Inspiration | Resonance: The Art of El Anatsui

Peak (2010) by El Anatsui

A couple of weeks ago I saw an amazing exhibition of works by Ghanaian artist El Anatsui at the Brooklyn Museum. Anatsui takes found materials like metal and wood — considered trash by most — and turns them into amazingly flowy pieces of art that evoke cloth and drapery and alien landscapes. The intricacy of the works and the amount of time he clearly puts into them brings to mind intricate beadwork and quilt-making. Thinking about the time involved in connecting all those old tin can lids or aluminum bottle caps or metal strips from liquor bottles together by hand almost overwhelms me, but then I remember how I feel when I’m stringing beads together or working on an art project that requires tedious repetition. In the moment I’m not really thinking about that, I’m more focused on the end result. Working on projects as big as Anatsui’s would require getting into a meditative state in order to not drive yourself nuts, but it’s not hard to imagine doing so.

The way the exhibition is set up, the pieces get more and more flowy as you go along. In the last room I found my favorite piece: Peak. I immediately saw this as a post-apocalyptic or alien landscape and spent a good amount of time trying to imagine how it would look from eye-level. A bunch of the pictures I took were from as close to that perspective as I could get.

 I also took this video in an effort to get a sense of how it would be on the inside of this sculpture and also how it would look to someone approaching it at eye-level.

Inspiration | Resonance: Cellist Zoe Keating

Zoe Keating at the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival

A recent conversation with N. K. Jemisin made me realize that I have not been vocal enough about my love for musician Zoe Keating even though I’ve been a big fan for over four years. She’s one of my go-to artists when I need writing music that sets a mood or fades into the background just enough to let me work but not enough that I don’t actively enjoy it. Other than just loving the sound, I also geekily enjoy how Zeating makes music. It’s very techie.

The first time I heard Zeating’s music was on the RadioLab podcast titled The Quantum Cello, and that’s how I think of her stuff: quantum music. Using MIDI recording tools and a laptop, Zeating overlaps repeating phrases to create multilayered music all from the same instrument. It’s hard to grasp how awesome this is when listening to a recording because it’s easy to create layered music in a studio. Keating does it live. She records each phrase as she plays it, then the laptop repeats it back (controlled with a petal) while she plays and records another bit. The layers build and build into ever more complex interactions. Watching this happen in real time is more amazing than I can recount.

The other thing I love about Zeating’s music is the wide variation of sound she gets out of a cello. There are several tracks where, if I didn’t know better, I would swear a piano or a whistle or a flute was involved.

The only sadness with being a Zoe fan is that she doesn’t produce new albums all the time. Her last one, Into the Trees, came out in 2010. Before that she put out two EPs in 2004 and 2005. I can’t very well complain since she’s a label-less indie artist and thus can’t just spend all of her time composing new stuff for me (uh, I mean, for all her fans…). I am pleased to see her music getting attention all over the place. I started hearing it as interstitial music between news segments on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered a few years ago. The Elementary staff and producers love her stuff, too, and so her tracks are all over that show.

You can buy her EPs and album from her website or on iTunes. I suggest buying them all, but if you start with One Cello x 16: Natoma you’ll get a good feel for her overall style. If you listen to the EPs and album in order you’ll note that her music gets more and more complex as she goes on. It makes me excited for what she’ll produce next.

Another kind of backup

Viggo Mortensen's Journal

New post over on the tech blog that will be of interest to you writer types:

“As I was in the process of moving from one house to another… someone broke into the passenger side window of my car and grabbed the backpack containing several notebooks I’d filled, since early 2001, with handwritten stories and poems. The backpack also contained a couple of journals, two screenplays, my passport, and two half-read books. The hardest losses were the stories and poems in the notebooks. I had been looking forward, in particular, to reviewing and fine-tuning hundreds of pages of, for me, uncharacteristically long and unguarded poetry that had been written during a series of very quiet nights spent in the Sahara Desert in late 2002.  

“…I spent a lot of time and effort in the following weeks scouring my part of town, looking through trash cans and alleyways, offering no-questions-asked rewards, doing anything I could think of to find what was irreplaceable for me and probably completely useless to whoever had stolen it. Finally, I let most of it go…”

–Viggo Mortensen

The specific thing that made me recall that story was testing Evernote’s Page Capture feature. … The idea of scanning a paper journal to a digital file isn’t exactly new. But with smartphones being so wide-spread and the cameras in them getting better and better, I wonder if it’s now just convenient enough that writers would spend a couple of minutes every day adding their journals to Evernote and if that would end up being an effective backup system?

Click here for the full post & discussion.

Are You Shocked?

Are You Shocked?

Yesterday I spent more time than is strictly necessary reading blog posts by Vox Day and some other people of his caliber. I started my journey at Vox’s response to N. K. Jemisin’s Continuum GoH speech and ended up in some serious weeds once I got to a giant manifesto about how John Scalzi is the soul of racism against whites. No, I’m not linking. I read it so you don’t have to and TRUST ME you do not have to. I’ve also read many responses to Vox’s post, including this one from Amal calling for him to be booted from SFWA. Amen to that.

In several posts and status updates I came across variants of this sentiment: don’t dismiss Vox Day as just some troll. I feel like this isn’t getting said enough. Not because there needs to be more vehement objection to his very existence (there is plenty), but because I think a lot of people have a tendency to consider him extreme and way far out of the mainstream and maybe even purposefully jerking us around not because he believes what he says but because he gets joy from making us all angry. Old Theo probably does enjoy making everyone angry. He also means everything he says. That is important to realize. He’s not a parody, he is serious, that is really the way he thinks. And there are plenty of other people who think just like him. Not only the pathetic commentors on his blog. There are tons of people with his same attitude in the world.

I know why so many people look at him and want to just dismiss it as whiney baby attention grabbing bullshit. There are likely many people who, like me, are pretty selective about the people they allow in their lives or selective about the circles they socialize in or spend more time on friendships that are mainly digital due to distance. I spend most of my time with awesome people. So when I run across someone who says something super misogynist or blatantly racist I’m often taken aback for a few seconds because: really? People like you still exist? Somebody honestly thinks it’s okay to say something like that to me? Or to her? Or him? Why, yes.

Mind you, I’m used to people saying or doing bigoted things out of ignorance or blindness or unexamined privilege. That’s different. That is understandable if not forgivable. But people who just outright call a black person a savage by virtue of them being black? Who does that?

The image of the type of person who does that is often the southern redneck with a KKK hood in the closet. That person surely exists. They are not the only type of person who would unashamedly say that sort of thing. That’s the reality. You and I may not encounter a person like this every day or every month or year or for many years. They still exist. And pretending they’re just some dismissible hillbilly does not, in fact, make them go away or make them less dangerous to our culture.

Make no mistake, the Theodore Beale/Vox Days of the world are depressingly common.

Instead of being OMG Shocked! by it, acknowledge it and make a determination of what you’re going to do about it. I don’t mean going after the dude with torches and pitchforks. he probably would enjoy that too much. You can go after his ideas, though. Drag them into the light and expose them for the vile entities they are. You can provide counterpoint, a less hateful view, and support for the types of people he seeks to put down and belittle. Make it clear where you stand and who you stand with. Demand the best of yourself and your community.

And realize that by doing so you are not making this all about him but all about the people you do want in your community or your life or your inner circle.

Demanding The Best

Demanding The Best

A couple of weekends ago at WisCon I attended a party where one of the hosts asked people to write down a sentence or two about why they love WisCon. One of the answers was: “I love WisCon because it demands the best of me.”[1] I believe I screamed YAAAAAAS because that is exactly why I love WisCon. The conversations are awesome, of course, and getting to see people I love or really want to meet and discovering how intelligent and fun they are is high on my list. But WisCon isn’t just some old con, it’s a feminist convention with a specific aim and community vibe. And while I am well aware that there have been and continue to be issues and problematic aspects of the con on a systemic and individual level, there are plenty of people who demand the best of all of us and it makes the con a better place year by year.

There are many who don’t agree. I remember being quite pissed at a certain someone saying that WisCon isn’t a “safe space” for him, but when you count safety as “no one ever challenges me on my behavior or speech, even if that behavior or speech is hurtful” then yeah, it’s not safe and that’s good. Those who don’t want to be challenged for hurting other people are best off staying at home in general and away from WisCon in particular because, yes, we demand you be better than that.

Demand is a really strong word, and I know that there are plenty who will bristle at the use. I don’t care. When it comes to the things WisCon attendees demand, such as equality and the ouster of -ist attitudes (sexist, racist, homophobic, fatphobic, plus way more), you have to go right to the strongest possible terms. The history of this country and of many others shows that equal treatment does not come from asking politely, but demanding on the basis of what is right. Even people who want to trot out that old Malcolm vs Martin crap need to understand that MLK never politely, meekly asked for equal rights, he stood at podiums and in front of microphones and demanded it in very strong terms. So, if you want to puff out your feathers and get all harrumphy about the idea of someone demanding you be better? Then you clearly have no place in polite society.

I will acknowledge that out here in the non-WisCon world, it isn’t always possible to be in a community that demands the best of people. I accept that and I have my ways of dealing with it. It is in that context that I’m watching the newest argument around SFWA unfold. There is tons of background here[2], so I’m only going to give the short version. In the latest SFWA Bulletin there is a column (ongoing) penned by Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg in which they have a dialogue about censorship and bullying that boils down to: Young people and women are liberal fascists because they want to silence us for saying some sexist stuff. Not even Jerry Fallwell ever tried to censor us! You can read their ramblings here[3].

Plenty of right-thinking people are upset about this and plenty of non-right thinking people are upset at the upsetness. There’s been a lot of discussion about how this reflects on SFWA as a whole. Mike and Barry aren’t officers or representatives of SFWA, but the column appeared in the official publication of the organization. What does the publication of the column say about SFWA and the people who run it and the people who are in it? There are many answers to that question and many debates around it and plenty of great things being said about the complexities. I encourage you to read them.

I know that SFWA is made up of a multitude of people, some of whom are quite despicable, some who are just annoying, and some who are working to improve the organization. The improvers are tackling issues around how the org works, how it can better help the writer members, and how SFWA can better reach out and tell people about itself. All wonderful things. Then there’s the aspect of SFWA that’s about dealing with the culture of the community. SFWA represents professional authors, not all of fandom. Still, the cultures sometimes mirror each other. And depending on the time and place, fandom might take cues from the culture around the pro writers (many of whom are fans, too). Whose job is it to address cultural issues such as sexism, racism, oppression, bigotry, etc. within SFWA’s ranks? That is the big question, and that is part of what people are wrestling with right now.

The officers and board members can set a tone but they can’t control people. The membership (and outsiders) cannot put all of this on them. What needs to happen is that the all of people who belong to and run SFWA need to demand the best of their community[4]. Demand that sexism no longer be treated lightly, that it be called out and put down and not tolerated. Unless you demand the best of people there will be plenty who will be completely comfortable giving you their worst.

How do I know this to be true? Read the SFWA Bulletin. All the proof you need is there.

Footnotes

  1. If anyone remembers who wrote this, please tell me![]
  2. Jim Hines has a nice link roundup which should lead you to many more[]
  3. Scroll to the bottom for images of the column and an OCR text version[]
  4. I know many SFWA members already do this. Most of them (on this issue) are women. They need all the other members to step up and help them and have their backs. Especially the men.[]

eBook Library Lending Is Still A Mess And Now I Know Why: Publishers

eBook Library Lending Is Still A Mess And Now I Know Why: Publishers

Yesterday at Book Expo America I attended a panel titled “E-Books From Libraries: Good For Authors?” because I’m writing a piece for a magazine on the state of eBook library lending. What I learned is that the reason things are going so poorly in the world of eBooks and libraries is because publishers, agents, and people who claim to be representing the best interests of authors are super ignorant and will probably destroy everything if allowed to continue making decisions. Since I can see no pixel-stained techno peasant uprising on the horizon, I think we’re all in for a bad time.

The panelists were as follows: Ginger Clark, Literary Agent (Moderator); Carolyn Reidy, President and Chief Executive Officer, Simon & Schuster; Jack Perry, Owner 38enso Inc.; Maureen Sullivan, President, American Library Association (ALA); Steve Potash, President and CEO, Overdrive; Paul Aiken, Executive Director, Authors Guild. I’m going to point out from the start that both Ms. Sullivan of the ALA and Mr. Potash of Overdrive both had really great things to say on the panel and are both very smart about this issue. This is not surprising since they both understand the issue from the side of the libraries. Mr. Perry didn’t say too much at the panel. And Mr. Aiken arrived late, and by doing so saved us from having to listen to him be aggressively wrong for too long. That leads us to: Ms. Reidy.

Early in the panel the moderator asked her to talk about Simon & Schuster’s strategy around eBooks for libraries. This is part of what she said:

Publishers didn’t resist coming up with programs because they didn’t think it was good for their business. … They’re protecting not only their business but every author’s, too. We’re the representative of the author in this transaction. Why would we ever want to do anything to destroy that? Publishers have always thought that having an author’s work in a library is a good thing.

What changes with digital is that you can sit at home and if you have a library card you can order any book, you never have to go anywhere. And if you could get every book you wanted free, why would you ever buy another one? That’s the question we had about it in our first meeting. … That is the danger. You could literally undermine the market for every author and for [the publishers]. … Obviously, there is some discovery through libraries. There’s also some ability for people who people who aren’t ever going to buy books to read them and be a part of the conversation. We’ve always believed that the cultural contribution of libraries is important.

But this frictionless ability for people to download books does make a sea change difference.[1]

There is a lot to argue with in this statement, but what struck me is that last line: “frictionless ability.” That right there is an indication of why S&S and possibly many other publishers will continue to have wrong thinking on this subject.

Borrowing an eBook from a library is Not Frictionless. It’s just not. In the past few years, Overdrive and a small number of other companies that actually build the lending technology have made the process a little bit easier, especially if you have a smartphone, tablet, or other iOS, Android, or BlackBerry device. However, if you have an eInk device from B&N, Sony, Kobo, etc., the process for setting things up and moving library books over is more complex than it needs to be and confuses a lot of people. I’m very tech-savvy and I don’t do it because it’s a damn hassle. Think of all the people who want to do it but don’t have access to the technology needed (it’s less expensive to buy a Nook than a computer or a tablet or to own a smartphone) or just don’t understand how to work it. Now realize that this is a major segment of the population that libraries serve.

This is Not A Frictionless Experience.

When Q&A time came I brought this up and then asked: Why are people in publishing so worried about this problem now? No one is having panels with hand-wringing about all those free paper books in the libraries.

Ginger Clark jumped in to answer that question: “Because [eBooks from libraries] can be pirated quite easily.”

Piracy was the big, scary demon in the room for a lot of this panel. But I thought that most of the speakers were thinking about it in correct ways. At one point Clark asked if “windowing” was going the way of the dinosaur. This is the practice of not selling new books to libraries for months or even years after initial release in order to increase sales. Everyone agreed that it was going away mostly because it didn’t increase sales, it increased piracy. Plus, there was a lot of talk of not making the same mistakes as the music industry.

So for Clark to say that there’s this worry about eBooks in libraries because they’re easy to pirate? Guess what: that’s all eBooks. The DRM scheme that Overdrive uses for EPUB is the same DRM that B&N uses and Kobo and Sony and Google and just about everyone else (except Apple). It’s not hard to strip that DRM (so I’m told) and it is no harder to do so if you buy the book than if you get it from the library. So what it seems that Clark and others are actually worried about is that library patrons are more likely to be evil pirates than everyone else. Leaving out that most of the time when media is put up on a torrent or file sharing service, the original was purchased by someone.

I will also point out that NetGalley, a service that provides free eBook ARCs (advanced reader copies), uses the same DRM. And yet I don’t see any hand-wringing about that. Maybe because the people with access to NetGalley can supposedly be trusted? Because they’re not poor people in libraries.

This fear of library pirating also makes no sense in the face of the data brought to the table by Overdrive President Steve Potash, who said that there weren’t many (or any) complaints of library books ending up on torrent sites. This doesn’t surprise me, since Reidy kept saying how there was “no data” on which strategies for library lending would work best and Potash repeatedly said that he had plenty of data, up to 10 years worth, and yet still there was talk of no data.

After Clark got done saying ridiculous things about pirating, Reidy made an answer that showed she has not ever actually used the technology under discussion.

It may be difficult to download a file onto an eReader — although most of them are made so it’s not — but let’s just say that it is today. It could be completely different in six months the way technology goes. We’re not trying to make decisions on what to do just based on what we see in front of us today. After all, it’s taken us a while to get here and things were much clunkier even a year ago. It’s the fact that a digital file can in fact be downloaded very easily. And once somebody learns how a library system works… it will become easier for them to use.

There is a real difference between a digital file and a physical book. And the fact that you have to go to the library and pick it up ad check it out vs. hit a few buttons.

This woman has a real talent for packing in the fail, doesn’t she? Before we even get to how she completely ignored the part about access to technology, let’s address the part where she handwaves away the difficulties and is sure the ones I’m imagining won’t be there in six months.

First, it’s really not as simple as just clicking and downloading a file, particularly if you’re working with an eInk eReader. Even once you’re in the system it’s not that easy. Second, I spent a long time yesterday talking to reps from Overdrive and 3M (who also have an eBook lending platform) and Kobo, and I specifically asked about how they are working toward making the lending process easy and seamless. Every last one of them said that, yes, it’s a goal and, yes, they are working on it, but they can’t always get it done because the eReader companies have to partner with them, except the eReader companies say that the lending software people have to make it work and it’s all their fault.

The only company with a mostly easy mechanism for eInk devices is Amazon, and apparently publishers (or just S&S) don’t like how Amazon brings library patrons into Amazon’s system in order for this ease to happen, and so some books just aren’t available to the Kindle.

Has Reidy spent even the hour I did talking to Overdrive and 3M and Kobo and B&N and Sony about this? Sounds like not. Because from the answers they gave me, this problem is no where near being solved in six months because no one is really working in concert to make it happen. Including the publishers.

Third thing is that last bit about how eBooks are different because a person just has to click, whereas with physical books you have to go to the library and pick it up. What this immediately brought to mind is that the difference is difficulty. It’s okay to let people have free books if there are barriers in place to ensure they won’t take too much advantage of it. Because how dare they. When I countered with this, Reidy was all: No, that’s not what I mean! But then Paul Aiken of the Authors Guild took control and told me that I had made my point in a tone that suggested I should shut up.

He launched into some tirade about how eBooks mean that people don’t have to come to libraries anymore and then we’ll lose libraries and that will be bad for everyone and did we hear about some library in California that was getting rid of all physical books and going digital only and redesigning their library to look more like an Apple store AND ISN’T THAT JUST TERRIBLE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!? I don’t know why anyone allows the Authors Guild to represent them because this dude is all kinds of out of touch.

You can imagine the look on my face as this all went down, but what made it better is that Maureen Sullivan of the ALA spoke after him and said pointedly that my question was a fair one and also addressed some of the stuff I raised about access to technology and how librarians are often the ones called on to help patrons navigate and understand the eBook lending system. She said very many awesome things over the whole discussion and kept bringing it back to how what librarians want is to ensure that everyone has equal access to knowledge and literature at a fair price. One of the things she said in response to my question really shows how much more she (and probably librarians in general) understands the eBook landscape.

“…this is the classic example of disruptive innovation. It causes a lot of misunderstanding, it brings fears to light. … When we experience disruptive innovation, it’s much more effective to think not ‘either/or’ but ‘and’.”

Yes. That.

Many of the people in the audience were librarians and the ones who got to ask questions also seemed concerned with the attitudes of the publishing folks about a host of things. They swarmed the Overdrive guy once it was over to thank him for standing up for libraries in a similar way to Ms. Sullivan. Overall, I would trust the two of them to look out for the real interests of authors on this issue than some of the others on that panel.

It’s so disheartening to go to an event like BEA and have supposed industry experts show you how clearly they do not understand the deeper issues surrounding eBooks or even the underlying technology. Before Carolyn Reidy makes any more decisions about eBooks and lending, she should be forced to use the system. And not just with one piece of technology, but one from every platform: eInk, iOS, Android, computer, NO computer, library computer. Before Ginger Clark talks about the ease of piracy for library eBooks I need her to talk about all the worrying she’s doing over piracy of eBooks from a major retailer and how that is different. Before Paul Aiken opens his mouth ever I need him to not do so.

Until all of these people and the others like them actually do some real work in concert with the software/hardware developers and the librarians on the eBook lending ecosystem, it’s not going to get any easier or less confusing for library patrons and it’s not going to get any better for libraries themselves. But considering the desire to keep eBook lending from being too “frictionless” lest people stop buying books forever because of Free, I suspect this problem isn’t going to get fixed. Not in six months and maybe not in six years.

Footnotes

  1. I have a recording of this panel which I will provide to anyone who wishes to listen. On this quote, I re-arranged some of what she said to make it flow better, but I did not change the context at all. Also: emphasis mine.[]

Favorite Fiction (Feb & March 2013) plus new ways to find my faves

Favorite Fiction (Feb & March 2013) plus new ways to find my faves

Over at io9 my list of best short stories from February and March is now live. Those ten stories represent my very top picks, but there are several more I hearted over the past couple of months. I listed them below.

Before we get to that, a couple of things! First, I created a Flipboard magazine recently where I intend to collect all the stories I favorite each month. It’s the same list you’ll see here, so it’s basically another way to see the same info. With a Flipboard magazine you’ll get an update every time I add a new story and won’t have to wait for the end of the month. Plus, the stories will just show up in your regular Flipboard, no need to do anything extra. To subscribe, search for “ktempest” in Flipboard. The magazine is called Fantastic Flippin’ Fiction.

I mentioned in January’s post that I was looking for a venue where I could discuss short stories in depth. Not just the ones I like, but any one worth discussing, including stories I don’t like. To that end, I’m doing some experimenting. I created a Google+ community. I intend for it to be a participatory thing, not just me. Anyone can post links to stories, start a discussion, or make recommendations. If you have a Google account, you can join.

Now, onto the picks!

Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.

Utopias In Literature (Scholar & Feminist Conference 2013)

Utopias In Literature (Scholar & Feminist Conference 2013)

This year’s Scholar & Feminist Conference theme is Utopia, and I’m honored to be leading a workshop about Utopia and Literature. I’m going to discuss mainly speculative fiction novels and short stories (thus the reading list below), explore how writers have handled the idea of utopia and dystopia, and discuss the ways writers can think about utopia going forward. I’m also going to get into how fiction handles utopia affects the reader and/or culture.

In preparation for this workshop I had some great conversations with other speculative fiction authors about utopia and dystopia so that I could incorporate their viewpoints into the discussion. I want to thank Justine Larbalestier, N. K. Jemisin, Rahul Kanakia, Nisi Shawl, Eileen Gunn, and Catherynne M. Valente for helping me expand and explore my own ideas about utopia by offering their own.

The ideas I will use as a jumping off point are:

  • Science fiction as a genre is well suited to utopias because it “explores our world by positing another one that works a bit differently.” (Eileen Gunn)
  • If utopia is an ideal, is there such a thing as an objective ideal? Can a utopia ever be a utopia for everyone? Or if you create a perfect society for one group, who then becomes dominant, does that mean the non-dominant group/s must be oppressed?
  • Utopia is relative. The utopias we see in fiction may work for one set of people but are dystopian for another set.
  • Many modern stories and novels are specifically dystopian in nature or are utopias that reveal themselves as dystopias. Why is this the modern mode of exploration?
  • What do the types of utopias we see in fiction reveal about the authors who write them and the society or culture they come from? The ideals they include and the ones they leave out speak to their point of view and what they value and don’t.
  • Is it possible to show a true utopia in fiction? One view is that fiction requires conflict, so the author must show the utopia to be flawed in some way. Another view is that the conflict doesn’t have to come from within the utopia itself but from outside. The point being not to show that the utopia is flawed, but that the outside forces are.
  • Utopia as positive text. Creating a positive text, be it a positive feminist text, positive womanist, positive toward the idea that people are equal and should be created with respect — can this be a form of utopian writing? What affect does this have on the reader, on culture?

The workshop begins at 12:25pm Eastern (3/2). You can follow what people are saying on Twitter about the workshop and the conference by checking out the hashtags #sfutopialit and #sfutopia. This post will evolve and grow as the workshop goes on and afterward as I incorporate what the workshop participants have to say. I’ve invited all of the people in the workshop to liveblog and Tweet as well as bring the discussion to the comments on this post. Even if you’re not in the workshop physically, I hope my regular readers will also offer their thoughts on utopia.

Very Selective Reading List

I will add links to all of these works later on. During the workshop I expect we will generate more stories and novels to include in this list.

  • Octavia Butler
    • Parable of the Sower
    • Parable of the Talents
  • Steven R. Boyett
    • Elegy Beach
      • N. K. Jemisin: Takes place 20 years after Ariel. The protagonist grew up in this world where magic works and science doesn’t, and he’s excited by the world’s magic. His father remembers the world as it was. It’s a utopia for the son, not for the father.
  • Suzy McKee Charnas
    • The Holdfast Chronicles (Walk to the End of the World, Motherlines, The Furies, The Conqueror’s Child)
  • John Crowley
    • In Blue” (short story)
      • Nisi Shawl: a future utopia, a socialist world. It’s hard to envision what a totally happy utopia can be. He does this, but from the point of view of someone who doesn’t get it. It’s not a perfect utopia for him but it is for everyone else.
  • L. Timmel Duchamp
    • The Marq’ssan Cycle (Alanya to Alanya, Renegade, Tsunami, Blood in the Fruit, Stretto)
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman
    • Herland
  • Kathleen Ann Goonan
    • This Shared Dream
      • Eileen Gunn: This book posits an attempt at creating a utopia. Here’s the blurb I wrote for it: “What if you could travel through time to fix what is wrong with the world? The world would resist, and the very act of trying would create parallel worlds with their own problems. This wondrous book, the story of a handful of people who seek to alter the twentieth century to create a better future, acknowledges the inhumanity of war and yet celebrates the joys of music, art, friendship, and family. And it reminds us that the future is made by the children of the present. I loved this book, and I heartily recommend it.”
  • N. K. Jemisin
    • “Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows” (short story)
      • Example of a relative utopia
  • Rahul Kanakia
    • Next Door” (short story)
      • Written from the point of view of a character who sees the world as dystopian, but when flipped to the antagonist’s POV could be utopian.
  • Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Kat Meads
    • Sleep
      • From the Tiptree Award website: This is a fierce, unrepentantly experimental, somewhat raw novel about motherhood in a highly gray utopia.
  • Marge Piercy
    • Woman on the Edge of Time
      • From the Tiptree Award website: Piercy not only creates a complex and intricate utopian vision, but tosses in a dystopia and an all too realistic real world as well. Connie Ramos is one of science fiction’s most genuine heroines. She has to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into utopia. The rest of us, at the end of the book, have to be dragged out.
  • Joanna Russ
    • The Two Of Them
      • Nisi Shawl: Secret agents across time go to this planet that’s been settled by people who are trying to set up a religious utopia based on Islam.
    • The Female Man
    • “When it Changed” (short story)
      • Takes place in the same world as The Female Man
    • “Houston, Houston, Do You Read”
  • Starhawk
    • The Fifth Sacred Thing
      • A post-apocalyptic novel depicting two societies, one a sustainable economy based on social justice, and its neighbor, a militaristic and intolerant theocracy.
  • Catherynne M. Valente
    • The Orphan’s Tales cycle (In the Night Garden, In the Cities of Coin and Spice)
  • Connie Willis

Anthologies

Favorite Fiction from January 2013; New Related Projects; Fiction Review Contraption?

Favorite Fiction from January 2013; New Related Projects; Fiction Review Contraption?

First favorite fiction post of 2013 and there is a lot to talk about besides the fic I liked! I’ll begin with business.

First, I am posting a short list of favorite fic every month over at io9 now. Click here to see January’s picks. Each month I’ll choose my top favorites, usually 5 or so, to list there. I’ll also do more with print/subscription/non-free fiction there and podcasts. That list won’t mean that these lists will go away, though. There are shorts listed here that aren’t listed there.

Second, I’m now part of the Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth crew, so I will contribute to the Twitter account and possibly the podcast (I’m not in Australia or anything, so I have no clue how that works). So if you want to keep up with the stories I like as I read them, follow that account. I’m not the only one who tweets, so you get bonus thoughts from other folks doing the same thing I am.

Last, ever since I started reading short fic regularly I’ve wanted to have a place where I could go to have discussions about the stories. Not just the stories I like, but the ones I don’t that I still find interesting enough to discuss. Last time I brought this up on Twitter many were interested, so I’m bringing it up again. The thing I’m unsure about is where to host this discussion. G+ communities are now live and could work. DreamWidth communities might be better since it can be a little bit (but not totally) private. I’m just worried about people who may want to join the discussion feeling like they can’t unless they join DreamWidth. Maybe that’s an unfounded concern. Anyway, I would love to hear suggestions on this.

Okay, all that taken care of, it’s now time for the favorites list!

Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.

Would you like to nominate me for awards? I would not object.

Would you like to nominate me for awards? I would not object.

Earlier this month when I posted my personal Best Of list of short stories for the year, I stated that I would like to see any of those works nominated for awards. This is very true. Later on I’ll also make a post about other folks or works I think deserving of nominations, including novels and such. But this post is all about me.

Yes, it’s completely selfish, blah blah. Moving on.

I had a handful of pieces published in 2012, both fiction and non. And since it’s all the rage to mention lately, I am eligible to be nominated for the Fan Writer Hugo based on my blogging and other non-professional publications, such as this piece that went up on io9.

As far as fiction, my story “The Birth of Pegasus” in Dark Faith: Invocations is under 7,500 and eligible for the Hugo, World Fantasy, and Nebula awards. My story “Uncertainty Principle” in Diverse Energies is over 8,000 words (I believe), so counts as a novelette for the Hugo and Nebula awards.

I would also love to see Chicks Unravel Time nominated for Best Related Work in the Hugos. That’s not just about me, but about all the really amazing contributors to the book and the editors who so wisely put it together.

So there you go, my award eligibility for 2012 stuff. Act on it as you will.

The Best Short Fiction of 2012 (According To Me) + 2012 Fiction Stats

Now that I’ve finished reading short stories for 2012, it’s time for some lists and statistics! I know, I know, lists can be boring. But not this one. I put together a list of what I consider the best short fiction of 2012. This is culled from my Favorite fiction lists I’ve been doing all year. Keep in mind that this is pretty much limited to free fiction online, so it doesn’t include stories from print mags like F&SF, Asimov’s, and the like.

If you plan on nominating works for awards, I encourage you to consider these. All are eligible for the Hugo, and some are eligible for other awards (I marked the ones I could think of below).

I’ve listed them in chronological order from most recently published backwards.

Now as to stats.

There are 19 stories on my best of list, that’s out of 82 favorite stories for 2012. I don’t have an accurate count for how many stories I read in total, sadly, but I know I read a great deal. I can’t claim to have read every story published for free online. A lot of time I stuck to the magazines I know I like the most. But toward the middle of the year I did pick up some new reading and tried to dip into new-to-me markets more often.

Just taking the 19 stories on my Best Of list, it’s clear that I dig Clarkesworld and Lightspeed Magazines the most, since there are 4 stories from each. Next is Strange Horizons, with two stories that made the list. (Also keep in mind that this only represents stories published in 2012 and not reprints from other years).

This pattern pretty much holds when you look at the breakdown of all magazines that made my favorites list this year.

Lightspeed is at the top (again, this is with originals) followed closely by Clarkesworld and Strange Horizons. Apex also has a good showing. After that it drops pretty dramatically. For some magazines, this is because they publish far fewer stories in a year. Eclipse Online is new, so the percentage of stories I’ve liked from the magazine is high, relatively. However, it is telling that DailySF is only on my list once. If you include the reprints I liked (9 total) then Lightspeed gets 22 thumbs up from me for the year.

I would be interested to hear from the editors of these magazines on how many stories they published in 2012 so I can get an idea of what percentage of their offerings I liked.

Of my favorite stories, 60 were written by women and only 19 written by men. Two were written by persons of unknown (to me) gender. There are 18 authors of color on my favorites list. Most of the male authors I like are POC.

The SF/F split continues to be about even. 48 of the stories I liked are science fiction and 51 are fantasy. Only 4 horror stories and 3 I classed as Interstitial (with some overlap with SF/F).

Several authors show up in my favorites more than once: Aliette de Bodard, Rahul Kanakia, Ken Liu. This is partially a testament to how prolific they are, but also does represent my fondness for them. Liu in particular comes to mind whenever someone asks me about favorite authors or for suggestions on what to read. Should also mention here that I’m in Diverse Energies with both Liu and Kanakia — to be in this company makes me very happy. (I also really liked their stories.)

Overall, I’ve enjoyed reading all this short fiction in 2012. It’s definitely inspired me to write more. Plus, I like being able to see the growing expansion of the genre as I discover new gems. I will continue to read as much short fiction as possible in 2013. In fact, I’ll likely read way more.

The crew over at Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth asked me to join the blog, and I happily said yes. So more print mags are in my future. I also talked to AnnaLee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders about possibly doing a short fiction roundup for io9. Hopefully that will happen this month.

You can see all of the short stories I liked this year by surfing the tag on my blog or over on Delicious. On Delicious you’ll see some more numbers that may interest you.

My Favorite Fiction from November and December 2012

Welcome to 2013, everyone! Since I was so abominably late with my October favorites I decided to spend my vacation time reading and thus get you my final favorites for 2012 just as we rang in the new year. In a separate post I’ll also put up my top picks for the year. The stories that I would put in a year’s best collection were I in charge of one.

There’s a nice, long list of great stories here with some new names among them.

Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.

My Favorite Fiction From October 2012

Yeah… so October. I realized today that the reason I’m behind on posting this list is that I just haven’t had the energy to write up a little review/summary of why I like these stories. And that continues and continues to be the case. Since we’re deep into December and I haven’t even posted November’s picks yet, I figured I would just toss the list up.

Here’s what I’ll say about them all: I liked each of these stories and loved others. If I had to pick out one that stood out, it’s Said The Princess. That one totally charmed and amused me. I think I was most surprised because Daily Science Fiction rarely publishes anything I like.

Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.

Chicks Unravel Time Readings & Signings in Worcester, MA & New York City

Chicks Unravel Time Readings & Signings in Worcester, MA & New York City

Chicks Unravel Time comes out in just a few days! Eee! I’m very excited. This book is bound to be really special. I’ve already had a sneak peek at a couple of the essays and I will predict that Doctor Who lovers will enjoy every page.

Some related events surrounding that. First, to get the bad news out of the way: I will not be attending Chicago TARDIS this year. I know, very sad! But family obligations + lack of money = no Tempest at the con. However, there will be a panel and signing and all of that with the fabulous editors, Deborah Stanish and L. M. Myles, plus many of the contributors. So if you can get to the con, go check it out!

Good news is that I will be at two more local reading/signing events!

The first is in Massachusetts near Boston, the second right here in my hometown of NYC. Details:

On Saturday, November 17th, Annie’s Bookstop of Worcester is holding an all-day Chicks Unravel Time event. I’ll be there alongside Jennifer Pelland, another of the book’s contributors, plus Katy Shuttleworth, cover artist extraordinaire. We’ll be reading, signing books, and hosting a roundtable discussion/Q&A. The store has promised us some surprises as well, and there will be tons of Doctor Who merchandise besides the book to peruse. So please do come!

Location: 65 James Street Worcester MA 01603

Time: 11/17 1PM – 6PM (come early for the reading/signings)

Next up: NYC Doctor Who shenanigans!

The Doctor Who NY group is hosting a reading/signing/book launch event at The Churchill, a pub that appears to be very fancy. This event is going to be loads of fun since both Deborah and Liz will be in town. Then Liz goes back to Scotland and we all cry.

There will also be copies and discussion of a couple of other recently published Doctor Who books that night as well. So overall it will be a big one for NYC Doctor Who fans.

Location: 45 East 28th St (near Park Avenue), New York, NY

Time: 11/28 6:30pm

Here’s a Facebook page for the event if you’d like to RSVP there.

Can’t come to either of these events? Sadness! But you know what you can do? You can pre-order your copy of Chicks Unravel Time. Yes, you can!

 

Story Notes: Uncertainty Principle (from Diverse Energies)

Story Notes: Uncertainty Principle (from Diverse Energies)

So I may have jumped the gun a bit early on the release date for Diverse Energies! However, according to the publisher, it is available now. And I’m seeing it in eBook format on Amazon and B&N, so I suspect print copies will be forthcoming very soon. Check your local, indie book sellers first!

I’m looking forward to hearing from people who read the stories to see what everyone thinks. Rachel Manija-Brown wrote a very thoughtful review here which then led into this post about dystopias and genre labels. One thing I find intriguing is that where Rahul Kanakia was told to write an SF action story, I was told to write a dystopia, yet his story is way more classic dystopia and mine has little shades of it but is more actiony.

Given the discussion on that post, I thought I’d give folks who read my story “Uncertainty Principle” a little peek into the background of it and my thinking around the whole dystopia thing.

As you might expect, these story notes are full of spoilers, so they’re going behind a cut. Don’t read unless you’ve read the story or don’t mind knowing some things about it! (also, ‘ware spoilers in the comments.)

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