habitat for two years. When the oxygen filters failed, Socorro forced the guards at gunpoint to open the habitat to the outside atmosphere, and killed two of them. Ever since, Dolores has had to answer for Socorro’s crime. This story explores the metaphorical albatross that’s been hung around the narrator’s neck, how much of this is her responsibility, and what duties she has to prevent such an experiment from happening again.

Glaciers Made You” by Gabby Reed, published in Strange Horizons. “I look hard in the mirror that night, but the words aren’t there before the skin peels off. It isn’t there if it peels off on its own, either. I have to pull it, and then the words come.” Geography, skin, family, blood, and words: a gorgeous, poetic, and painful story. If you want to read more of Gabby’s work, but need some time to heal your heart, I suggest their flash story “If Ramgoth the Unyielding Were Your Boyfriend,” published on their site.

The Closest Thing to Animals” by Sofia Samatar in Fireside Fiction. Samatar is an incredibly thoughtful writer; I can’t think of a better word to describe her stories than “generous”. Her stories give so much while being easy to read, easy to fall into. I also recommend her essay that was published in New Inquiry this month, “Skin Feeling,” about diversity, jazz, race, and visibility.

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