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Halloween Favorites: Short Fiction

Halloween is my favorite season, and yes, it is a full season and not just a single day. The cooler weather, the leaves rattling in the trees, all things pumpkin, and of course candy and costumes – what’s not to love? It’s also the perfect time of year to immerse oneself in seasonal fiction. In that spirit, every Friday in October, I’ll be posting some of my favorite reads and watches that never fail to put me in mind of Halloween, starting with short fiction.

Scary Stories to Tell in the DarkFirst beloved, best beloved, and always in my heart is the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, three volumes of folklore gathered by Alvin Schwartz, from urban legends, to campfire ghost tales, to eerie poems and rhymes, and everything in-between. Of course, the definitive version of these collections are the ones illustrated by Stephen Gammell whose horrifying illustrations make the stories that much more unnerving. My first encounter with the books was being read one of the stories in a classroom by a teacher. I immediately sought out the full collection in the school library, and eventually purchased copies of my own, reading and re-reading until the covers were cracked and tattered. They make regular appearances on the most frequently banned books list, and probably with good cause, but that’s all the more reason to read them, no matter what your age.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – a classic tale of gas-lighting whose true horror lies in the treatment of the protagonist by her physician husband, but which doesn’t skimp on the haunting and unsettling imagery.

The Color Out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft – elder gods and unimaginable horrors from the deep are all well and good, but for my money, the creepiest of Lovecraft’s stories is this one about an unnatural color that slowly and steadily drains the life from the land and people around it.

October CountryIt’s impossible to pick just one Ray Bradbury story to recommend, so I’ll recommend a whole collection, The October Country, which perfectly encapsulates the notion that Halloween isn’t just one day, or even a season, it’s a whole damn country. It’s a state of mind, a turning of the leaves, and a creeping dark. So many of my favorites are gathered here: Skeleton, The Jar, The Small Assassin, Homecoming, but really, the whole collection is brilliant from beginning to end.

each thing i show you is a piece of my death by Gemma Files and Stephen Barringer – I’m a sucker for found footage and horror stories about film, and this is one of the best, the kind of story that sticks with you long after you put it down.

eyes i dare not meet in dreams by Sunny Moraine – dead girls climbing out of refrigerators, dead girls on train tracks, dead girls wanting everything and nothing and refusing to stay in their graves. This isn’t a traditional ghost story, but it is certainly haunting.

The Husband Stitch by Carmen Maria Machado – another story where the true horror lies in a husband’s treatment of his wife, but playing off the kind of urban legends gathered by Alvin Schwartz, and drawing on the very act of storytelling, complete with instructions to the reader on how to interact with their audience.

Really any collection edited by Ellen Datlow that tends toward the dark and the horrific is a sure bet for Halloween reading, and there are plenty to choose from: The Doll Collection, Nightmare Carnival, Hauntings, or any one of her Year’s Best Horror anthologies.

The stories above are just a small sampling of horrific tales, but they’re certainly a good place to start. What are your favorite short stories to read and re-read around Halloween?

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Queer Collections

In among shiny novels, novellas, and even multi-author anthologies, single author short story collections often get overlooked. I’m admittedly biased since they published my two collections, but Lethe Press, publishes some really standout collections, and there are a few recent releases I want to highlight.

Forget the Sleepless ShoresForget the Sleepless Shores by Sonya Taaffe is hot off the presses this month. It’s a gorgeous collection, echoing with themes of loss, longing, and separation. Many of the stories either draw from mythology and history, or create their own, giving them a timeless, fairy tale feel. As a result, the characters have a sense of lives extending far beyond the page, as though the reader is merely peeking in on a slice of their lives. They feel familiar and strange all at once, giving the stories a haunted, and unsettling feel, in the best of ways. Another common thread tying the collection together is Taaffe’s meticulous use of language. Not only is the imagery striking, but sentences are constructed with a unique sense of rhythm that shakes the reader out of complacency and makes them carefully consider each word, its placement, and what Taaffe is saying. There’s a poetic quality and a flow to the language that only increases the dreamy, magical feel saturating the collection.

His scream shocked silence into his mouth, brought him scrambling upright in bed as though he could climb out of his flame-ridden flesh: plaster cool against his sweating spine, late moonlight in watery bars across the wicker-backed chair draped with his pants and Niko’s socks and somebody’s under-shirt, and Niko in the darkness beside him, slow with sleep and sharp with worry, saying “Blake? Blake, love. What’s wrong?”

–Little Fix of Friction

There are ghost stories, a father trying to reconcile with a daughter born of the sea, a dybbuk carried inside a lover’s skin, restless spirits, bodies buried in peat, and a monster born from the weight of history and science and the atomic bomb. Each story is unique, but again connected by that timeless feel and a beauty of language. In an overall strong collection, the stories that stood out as my favorites were “Little Fix of Friction”, “On the Blindside”, “The Boatman’s Cure”, “The Dybbuk in Love”, “Like Milkweed”, “The Salt House”, and “The Creeping Influences”.

Not Here Not NowNot Here. Not Now. was published earlier this year, and contains both short stories and novellas. The settings are far-ranging in both geographical location and time period, from historical to contemporary, and from the Greek isles, to the streets of New York, from a desert island, to the canals and opera houses of Venice. Jeffers adapts the voice of each piece to suit the setting, and does an impressive job of it. In the introduction to “A Handbook for the Castaway”, the author admits to inventing a “faux-seventeenth-century dialect”, however it feels authentic, perfectly suited to the piece, making the characters’ words come alive so the reader hears the cadence of them as they go along. Some of the same themes encountered in Taaffe’s collection are here as well, in particular myth and history, but they play out very differently. There’s less of a fairy tale feel to Jeffers’ pieces, but again, the language employed for each makes them feel grounded, imbuing them with a sense of place and history.

Hunger drove me out at dusk. I followed the trail my brother had made dragging what was left of our sister. I began to smell fresher blood and to hear noises, horrible noises, chuckles and coughs and chirps. Peering between a rock and a leafy bush, I saw a wake of black vultures squabbling over the corpse of my small brother and our sister’s few disjointed bones.

— The Hyena’s Blessing

While there are ghouls and sirens to be found in the collection’s pages, many stories do away with the fantastical element altogether, or touch on it very lightly. Alongside the fantastical creatures, there is also a castrato singer, and a young boy suffering terrible migraines and obsessed with the Harry Clarke illustrations of the work of Edgar Allan Poe. There is love, both unrequited and reciprocated, lust and sex, hearts broken and hearts mended. It’s a deeply human collection, one that elegantly straddles worlds real and unreal. The stories that stood out to me in particular were “You Deserve”, “Seb and Duncan and the Sirens”, “A Handbook for the Castaway”, “The Hyena’s Blessing”, “Captain of the World”, and “The New People”.

Acres of PerhapsAcres of Perhaps by Will Ludwigsen, also published earlier this year, just happens to be part of the special sale Lethe Press has going on right now, so it’s the perfect time to snag a copy. It’s a slender collection, but one with an interesting conceit. Many of the pieces are fragmentary, describing episodes of a non-existent, Twilight Zone-like TV show, called Acres of Perhaps. Like The Twilight Zone, Acres of Perhaps occasionally pushes boundaries to make both political points and artistic ones, while other episodes are straight up campy sci-fi. All of this is established in the opening story of the collection, appropriately titled “Acres of Perhaps”. The story focuses on the fictional show’s writers, each with their own vision for the series. The “tortured genius” of the bunch, David, believes he’s had an actual encounter with the supernatural, after falling through a hole in a massive stump in the woods, and emerging in a weird mirror-world where everyone is almost, but not quite like themselves, and where he is more creative and productive than he ever could have been in the reality where he belongs. The story plays with and deconstructs the idea of genius, and the creative muse, and what counts as an acceptable sacrifice in the name of art – health, family, friendship, love? The story blurs the line between reality and fiction, never fully answering the question “of whether anything supernatural is going on, and it’s all the stronger for it.

It was dark, just as David had described. There was a slight intimation of a breeze, breathing also like he’d said. My eyes couldn’t focus on the bottom, black and speckled with something like stars. It might have been night on the other side, where David Findley was still writing in an attic somewhere with a bottle of gin beside him.

–Acres of Perhaps

The story feels true – the rivalry and affection between the writers, the struggle against budget constraints and studio notes, David’s battle with alcoholism, and Barry and his lover having to live a closeted life due to the attitudes of the time, yet still being able to enjoy support and acceptance within their writers’ circle. The snippets of episodes interspersed with the other stories in the collection add richness to the opening story and vice versa. While the other stories are not directly connected to Acres of Perhaps, they do have the uncanny feel of stories that could take place within the series’ universe, with many exploring alternate timelines – particularly “Night Fever”, which places Charles Manson in the era of disco, and “Poe at Gettysburg”, which imagines Edgar Allan Poe as president – and asking the all important question at the heart of that type of science fiction show: “what if”.

To close things out, I’ll include a shout-out for two slightly older Lethe titles – A. Merc Rustad’s wonderful So You Want to Be a Robot, and  Livia Llewellyn’s Engines of Desire. Both contain stories that are simultaneously brutal and gorgeously written, delivering gut-punches and breathtaking prose in one go. Many of Rustad’s stories explore the complexities of gender and humanity through the lens of the fantastic, while Llewellyn turns that same lens on sexuality, desire, and violence. Llewellyn’s collection skirts the edge of horror, and indeed was twice-nominated for the Shirley Jackson award, while Rustad’s collection spans genres, from rich, secondary world fantasy, to contemporary science fiction, and all the interstitial spaces in-between.

I’d highly recommend browsing Lethe’s catalogue, especially now with the aforementioned sale going on. The press also publishes novels, novellas, and anthologies, all worth checking out. In addition to the content of the collections being top-notch, Lethe’s books look and feel good too, with striking covers and excellent layout and design. As always, I remain a firm believer in there being no such thing as too many books in a TBR pile. Happy reading!

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A Shimmery Appreciation

These days, the news feels like a relentless cycle of horror. Every day, every hour, brings something new and terrifying. It’s hard not to cringe, while looking at social media or scanning headlines, reflexively tensing for whatever new blow is sure to fall.

Shimmer MagazineBut I’m not here to talk about the bad things. I’m here to talk about one very good thing, a lovely thing that has been bringing joy and art and beauty into the world for thirteen years – Shimmer Magazine. While this post is a celebration of a fine publication and the hard-working badgers who bring its digital and physical pages to life, it is a bittersweet post as well. A farewell. Recently, Shimmer announced it will be closing its pages for the last time this coming November. It will be very much missed.

Since 2005, Shimmer has consistently published gorgeous, dreamy, gut-punching, heart-wrenching and haunting stories. These are stories about outer space and unseen realms, the living, the dead, the possible and the impossible. Its pages are full of realms that were and might be and never were – magic, love, friendship, ghosts, witches, birds, and so much more. Above all, stories that were and are undeniably…shimmery.

I’ve had the good fortune to be published by Shimmer on several occasions. When I was first starting out as a baby writer, Shimmer was a publication I  aspired to. My first acceptance from them was a dream come true, and that thrill never went away. Publisher Beth Wodzinski, Senior Editor E. Catherine Tobler, and the entire Shimmer team have always been a joy to work with. My favorite piece of editorial advice, in fact, came from Shimmer, and it was simply this: add more tentacles. That, my friends, is never ever the wrong answer, no matter the situation.

Shimmer July 2016Even though the era of Shimmer is ending, it will always have a special place in my heart. Rather than mourn its loss, now seems like the perfect time to celebrate its exsistence by highlighting some of my favorite Shimmer stories (or least my favorites since I started keeping track). There are a lot to choose from. In these dark times, may I suggest pouring yourself your favorite beverage, snuggling up with a pet or a loved one, and reading something beautiful as an act of resistance? Browse through Shimmer’s vast archives, and you’re bound to find something that strikes your fancy. I certainly did.

The Earth and Everything Under by K.M. Ferebee – a beautiful and haunting story of magic, birds, love and loss.

Be Not Unequally Yoked by Alexis A. Hunter – a powerful story of first love, transformation, and finding your place in the world.

A Whisper in the Weld by Alix E. Harrow – the story of a woman working under brutal and punishing conditions, and the fierce love for her family that transcends death.

Shimmer March 2017In the Rustle of Pages by Cassandra Khaw – a bittersweet story of honoring family members at the end of their lives, and keeping loved ones with us, even though they are gone.

The Star Maiden by Roshani Chokshi – an otherworldly and fairy tale-like story of a grandmother, a granddaughter, and a magical dress.

States of Emergency by Erica L. Satfika – a unique take on an apocalyptic tale.

A July Story by K.L. Owens – a story full of longing, about a strange and impossible house that steals people away.

Red Mask by Jessica May Lin – a story about death, ghosts,  survival, and the origins of a super hero.

.subroutine:all///end by Alex Acks – a gut-punch of a story about an AI caregiver and the messy, complicated nature of human relationships.

Painted Grassy Mire by Nicasio Andreas Reed – a highly atmospheric story of monstrous creatures and the call of blood.

Shimmer March 2018Glam-Grandma by Avi Naftali – a delightful and stylish story about old ladies who take no shit, make no apologies, and live life to the fullest.

Only Their Shining Beauty Was Left by Fran Wilde – a dreamy and poetic story of transformation, longing, and nature reclaiming its own.

Shadow Boy by Lora Gray – a take on Peter Pan that explores identity and who we are inside versus how we appear to others.

The Cold, Lonely Waters by Aimee Ogden – a journey between the stars in search of survival, or, simply put: mermaids in spaaaaaaace.

The Creeping Influences by Sonya Taaffe – a beautifully written story of desire and fear wrapped around the mystery of a bog mummy.

The Triumphant Ward of the Railroad and the Sea by Sara Saab – a story of hunger, journeying, and trying to outrun hurt on an impossible and fantastical train.

As I said, these are just a few of the fabulous stories Shimmer has published over the years. Which ones are your favorites?

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Read the Rainbow

StoryBundle Covers

It’s Pride Month! What better time to queer up your reading list, right? Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. Right now, at StoryBundle, you can snag a special Pride Bundle curated by Melissa Scott. Pay what you want for five fantastic books, and if you choose to pay at least $15, you get eight additional books including my collection of inter-linked short stories full of superheroes kicking ass, female friendships, queers saving the world, and glorious, glorious wardrobes – The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again. You can also choose to donate a portion of your purchase price to Rainbow Railroad, a wonderful charity helping LGTBQIA+ individuals escape persecution and get safely out of Chechnya. There are tons of great books included in the bundle, and you can support a great cause; I highly recommend checking it out!

Another thing to check out is the recent list of Lambda Literary Award Winners. The list contains several of my favorite reads, so I’m delighted to see them being recognized! This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Lambda Literary Awards, so once you’re done with this year’s winners, spend some time catching up on the past winners as well.

Now, since I’m a firm believer that one can never have too many things to read, I have even more reading recommendations for you. Hopefully you’ll love these books and stories as much as I do!

Novels, Novellas, Collections, and Anthologies

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado – a stunning debut collection that has been racking up award nominations (and with good cause), full of stories inflected with darkness, anger, sexuality, and the fantastic.

TranscendentTranscendent edited by K.M. Szpara and Transcendent 2 edited by Bogi Takács – the first two installments in an anthology series collecting the best trans speculative fiction of the year.

The Black Tides of Heaven and The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang – the first two novellas in the Tensorate Series, which have also been racking up well-deserved awards notice, exploring themes of family, gender, power, sacrifice, loss, and magic.

Capricious Issue 9: Gender Diverse Pronouns – a special issue of an excellent publication, featuring stories exploring gender, identity, and the myriad of ways humans define themselves, all set against fantastical backdrops.

My Favorite Thing is MonstersMy Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris – a coming of age story wrapped around a murder mystery, exploring the messy, complicated nature of human beings (and occasionally monsters).

Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time – an anthology of speculative fiction by indigenous authors exploring the many facets of identity, love, and relationships, set in futuristic and magical worlds.

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon – a gorgeously-written and brutal novel about a generation ship strictly divided along racial lines, and one woman’s search for the truth and a way to escape the system.

The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez – a unique vampire story spanning generations, focusing on chosen family, love, and kindness instead of insatiable hunger and blood.

Passing StrangePassing Strange by Ellen Klages – a gorgeous, queer love story, which is also a love letter to San Francisco in the 1940s, albeit one full of magic.

The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller – a novel balancing hope and pain about a young man whose eating disorder gives him special powers.

Singing With All My Skin and Bone by Sunny Moraine – a collection full of dark and unsettling stories, all told with beautiful and breath-taking prose.

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly – a slick and stylish novel full of shifting alliances, spies double-crossing spies, death, music, art, and brunch, set in decadent and glittering secondary world.

And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker – a trippy novella of alternate realities converging on a convention full of alternate Sarahs, which also just happens to be a murder mystery.

Short Fiction

The Hydraulic Emperor by Arkady Martine – a bidding war on an alien space station over a rare and eerie cult classic film, where the winning bid requires a great sacrifice.

Fiyah 3Cracks by Xen – a beautiful painful novelette full of longing, set in a world strictly divided into night and day, riddled with cracks where other realities seep through.

Four-Point Affective Calibration by Bogi Takács – a flash fiction story that packs a punch, exploring emotion and alien communication.

Granny Death and the Drag King of London by A.J. Fitzwater – a powerful exploration of communal grief and fear, set against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis and the days surrounding Freddie Mercury’s death.

Salt Lines by Ian Muneshwar – a young man haunted by loneliness, thoughts of home, and a supernatural being.

AnathemaEverything You Left Behind by Wen Ma – a story exploring the many forms grief takes, set in an unchanging town locked in time.

Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time by K.M. Szpara – a trans man bitten by a vampire struggles with the changes brought on by his new, unasked for immortality.

In Search of Stars by Matthew Bright – a haunting story of desire, shame, and a top secret formula for paint that causes people to float away.

Rivers Run Free by Charles Payseur – a gorgeous story of personified rivers and waters fighting against those who would chain and control them.

And that’s just to name a few. I really did restrain myself, I promise!

The Kissing Booth Girl and Other StoriesLast, but not least, if you need one more book to add to your tottering TBR pile, here’s a giveaway! My collection The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award last year, and included in last year’s Pride Month StoryBundle. If you didn’t have a chance to grab it then, here’s your chance to win a signed paperback copy now. Just drop a note in the comments between now and June 15th with your own favorite queer reading recommendation(s), and I’ll choose a winner via the magic of a random number generator. Happy Pride, y’all, and happy reading!

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Short Stack: Of Elephants & Monsters; Of Tombs, Scientists & Mars

We’re in a golden age of novellas, and what’s not to love about that? Novellas are the perfect, not-quite-bite-sized read, just right for a plane ride, a long train commute, or a few blissful hours to yourself to sit down and devour a story in one go. Assuming you’re looking for a few more books to add to your TBR pile, because who isn’t, I have recommendations for you! That’s another nice thing about novellas; they’re slender enough that you can sneak them into your towering book stack without anyone noticing it getting taller. Right?

Prime MeridianPrime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia was released first to backers of the novella late last year, and will be available for wide release in July. It made the 2017 Locus Recommended Reading List, which also makes it eligible for a Locus Award (voting closes soon, but there are still a few days left to make your voice heard), and it was picked up for Gardener Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction.  All with good cause; it’s a fantastic novella. Mars lies at its heart, and the intersecting stories of two women orbit around it. For Amelia, Mars is in her future. At least she tells herself it still could be, though every day her dream of leaving Earth and going to the Red Planet seems to be getting farther away. She’s broke, with no funds to buy her passage off planet, and barely enough money to make ends meet – living with her sister, selling her blood for cash, and working as a rent-a-friend, providing companionship and conversation for those with the means to pay. One of Amelia’s clients is an aging actress, and for her, Mars is in the past. Hers is a cardboard Mars though, the stuff of Hollywood magic and movie dreams. Both women’s stories are stories of longing, and both provide a thoughtful reflection on the distance between perception and reality, whether it’s the perception of a desired object/person/place, or the outside perceptions placed on people, telling them who they should be. Neither woman’s life is what she hoped; time, expectations, and responsibilities weigh them down, but both are still working to achieve escape velocity, even if their trajectories aren’t the ones they planned. It’s a lovely and poignant story, full of genuine emotion, and for all that it is a novella about reaching for space, it is grounded and full of humanity.

Gods Monster & the Lucky PeachGods, Monsters, and The Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson, released in March, is set in the future, post ecological disaster, as humanity is just starting to recover. Banks and corporations run a complex economy, moving around debt and human capital. Plague babies, those who survived the ecological disaster, have modified bodies that might give them extra limbs like an octopus, or the powerful legs of a gazelle, and the ability to control their heart rate, adrenaline, and just about every other autonomic function. Oh, and time travel is well within humanity’s grasp. Minh and Kiki are part of a team chosen to travel back to 2000 BC to perform an ecological survey of the Tigris and the Euphrates in hopes of reclaiming the rivers in their own time. While the company that holds the monopoly on time travel technology swears up and down that time lines collapse the moment travelers leave to return to their own time, thus making it impossible to accidentally fuck up the future, both Minh and Kiki have their doubts. The timeline they find themselves in certainly feels real, as does their ability to impact it. They aren’t merely observers, they are part of events, and those events include a king who believes it is his destiny to kill monsters. Kiki and Minhwith their inhuman-looking limbs, their egg-shaped ship, and technology that looks like magic, appear just like the sort of monsters in need of killing.  Against this backdrop, Robson does an excellent job of setting up interpersonal conflict. The time travelers are pit against each other, and their environment, and it is a joy to watch each character evolve and grow in their attitudes and relationships over the course of the story. The structure is clever, with two timelines converging on a single point, adding to the level of tension, and the world-building is fantastic.

The Clockwork TombThe Clockwork Tomb by E. Catherine Tobler is the fourth, and second-to-last (noooo, I’m not ready!), book in the excellent Folley & Mallory Series. This time around, we find the adventurous pair in Egypt, exploring a tomb referenced in Eleanor’s father’s journals. Despite not being the first to enter the tomb, Eleanor and Virgil have made it farther than anyone else. The tomb presents them with a series of puzzles, leading them deeper into the maze of its interior until they aren’t even certain they’re still in the mortal realm. Not only does the tomb cause them to doubt their sense of place and reality, it forces them to doubt themselves, testing their relationship and the strength of their wills in new ways. As with each new entry in the Folley & Mallory series, The Clockwork Tomb brings Eleanor a little closer to unraveling the mystery of her family’s past, and the truth of what happened to her mother and her grandmother. It also deepens Folley and Mallory’s relationship, as they come to know themselves and each other better, learning to trust each other completely in order to survive. Like the books that came before it, The Clockwork Tomb is full of rich, lush, descriptions that puts the reader right alongside the heroes on their adventure. Tobler perfectly balances action, romance, and mystery, to deliver a highly-satisfying read. I love these books as books, and at the same time, they’re full of so many wonderful visuals I keep hoping that someone will make them into movies.

Little Homo Sapiens ScientistThe Little Homo Sapiens Scientist by S.L. Huang is at once an inversion of the story of The Little Mermaid, and a meditation on the nature of sentience, and an examination of cultural biases and the problems they cause in the field of ethnography. Most people insist on thinking of the atagati as mermaids, or sirens. They’re an aquatic peoples, certainly, and their language sounds to human ears like singing, but they are nothing at all like the fanciful stories we tell about mythical creatures with human upper halves and fish tails. They are a sentient race, with a deep history and culture of their own, and they have no place inside the boxes humanity tries to cram them into. This is the conflict at the core of The Little Homo Sapiens Scientists. Dr. Cadance Mbella is one of the few humans who has managed a rudimentary understanding of the atagati language, and even then, there’s so much about them she doesn’t know. Almost everyone else around her seems unable to let go of their preconceived notions about what the atagati should be, insisting on seeing them through the lens of human culture. As a result, they dismiss them as a lesser species based on their own inability to understand them, or assume – like humans – their prime interest must be in attack and conquest. When the military captures an atagati who calls herself Aioëe, Caddie is roped into being a translator, interrogating the atagati so the military can better understand their supposed enemy. Caddie finds herself confiding in Aioëe, feeling a connection that may or may not be one-sided. She helps Aioëe escape, but she can’t stop thinking about her, and all she doesn’t know about the atagati and longs to learn. She hears a rumor of a man who has harnessed medical technology to transform humans into atagati, however the procedure leaves them unable to communicate, and with only a short time to live. Caddie decides to risk it, hoping against reason that she’ll be able to find Aioëe again and, even voiceless, make herself understood. The parallels to The Little Mermaid are obvious, but Hunag up-ends the traditional story by de-centering humanity, making it something to be left behind, instead of the ultimate goal the hero desires. Through the lens of two species coming into contact, the story challenges the colonial mentality of assuming cultural superiority, and confronts the problem of looking at others through a framework that doesn’t match their lived reality. It’s a beautifully told story, with thoughtful underpinnings, and packs a punch.

The Only Harmless Great ThingThe Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander, published in January, brings together the imagined mythology of elephants, and a take on the true history of the Radium Girls who unwittingly poisoned themselves painting matches and watch dials with luminous paint, leading to their slow and painful deaths. Topsy, a former circus elephant, famously publicly executed after killing a spectator, is part of a long, matrilineal line of elephants stretching back to prehistoric time. She carries the memory of her people, in stories passed down from mother to daughter, including the horrors visited on elephant kind by humanity. The latest horror is humans teaching elephants to wield paintbrushes so they too can paint clock dials with luminous paint, consigning them to the same terrible fate as the women already rotting from the inside out. With the various threads it weaves together, The Only Harmless Great Things is a story about stories. Narratives shape our lives, define us as a people, help us make sense of the world, and are sometimes used as a survival mechanism, both literally and figuratively. Tricksters of old steal and seek and horde stories to build power and sometimes to save lives, and in modern times, tricksters of another kind deploy stories to get their way, increase their wealth, and offload their problems. Bolander weaves these threads together seemingly effortlessly – the myths told by the elephants, the story of Topsy , the story of Regan, one of the Radium Girls, and the story of Kat, a translator who, years after the Radium disaster, is tasked with telling a story that will redeem the public image of elephants by convincing them to become the guardians of irradiated land, even after everything humans have done to them. The language is stunning, the kind that guts you and leaves you breathless, and the story is both utterly satisfying and leaves you craving more.

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Non-Binary Authors to Read: Where to Start – Part 11

We’ve ticked over to 2018, and what better way to kick of a new year than with another installment of Non-Binary Authors to Read! For those unfamiliar with the series, you can catch up here. Onward to the recommendations!

CapriciousB.R. Sanders is a genderqueer writer who has also worked as a research psychologist and labor organizer. My recommended starting place for their work is The Music of the Spheres published in Capricious Issue Seven. Wren is a young musician stationed with a group of scientists on the planet Polyphemus. Even though she has no scientific background, Wren is uniquely positioned to be valuable on the planet, as the planet is uniquely suited to her. Polyphemus is largely dark, but thanks to medical implants, Wren sees via sonar, having been born blind. Her musical ability also ties her to the planet; when she plays her flute, Polyphemus responds. The indigenous life is neither plant nor animal, but both. Grass insects flutter their wings and dance in response to Wren’s music, but only when she improvises her compositions. A young doctor on the planet, Razza, is the only one who doesn’t treat Wren merely as a curiosity or a problem to be solved. Ze proposes a research project with Wren to determine why the planet responds to her the way it does.

Wren and Razza drove out to a lush valley, one of the strange spots on the planet where life abounded. Wren couldn’t see it, but she could feel it. There was a density in that valley unlike anything around Research Station Three. Her sonar pinged close, pinged softly. Noises rolled off the trunks of trees, off the smooth skins of the bulbous plant life that detached from the vines and bounded through the grass like puppies. The plurality of forms there in the valley came back to Wren. It beat against her body like soft rain.

Wren tries different instruments, and as she does, a pattern emerges, a rhythm that seems to point to a greater whole. With the recordings they make, Razza and Wren work together to learn more about the planet, deepening their friendship, and leading Wren to learn more about herself in the process. The Music of the Sphere is a gorgeous story, one which recognizes music as a form of math, but also as something magical beyond simple numbers. Throughout the story, Sanders draws parallels between Wren and the planet. Music connects Wren to the world around her, allowing her to communicate in a way that feels more natural that words. Polyphemus communicates in the same way, and Wren and the planet share other similarities as well. Wren hates that people see her as a riddle, and she alone sees the planet as more than a mystery to be solved. Polyphemus and Wren are the same in a way, and she finds a home there unlike any other, making a place for herself on an alien world. The story touches on friendship, the intersection between science and art, and the value of seeing the world in different ways, all of which makes it an excellent starting place for B.R. Sanders’ work.

Tender Feet of Cretan Girls by Sarah WebbJulian K. Jarboe is a writer and a sound designer, and my recommended starting place for their work is As Tender Feet of Cretan Girls Danced Once Around an Altar of Love. Isadora is the last of the snake women, constantly reborn over the years and thus essentially immortal. She lives in the Azores now, but remembers Knossos in the time of King Minos, the bull, and the labyrinth. Much of her time is consumed by memories of Ariadne, and seeking out and recording various versions of her story. As part of her obsession with her past, she joins a dig to unearth the labyrinth.

I had come to Crete and joined the Evans excavation in order to lord my expertise over him, and pocket sacred objects before they could be whisked off to the Ashmolean. Instead, I spent half a lifetime wiping sweat from my forehead and rubbing the sting of dust from my eyes with my monstrous hands. I watched as this man redesigned the rubble he found into impossible, triple story complexes of poured concrete and “restored” frescoes—really images entirely of his own direction with the modern hand of a father and son painting team.

Having found no satisfaction in literally unearthing her past, Isadora plans to leave her current life behind and reincarnate once more. As she’s making her preparations, she meets an elderly man named Dimas who seems determined to befriend her. She is suspicious of his motives at first, and eventually discovers he wants her to be his confessor for what he sees as his past sins – marrying his wife despite not loving her while carrying on an affair with her brother. A friendship grows between them, one that leads them both to be able to shed the weight of their pasts and move on. Jarboe weaves themes of memory, history, and story itself throughout the tale. Who owns history? Those who who lived it, or those who retell it and make it their own? The story explores the way narratives are built, and how each person shapes legends and even history to their own needs and preconceptions. The story also explores the way people use narratives to make sense of the world, how received narratives can erode authenticity and truth, and the way desire makes memory unreliable. It is a liminal and beautiful story, and an excellent starting place for Jarboe’s work.

TranscendentHolly Heisey is a book cover designer and an author. My recommended starting place for their work is Contents of Care Package to Etsath-tachri, formerly Ryan Andrew Curran published at EGM Shorts and reprinted in Transcendent: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction. The story is short, but effective, opening with a list of the contents of the titular care package being sent to Etsath-tachri who has recently transitioned from human to Sedrayin.

In this package:
1. Three letters. (With our instructions on opening order, per Human dating system.)
2. One musical instrument, harmonica.
3. One plastic package containing three toothbrushes.
4. One tube of toothpaste.
5. One cloth Earth mammal, bear (unsure of further classification), filled with synthetic material. (We are sorry for the lack of symmetry, the cloth mammal was obviously damaged and repaired at some point. We were told not to modify it.)

The first letter is from Etsath-tachri’s former wife, Sophie, who is not taking the transition well, feeling betrayed. The second is from Etsath-tachri’s brother Gabe, who is far more supportive, and over the course of writing the letter comes to realize that his brother was never human but always Sedrayin, and the transition simply corrected things. The final letter is from Etsath-tachri’s mother, who is trying her best, though still occasionally makes mistakes, like calling Etsath-tachri Andrew. The story works as an effective metaphor for gender transition, but shown from an outsider’s perspective. We don’t get Etsath-tachri’s point of view, merely Sophie, Gabe, and Mom’s, with a sweet postscript about Etsath-tachri’s daughter Jenna. On the balance, the reactions of those who knew Etsath-tachri as Andrew are positive, with the exception of Sophie whose hurt is understandable from her point of view of having her marriage recently broken. Gabe’s supportive stance is heartening, as is Etsath-tachri’s mother’s response, ultimately making this a sweet and uplifting story. Even though Etsath-tachri has lost Sophie, there is the possibility she will come around to acceptance, and on the whole the relationships are supportive and happy ones. Heisey accomplishes a lot in just a few words, which is impressive, showing off the effectiveness of flash fiction as a form. It’s an excellent story, and an excellent staring place for Heisey’s work.

That’s it for this installment. As always, I’d love to see your own recommendations for work by non-binary authors in the comments. Happy reading, and I’ll be back with more recommendations soon.

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My Favorite Novels and Novellas of 2017

Last week I posted a big ole list of my favorite short stories and novelettes of 2017. This week, it’s time for my favorite novels and novellas of the year, because you can never have too much recommended reading, right?

Novels

AmberloughAmberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly – a truly stunning debut novel, set in a slick and decadent secondary world, full of politics, relationships and shifting alliances. (Reviewed in more detail here.)

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty – a locked room murder mystery in space, with clones. Need I say more? (Well, in case I do, the book is reviewed in more detail here.)

The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller – a lovely and painful story about a young man dealing with an eating disorder, a budding relationship, surviving high school, and unlocking superpowers.

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin – a brilliant ending to a brilliant trilogy. All three books are breathtaking in their worldbuilding, character building, and their scope. They’re the type of books that punch you in the gut and grab you by the throat all at once, and refuse to let go.

My Favorite Thing is MonstersThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – a beautiful story mixing Russian history and folklore, with fierce and wonderful characters at its heart. (Reviewed in more detail here.)

The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden – another stunning debut novel about emergent gods, designer drugs, friendships, family, following your dreams, and of course, dik diks. (Reviewed in more detail here.)

Horizon by Fran Wilde – another brilliant ending to a brilliant trilogy. All three books are full of stunning visuals, tense action, intricate worldbuilding, and wonderful characters. On top of that, Wilde pulls off the incredible trick of expanding the world and upping the stakes with each book, revealing her universe to be much darker, weirder, and more wonderful than ever imagined.

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris – a breathtaking graphic novel dealing with violence, buried secrets, art, love, loss, and of course, monsters. (Reviewed in more detail here.)

Novellas

Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin R. Kiernan – a dark and weird novella about suicide cults, zombie fungus, and secret agents specializing in the paranormal. (Reviewed in more detail here.)

Passing Strange by Ellen Klages – a gorgeous love letter to queer history, and the history of San Francisco, glazed with a touch of magic. (Reviewed in more detail here.)

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey – a heist gone wrong in an alternate version of the swamps of Louisiana that have been overrun by feral hippos. (Reviewed in more detail here.)

A Song for Quiet by Cassandra Khaw – a dark mash-up of Lovecraftian horror, noir, and music, full of loneliness and gorgeous poetic language.

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy – a novella with a post-apocalyptic punk feel, laced with weird, dark magic, and mythology come to life.

Pretty Marys All in a RowPrime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – a near-future SF novella about Mars, movie magic, appearances versus reality, and longing for something that seems out of reach.

Pretty Marys All in a Row – urban legends, nursery rhymes, and old myths come to life (or afterlife) in a story about five ghosts trapped in a house, hunted by something dark and dangerous.

And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker – a murder mystery set in a world of parallel realities where multiple versions of the author converge on lonely and inaccessible island to ponder the variations on their lives and try to discover who would want to end one of them. (Reviewed in more detail here.)

A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power by Rose Lemberg – a gorgeous and poetic novella of fallen stars and magic, exploring power, consent, desire, and pain.

Honorable Mentions
(Being the novels and novellas I read this year and loved, but were published before 2017, but which I still really want to recommend.)

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson – a gorgeous novella moving fluidly through time and possible realities.

Aerie by Maria Dahvana Headley – a brilliant follow up to Magonia, which further complicates Aza Ray’s life as she’s caught between two worlds and coping with the fact that most people think she’s dead.

The DevourersThe Devourers by Indra Das – an absolutely drop-dead gorgeous novel about shifting forms and identities, desire, hunger, and power, which feels epic in scope while still being compact and tightly-woven. (Seriously, just drop whatever you’re doing and read it.)

The Fisherman by John Langan – an unsettling novel full of cosmic horror and deeply woven mythology.

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt – another deeply unsettling novel with a mythology that feels embedded and real, concerning a witch haunting a particularly town, words that must never be listened to, and stitches that must never be undone.

Lexicon by Max Barry – a novel where words have incredible power, a secret society built around their use and protection, and an entire neighborhood quarantined and brought to its knees.

Waypoint Kangaroo by Curtis C. Chen – spies in space, a private pocket dimension, and one vacation on a interstellar cruise ship gone very, very wrong.

The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez – a unique vampire novel spanning decades and lifetimes, touching on found family, race, queerness, love, and women making space for themselves in the world.

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What Have You Done, What Have You Loved? 2017 Edition

The Nebula Awards have officially opened up to nominations from SFWA members, which means it’s time for me to start assembling my annual meta post of reviews, round-ups, recommendations, and eligibility lists. The basic idea is to help folks find things to read, and maybe even nominate for various awards, by collecting links wherein authors post their eligible work for the year, or readers assemble lists of their favorite reads of 2017. This year, I’m going to attempt to be a little more organized, and divide the post into three sections – review resources, eligibility, and favorites/year’s best. As always, I’d love to include your links, so please drop me a note in the comment, or email me at a.c.wise (at) hotmail.com to let me know what you’d like included in the post. I’ll be updating this post fairly often, so be sure to keep checking back for new links.

ETA:Cat Rambo is also rounding up eligibility posts, so keep an eye on her list, and send her your links as well!

Review Resources

These are sites that post reviews throughout the year – short fiction, long fiction, media, fan works, and more. Browse around, and maybe you’ll discover something new to love. Not all works reviewed are necessarily published in 2017, so be sure to check before you nominate.

Bogi Reads the World – reviews of novels, short fiction, and poetry from Bogi Takács.
Earl Grey Editing Services – reviews of novels and novellas, along with essays and links posts.
Great Things I’ve Been Reading – a series of review and recommendation posts for short fiction and non-fiction from John Wiswell.
In Short – occasional short fiction reviews from Natalie Luhrs.
It’s a Jumble – novel and short fiction reviews from Vanessa Fogg.
Forestofglory – ongoing short fiction reviews.
Lady Business – novel and short fiction reviews, fan work and media recommendations, and other sff-relevant essays.
Locus Online – reviews of novels, short fiction, movies, and other sff-relevant essays.
Looking for a Rabbit Hole – weekly short fiction reviews from Jeff Xilon.
Monthly Short Fiction Round Up – monthly short fiction reviews and recommendations from Maria Haskins.
Nerds of a Feather – reviews of short and long fiction, games, movies, and other sff-relevant essays and discussions.
Quick Sip Reviews – short fiction reviews, posted almost daily from Charles Payseur.
SF Bluestocking – reviews of novels, novellas, media, and more.
SFF180 Reviews – reviews of novels and novellas.
SFF Reviews – short fiction reviews from various contributors.
SFRevu – novel and short fiction reviews.
Short Story Squee and Snark – a place for short story discussions by members of the SFF community.
Words for Thought – monthly short fiction reviews by me.

Eligibility Posts

These are posts where authors and editors round up the work they’ve published throughout the year and note its eligibility. (Authors, please, please do this. It’s extremely helpful to folks nominating, especially in determining which category certain works belong in, say, or whether an author is Campbell-eligible. It’s not pushy or bragging, it’s informative, and we loves it. Thank you!)

Acks, Alex – listing award eligible short fiction, novelettes, a novel, and fan writing.
Allen, B. Morris – listing award eligible short stories, a novelette, and a novel.
Anderson, G.V. – noting one award-eligible story, and the final year of Campbell eligibility.
Anathema Magazine – published award eligible short stories, novelettes, non-fiction, and original artwork in 2017.
Annorlunda Enterprises – listing the award eligible novella and novelette they published this year.
Aurora Awards Eligibility List – listing Aurora-eligible work by Canadian authors in various categories. (Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association members can make updates to the list.)
Apex Magazine – listing award eligible short fiction and novelettes published in 2017.
Argall, Liz – is eligible in the Best Fan Artist category.
Barber, Jess – published short stories and novelettes (including one co-written with Sara Saab) in 2017.
Barron, Natania – listing award eligible novellas and short fiction for 2017.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies – published a year’s worth of eligible fiction including short stories, novelettes, and a novella.
Bigelow, Susan Jane – published two eligible short stories this year, which can be found here and here.
Book Smugglers – listing the eligible short fiction, novelettes, novellas, and non-fiction published in 2017.
Broaddus, Maurice – listing award eligible short stories, a novelette, a collection, non-fiction, and editorial work.
Brothers, Laurence Raphael – listing award eligible short fiction for 2017.
Buchanan, A.C. – published three short stories this year, which can be found here, here, and here. They are also eligible for the Sir Julius Vogel Award for New Zealand SF/F.
Buhlert, Cora – listing award eligible short fiction, poetry, and non-fiction.
Cahill, Martin – published two award eligible short stories this year.
Campbell, Rebecca - listing award eligible short stories, and noting eligibility for the Aurora award as a Canadian author.
Carpenter, A.G. – published three novellas and a novellete, which can be found here, here, here, and here.
Castellucci, Cecil is the author of Shade, The Changing Girl. (Note, link goes to first title in the series, which is published in 2016, but other issues were published in 2017.)
Castroianni, Eleanna – listing award eligible short fiction, and noting the first year of Campbell eligibility.
Cataneo, Emily – listing award eligible short fiction and a short story collection.
Cato, Beth – listing an award eligible short story, novel, and a collection.
Chan, L. – listing several eligible short stories for 2017.
Cast of Wonders – listing the award eligible original fiction podcast during the year.
Chng, Joyce – listing award eligible novellas, poems, and stories.
Cipri, Nino – listing award-eligible short fiction for 2017, and recommending work by others.
Clarkesworld – listing a year’s worth of eligible short stories and novelettes, as well as highlighting eligible artists and Campbell-eligible authors.
Corbin, Andrea M. – listing award eligible short stories for 2017.
de Bodard, Aliette – listing award eligible work, and recommending work by others.
DePass, Tanya – is eligible in the best fan writer and best fan cast categories.
Daley, Raymond Peter – listing award eligible short fiction.
Dandenell, Karl - listing an award eligible short story.
Das, Indrapramit – published short stories, novelettes, and non-fiction in 2017.
Datlow, Ellen – lists the anthologies, short stories, novelettes, and novellas she worked on as an editor in 2017.
Dawson, J.R. – listing an award eligible short story and noting Campbell eligibility.
Diabolical Plots – listing the award eligible short stories the magazine published throughout the year, and noting eligibility in other categories as well.
Divya, S.B. – listing award eligible fiction for 2017.
Dollarhyde, Kate – listing award eligible short stories for 2017.
Donnelly, Lara Elena – listing an award eligible novel, and a novelette (co-written with Sam J. Miller), along with recommending work by others.
Donohue, Jennifer – listing award eligible short fiction for 2017.
Dovey, Matt – listing award eligible short fiction and noting year two of Campbell eligibility.
Duncan, Andy – published an award-eligible short story “Worrity, Worrity”, which can be found in the anthology Mad Hatters and March Hares.
Duncan, Robin – lists award-eligible short fiction, and notes the first year of Campbell eligibility.
Edelman, Scott – listing award eligible short stories and novelettes.
Elison, Meg – listing an award eligible novel and several short stories, and noting Campbell eligibility.
Ellsworth, Spencer – published two eligible novels, a novelette, and a collaborative work.
Escape Pod – listing award eligible original short fiction published in 2017.
Falstaff Books – listing all the 2017 titles released by the press.
Fireside Magazine – listing the award eligible short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novel they published throughout the year, as well as noting non-fiction, editors, and artists who worked on the magazine in 2017.
Fogg, Vanessa – listing an award eligible short story.
Fontaine, Amy – listing an award eligible novel, along with short fiction and poetry.
Garcia, R.S.A – listing an award eligible short story.
Giganotosaurus – listing the award-eligible novellas, novelettes, and short fiction published by the magazine during the year.
Gray, Lora J. – listing eligible short fiction and poetry.
Greenblatt, A.T. – listing award-eligible short stories.
Habershaw, Auston – published an award eligible novelette in 2017.
Hardwick, C. Stuart – published an eligible novelette.
Harris, Nin – listing award eligible short fiction and poetry.
Haskins, Maria - listing award eligible short fiction.
Headley, Maria Dahvana – listing award eligible short fiction and novelettes.
Heartfield, Kate – listing award eligible short fiction and non-fiction.
Hines, Jim C. – listing award eligible short fiction and essays (in the form of a poem, no less!)
Horne, Annalee Flower – noting work eligible in the Best Fan Writer category.
Houseman, Ariela – is eligible in the fan artist category.
Huff, Crystal – is eligible in the fan writer category.
Jarboe, Julian K. – published short stories, and is in the first year of Campbell eligibility.
Jessup, Paul – has one eligible short story this year, available in Interzone 272.
Johnson, L.S. – listing award eligible short stories, novelettes, and a novella.
Jones, Heather Rose published an award eligible short story in 2017, along with a lot of non-fiction work including essays, reviews, and podcasting.
Jones, Rachael K. – listing award eligible short fiction for 2017.
Kassel, Mel – listing award eligible short fiction for 2017.
Khaw, Cassandra – listing award eligible short fiction and poetry.
Kinney, Benjamin C. – has two eligible short stories this year, is in the second year of Campbell eligibility, and is eligible in the fan writer category.
Kressel, Matthew – listing award eligible short fiction and non-fiction for 2017.
Laben, Carrie – published award eligible short stories in 2017.
Latin American Speculative Fiction 2017 – a list assembled by Silvia Moreno-Garcia of work published in English by Latin American writers in 2017.
Lechler, Kate – published two eligible short stories, which can be found here and here, and a poem.
Leitch, Stina – listing an award eligible novel.
Lemberg, Rose – points toward an award eligible novella.
Little Badger, Darcie – listing several award eligible short stories.
Lu, S. Qiouyi – listing award eligible short fiction, poetry, editorial work, and noting the second year of Campbell eligibility.
Luhrs, Natalie – is eligible for best fan writer and published several essays in 2017.
Matheson, Michael – listing the author’s award eligible short fiction, and the award eligible short fiction published by Anathema Magazine, which they edit.
Miller, Sam J. – listing an award eligible novel, novelette, and short stories, along with some favorite short fiction reads of 2017.
Mitchell, Lia Swope – published an award eligible short story in 2017.
Mohamed, Premee – listing award eligible short stories for 2017.
Moher, Aidan – listing short fiction, a novelette, non-fiction, and noting the second year of Campbell eligibility, along with recommendations of work by others.
Mondal, Mimi – listing award eligible fiction and non-fiction for 2017.
Moon, Dawn Xiana – listing several eligible non-fiction essays.
Moren, Dan – listing an award eligible novel and noting Campbell eligibility.
Moreno-Garcia, Silvia – lists an award eligible novel, novella, and a short story.
Moraine, Sunny – listing award eligible short fiction and podcast work from 2017.
Morrison, Diane – published several novelettes and short stories in 2017.
Mulder, Allison – listing award eligible short stories for 2017.
Mythic Delirium – listing the award eligible short stories and poetry published by the magazine in 2017.
Ness, Mari – published a novella, a short story, several pieces of flash fiction, poetry, and related work in 2017.
Nevins, Jess – listing award eligible short stories.
North, Bennett – listing an award eligible short story and noting the second year of Campbell eligibility.
Novakova, Julie – listing short stories, a novelette, and translation work.
O’Brien, Brandon – listing award eligible poetry, fiction, noting Campbell eligibility, and recommending other work worth your time.
O’Meara, Shauna – had two eligible short stories, which can be found here and here.
Ogden, Aimee – listing award eligible short fiction, and noting the second year of Campbell eligibility.
Osborne, Karen – published an award eligible story, and is Campbell eligible, as well as recommending work by others
Palmer, Suzanne – published two novelettes, a short story, and a poem.
Patt, Julia K. – published short stories and a novelette this year, and I believe is in the first year of Campbell eligibility.
Payseur, Charles – listing award eligible short fiction, poetry, and fan writing.
Petrie, Simon – listing an award eligible novella, novelette, and short story, and noting eligibility for the Ditmar and Sir Julius Vogel Awards.
Pflug, Ursula – listing an award eligible YA novel and recommending work by others.
Phillips, Andrea – listing novelettes, short stories, game writing, and podcasting work for 2017.
Pinsker, Sarah - listing award eligible short stories, a novelette, and a novella.
PodCastle – published several original short stories in 2017.
Prasad, Vina Jie-Min – published short stories, a novelette, and is in the first year of Campbell eligibility.
PseudoPod – listing award eligible original fiction published in 2017.
Reed, Nicasio Andres – is eligible in the best related work category for The Year of Garak, co-written with Charles Payseur.
Reisman, Jessica – points to an eligible novel, Substrate Phantoms, and an eligible novelette, Bourbon, Sugar, Grace.
Roberts, Tansy Rayner – listing award eligible short stories, a novelette, and podcast work.
Roanhorse, Rebecca – listing an award eligible story and noting Campbell eligibility.
Robson, Kelly – lists eligible novelettes, non-fiction, and recommends work by others.
Rodriguez, Karlo Yeager – lists award eligible short fiction.
Rowland, Alexandra – is eligible in the best related work category for a dress inspired by last year’s Hugo-winning short story, how cool is that?
Royce, Eden – listing award eligible short fiction, and noting work by others for consideration.
Rustad, A. Merc – listing award eligible short stories, a novelette, and a piece of interactive fiction.
Saab, Sara – listing award eligible short fiction and a novelette.
Sargent, Lynne – as two poems eligible for the Rhysling Awards.
Satifka, Erica L. – listing award eligible short stories and a novelette.
Seiberg, Effie – listing award eligible short stories.
Semiprozine Directory – a handy list of which publications are eligible in the Semipro category for 2017.
Sjunneson-Henry, Elsa – published an award-eligible essay and is eligible in the Fan Writer category.
Skiffy and Fanty – listing their own eligibility as a podcast, as well as listing eligible work by their contributors in various categories.
St. George, Carlie – listing award eligible short stories and recommending work by others.
Stewart, Kelly – listing an award eligible short story, and noting the second year of Campbell eligibility.
Stone, Hayley – listing award eligible short stories, noting the first year of Campbell eligibility, and recommending favorite work by others.
Strange Horizons – listing all the award eligible fiction published by the magazine in 2017 and the award eligible non-fiction.
Stufflebeam, Bonnie Jo – listing award eligible fiction and graphic work.
Sylver, RoAnna – listing sward eligible short fiction, poetry, a novelette, and two novels.
Takács, Bogi – listing award eligible short stories, a novella, a novelette, poetry, non-fiction, and editorial work.
Tang, Andrea – listing an award eligible novelette, several short stories, and noting the first year of Campbell eligibility.
Tanzer, Molly – listing am award eligible novel, along with short fiction, and editorial/related work.
Tenser, Margarita – published an award eligible story and a poem.
Theodoridou, Natalia – listing an award eligible novelette and several short stories.
Thompson, Tade – has an award eligible novella this year, The Murders of Molly Southbourne.
Tobler, E. Catherine – listing award eligible short stories, a novella, and a novel.
Tomaras, Joseph – listing award eligible short stories, translation work, and recommending work by others.
Tomova, Daniela – published a debut story is 2017, and unless I’m mistaken, is therefore also Campbell eligible.
Tor.com’s Novels and Novellas, and Short Fiction
Townsend, Tracy – listing an award eligible novel and noting Campbell eligibility.
Triantafyllou, Eugenia – noting two award eligible short stories, and the first year of Campbell eligibility.
Trota, Michi – listing several non-fiction essays, along with editorial work.
Uncanny Magazine – listing the award eligible novella, novelettes, and short fiction published in 2017, along with their eligibility as Best Semiprozine, among other categories.
Vourvoulias, Sabrina – listing an award eligible short story and recommending work by others.
Walters, Damien Angelica – rounding up the fiction she’s published by year.
Ward, Cynthia – published an award eligible novel, which can be found here.
Ward, Marlee Jane – listing award eligible short fiction and a novella.
Wehm, M. Darusha – listing award eligible short fiction, poetry, a novel, and noting eligibility for the Aurora and Sir Julius Vogel Awards.
Weimer, Paul – listing award eligible related work and fan-casting, and recommending work by others.
Wells, Martha – listing an award eligible novel, novella, short story, and series.
Wiggins, Troy L. – lists award eligible short fiction, and highlights a few eligible stories from Fiyah Magazine.
Wilde, Fran – published short stories, a novel, non-fiction, and recommends a whole lot of great things by other people for your reading pleasure.
World Weaver Press – listing all the novels and anthologies published by the press in 2017.
Wright, Tristina – listing an award eligible novel and short story, and noting the second year of Campbell eligibility.
Wylder, James – highlighting an eligible novelette and offering it as a free download.
Yang, JY – listing an award eligible short story, novelette, and two novellas.
Yoachim, Caroline – listing award eligible short stories and a novelette.
Young, Tyler A. – listing award eligible short stories for 2017.
Yuschik, Alex
– listing an award eligible short story, and noting the first year of Campbell eligibility.

Recommendations, Favorites, and Best of the Year Posts

Lists and posts where writers, readers, and reviewers opine about their favorite works of 2017.


49th Shelf Best Books of 2017

2017 Spec Fic by Black Authors – a round up of fiction by black authors, including novels, short fiction, magazines, and anthologies with links and recommendations.
A. Merc Rustad lists their favorite short fiction of 2017.
Amazon’s Best SF and Fantasy of 2017
Aqueduct Press Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2017 (Series – Link goes to Part 1)
Audible Best Books of 2017
Barnes & Noble Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2017
Bogi Reads the World Hugo Recommendations. (This is a multi-part series. Link goes to the first installment.) Updated to include recommendations for the new YA Hugo Category.
Book Smugglers – posting recommendations for novels, short fiction, media, and more throughout December and Best Books of 2017.
Buzzfeed Best Fiction Book of 2017
Martin Cahill Favorite Short Stories 2017
J.R. Dawson’s Favorite Fiction of 2017
Ditmar Eligibility List – a crowd-sourced list of works eligible for the 2018 Ditmar Awards.
Elle Best Books of 2017 So Far
Fantasy Literature Best of Short Fiction Monday (note, not all stories are 2017 titles)
Forest of Glory’s Favorite Short Fiction of 2017.
Guardian Best Books of 2017
Maria Haskin’s 2017 Suggested Reading List
Rich Horton’s Hugo Recommendations – link goes to last post in the series, but the others are linked at the bottom of the post by category.
Hugo Nominees 2018 Wikia – a crowd-sourced list of works eligible for the 2018 Hugo Awards, broken down by category.
Hugo Awards 2017-2018 – a crowd-sourced list of works eligible for the Hugo Awards, broken down by category, with links.
Kirkus Reviews Best SF/F of 2017 and the Best of the Best list, cross-referencing multiple best of lists to find the intersections.
Matt Kressel’s Favorite Fiction of 2017
LA Times Best Books of 2017
Lady Business Hugo Recommendations
Largehearted Boy Favorite Non-Fiction of 2017 and a List of Lists gathering best of 2017 posts from elsewhere (updated daily).
Locus Recommended Reading List 2017
Phil Margolies Recommended Reading
Nerds of a Feather Best Books of 2017
Newsday Best Books of 2017
NPR Best Books of 2017
NY Times Best Books of 2017
O Magazine Best Books of 2017
Paste Magazine Best YA Books of 2017 and Best Comic Books of 2017.
Publishers Weekly Best SF/Fantasy/Horror of 2017
Quick Sip Reviews Recommended Reading List 2017
SF Chronicle Best Books of 2017
SFWA Recommended Reading List
The Quill to Live Best Books of 2017
Jason Sanford Best of 2017 – including novels, novellas, novelettes, and short fiction.
Tor.com Reviewer’s Choice Best Books of 2017
Verge Best SFFH of 2017
Vulture’s Best YA Books of 2017
Washington Post Best Books of 2017
Waterstone’s Book of the Year 2017 Shortlist
Ziv W.’s Favorite Stories from F&FS 2017

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Non-Binary Authors to Read: Where to Start – Part 10

Welcome to another edition of Non-Binary Authors to Read, wherein I highlight non-binary authors and recommend a starting place for their work. If you’d like to catch up on the other entries in the series, you can find them here. For the purposes of this column, I use non-binary as a catch-all term to include authors identifying as genderqueer, agender, queer, neutrois, gender non-conforming, and other genders not aligned with the male/female binary. Now, on to the recommendations!

Fiyah Issue 3Danny Lore is a queer writer based in the Bronx. My recommended starting place for their work is appropriately enough their first professionally published story – The Last Exorcist from Fiyah Issue 3: Sundown Towns. As the editors write in their Letters from the Editors: “Sundown Towns were towns with curfews that applied to black people –essentially, black visitors had to exit the town before the sun set, or else they would face the wrath of the town’s white citizens. Authors were charged with submitting stories that discussed this painful history, but we also asked for stories that examined concepts of belonging, community, and of place.” Lore delivers a story that pushes the concept of sundown towns to the extreme, an extreme that sadly feels like it could logically grow out of the racism of our present day society. Naheem is an exorcist in a world where many white people have opted to offer themselves up as Residences for demons, voluntarily being possessed in exchange for protection and special privilege – i.e. things already granted to them in the real world by virtue of being white.  On a small scale, a white student feels slighted by what they perceive as a black student unfairly taking “their” place in college, and turns to demons for help. One a large scale, entire Helltowns are created where black people literally cannot go without the ground smoking under their feet and demons tearing them apart.

When Naheem gets worked up, he gestures emphatically, fingers twitching with every word. He tends toward lecturing, and his topic of choice is the accessibility of exorcism in a post-possession America. He is unimpressed by those who say the art is too complex, too archaic to pass on to the common man. On the contrary, he believes that becoming an exorcist is a task both necessary and easy, if we are to survive as a people.

The story is related through a reporter who begins by interviewing Naheem and ends up filming what turns out to be his last exorcism. The reporter is conflicted, having a white mother and a black father, never knowing which side the demons will see if they step into a Helltown. Lore gives a supernatural twist to the very real and ugly face of racism, scapegoating, fear of the “other”, and clueless privilege. At the same time, amidst the ugliness, it is a story about fighting back, about making the world better for others, and speaking out against oppression and power. It’s an excellent story, an excellent starting place, and I look forward to more of Lore’s work.

Shoreline of Infinity 9

Leigh Harlen is a writer of dark speculative fiction. My recommended starting place for their work is The Last Days of the Lotus Eaters in Shoreline of Infinity 9. Lita is the only one in her village who believes the world is changing. The stars are going out, trees are dying, and winters are lasting longer than they should. When she tries to warn people of this, no one believes her, not even her parents, except for one priest. He knows the truth, but believes it is better to keep the status quo, let people lead happy and ignorant lives. When Lita refuses to stay quiet, he poisons her, burying her alive in a ritual that feeds a dying tree whose blossoms bring forgetfulness, allowing people to be truly oblivious to the doom coming for them.
The earth and the creatures in it ate her flesh, but the tree kept her bones, its roots wrapped around and entwined every remaining bit of her.
While Lita’s body dies, her consciousness remains, forcing her to be the means that allows the other villagers – even her parents – to forget everything she tries to warn them about. In eating the lotus blossoms, the villagers’ memories transfer to Lita, so even in death she must bear the burden of knowledge alone. In time, however, another little girl comes along who refuses to accept common wisdom and sets out to force people to see the truth before it’s too late. With this story, Harlen offers an interesting twist on the trope of the buried child, the sacrifice that bears the sins of a people in order for everyone else to lead happy lives (e.g. Le Guin’s Omelas, or the story of Jesus Christ). Like Christ, the consumption of Lita’s transubstantiated flesh is literally the key to the rest of the village’s peace of mind. However, in this case, rather than salvation, the villagers only gain ignorance of their own destruction. Harlen weaves other elements into the sacrifice story, such as the idea of climate change denial, and the dismissal of women’s voices. It’s a wonderful story and an excellent starting place for Harlen’s work.

R.J. Edwards is a writer, librarian, and podcaster. My recommended starting place for their work is Riot Nrrd Comics, an online webcomic. While the comic is currently on hiatus, the good news is there are four years worth of comics currently available to catch up on. Riot Nrrd Comics is about all things geeky – comic books, video games, Star Wars, scientists, astronauts, and other delightfully nerdy stuff. But it’s also about being a marginalized nerd – being female, non-binary, black, fat, neurodivergent – basically being the type of person who doesn’t often get to see themself reflected in mainstream media. On the rare occasions when they do get to see themselves, those reflections are often problematic. For example, the first few comics call out Joss Whedon specifically for his depiction of “empowered women”. The comics tackle the questions of whether it’s still possible to love the things someone creates, while recognizing them as imperfect. Among the geekery, Riot Nrrd also touches on friendships, relationships, religion, work, stress, life, and every day problems and triumphs. Elements of it remind me of Chaos Life in its wide-ranging scope, touching on all aspects of life big and small, while reveling in nerdiness. At the heart of Riot Nrrd are characters who care about each other, who share geeky passions, and genuine friendship. It’s a lovely comic, and an excellent starting place for R.J. Edwards’ work.

That’s it for this installment of Non-Binary Authors to Read: Where to Start. As always, I’d love to see your recommendations in the comments, and I’ll be back with additional recommendations of my own soon. Happy reading!

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Non-Binary Authors to Read: Where to Start – Part 9

Hello, my lovelies! It’s time for another installment of Non-Binary Authors to Read. If you’re looking to catch up on the series, you can do so here. And now that you’re all caught up, onward to new recommendations!

Anathema Issue 2Wen Ma is a queer, non-binary, author, editor, and translator  from Hong Kong who also dabbles in illustration. My recommended starting place for their work is Everything You Left Behind from Issue #2 of Anathema Magazine. The story takes place in a city where time is frozen. An event called the Nothing stopped it, and no one within the bubble can die or grow old. The protagonist’s lover disappears, and all they know about the disappearance for certain is that the last person to see their lover was The Pain Merchant, a man who takes hurts big and small away from people in exchange for a piece of themselves. The protagonist knows exactly what pain their lover sought to get rid of – the death of the couple’s daughter just before the Nothing froze time. Looking for answers, they seek out the Pain Merchant themself, and make an odd request – they want to take their lover’s pain rather than pain of their own taken away. A trade is agreed upon, and they drink the pain their lover gave up.

But this isn’t my pain, isn’t my grief. It’s yours, at once alien and achingly familiar. I’m drowning in it, trying to keep my head above the waves even as the storm threatens to pull me under.

By consuming it, the protagonist comes to understand the rift between them and their lover, the doubt and guilt their lover felt, the questions they couldn’t stop asking. If they’d never adopted Fara, if they’d lived somewhere else, would things be different? They see how their lover came to resent them in a way for processing grief differently, and come to understand why they left. It’s a lovely story, beautifully written, and despite the subject matter, it’s not without hope. While it is a story about grief, it’s also a story about finding a way through grief, and learning to see the world through someone else’s eyes. The story meditates on loss, family, and the fundamental isolation of humans. No matter how well we know someone, we can never see and feel and experience the world exactly as they do. This is echoed in the story by the unchanging nature of the city, cut off from the world, and bringing into question what the point of anything is in a world without time. However in this story, the protagonist is given the rare opportunity to understand at least one aspect of their lover completely, and that brings hope. It’s a gorgeous story and an excellent starting place for Wen Ma’s work.

Latonya Pennington is a queer essayist who regularly contributes to Black Girl Nerds, The Mary Sue, Beyond Words, and BuzzFeed. My recommended starting place for her work is actually two essays, which I see as being thematically linked – What Magical Girls Taught Me About Being Queer, and When Will Black Coming-of-Age Films Leave the Hood. The first article is more personal, discussing how Sailor Moon helped the author realize her queerness, and deal with coming out to her friends and family. The second article is more general, questioning the way many black coming-of-age movies follow the pattern of Boyz n The Hood rather than presenting a wider range of black, teenage experiences. Although their subject matter differs, similar themes resonate across both articles. Both pieces underline the critical importance of representation, and being able to find yourself in fiction and film. They also  highlight the importance of portraying a diversity of experiences. Growing up black is not a monolithic experience, nor is being female, queer, disabled, etc. Marginalized voices are already erased and dismissed, and presenting only one model of femininity, queerness, blackness, or anything else, only further erases individuals. It’s othering and alienating. Both articles also make the point that the more representation there is out there, the more likely we are to see ourselves reflected on the page and on the screen, and that can literally be a life changing and/or a life saving experience. They’re both excellent articles and a worthy starting place for Pennington’s work.

SunvaultT.X. Watson is an author, activist, and the co-founder of Solarpunk Press, a short fiction magazine celebrating the solarpunk sub-genre. Appropriately enough, my recommended starting place for their work is the opening story from the anthology Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation. The Boston Hearth Project is written as an admissions essay from a prospective student, Andie Freeman, who is applying to X.S.U. The question in particular zie is answering is “When have you worked well as part of a team?” The answer may be slightly illegal, but after being assured that application essays are confidential, zie relates the story of working with a team of activists to take over a first class hotel and turn it into a homeless shelter. Andie is an e-sports expert, and takes on almost Oracle-like role on the team, guiding Juniper, an urban explorer and parkour practioner, through the building – avoiding guards, and security cameras – in order to stage the takeover.

Practicing with AugR was like learning to operate another body. I learned new limits for what was physically possible. I know how far back Jupiter’s arms can go before they hurt, and how much farther before they’ll keep hurting afterward. I know how high she can jump. I know how soft she can land.

One of the defining characteristics of solarpunk is its hopeful nature. It imagines a better future, one that embraces diversity, and where people work together toward the greater good. Andie’s team can be seen as a kind of future version of Robin Hood and his merry men, robbing from the rich to give to the poor, and making innovative use of technology to do so. The structure of the story is clever, opening with an email exchange between Andie and an X.S.U. admissions counselor before going in to the essay. Because it’s written as a personal essay, the story doesn’t lose any immediacy, so Watson remains free to show us the friendship between Andie and zier team, along with the tense action of the break in and occupation itself. In a time when it’s all too easy to imagine a grim future where corporations and profit are valued over individual people, and hate-speech is given free rein, The Boston Hearth Project offers hope. It is a story of camaraderie, resistance, and working for a greater good, all of which make it an excellent, and timely, starting place for T.X. Watson’s work.

As always, please leave your own recommendations for non-binary authors to read in the comments, and I’ll be back with more recommendations soon!

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