Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

November 13, 2013

TMoRP Day 17 – Short stories of April

This is not going to be easy to pin down. According to my spreadsheet, I read 98 short stories in April 2013.

Ninety. Eight.

There would be very few times in my life when I would have read more short stories than that in a year, let alone in one month. In terms of the short fiction form, I guess this is my golden age. That’s almost entirely down to having ready access to a wealth of anthologies through the Kindle, although I’ve supplemented my library by picking up a lot of collecvtions by Australian writers in particular.

Anyway, this month the bulk of my reading came from four main sources:

  • Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (specifically issue 56) – a mildly quirky Australian quarterly magazine of science fiction and fantasy short stories. I like it a lot, although the fondness with which I respond to it varies from issue to issue, probably according to which member of its shadowy collective/cabal is sitting in the editorial big chair that month. Your mileage will likely vary.
  • Daily Science Fiction – a site that emails subscribers a new science fiction or (more often) fantasy short story every day. many of these are flash-fiction lengths i.e. around 1000 words. I recommend it, because despite the fact that I only think about half the stories are good (and very few are great), it’s a steady source of new material, and it doesn’t take much time to read them. The stories almost never exceed 4000 words.
  • Thoraiya Dyer’s Twelve Planets collection Asymmetry, about which I blogged earlier in the year. It’s good.
  • Stoneskin Press’ anthology (edited by Robin D Laws) of Aesopian fables for the modern world The Lion and the Aardvark. I didn’t do a full review, but here’s what I said on Goodreads.

Anyway, with that many stories, it’s impossible to narrow it down to just one or two. Here’s the ones I thought stood head and shoulders above the others.

‘Spirit Gum’ by Mike Resnick and Jordan Ellinger in Daily Science Fiction is the story of a stage illusionist who becomes a professional debunker, with tragic consequences.

‘Illegal’ by Pete Aldin and Kevin Ikenberry in ASIM 56, a police procedural, set in the outer solar system, about stateless refugees – three flavours that mash together to moving effect in this case.

‘The Wisdom of Ants’ by Thoraiya Dyer, on the Clarkesworld Podcast. She won the Ditmar for this at this year’s awards ceremony. It’s good, just go and read it. Then feel free to speculate on who genetically engineered the weird-arse metal-eating ants and why anyone would do that.

‘The Blind Pig’ by Lyn Battersby is a creepy fantasy set in a Prohibition-era speakeasy. I wish there were a version of it online, I’d love to chat about that one.

‘After Hours’ by Thoraiya Dyer in Asymmetry. This was the werewolf one. I’m a sucker for werewolf stories. This was an outstanding example of finding something new to do with them.

There’s about sixty stories in The Lion and the Aardvark, most of them of flash-fiction length. I particularly liked: ‘The Loquacious Cadaver’ by Kyla Ward; ‘The Minotaurs and the Signal Ghosts’ by Peter M Ball; ‘The Coyote and the High-Density Feed Lot’ by Greg Stolze (great name for a story!); ‘The Stray Dogs Learn Their Lesson’ by Nick Mamatas; and ‘The Unicorn at the Soiree’ by Rich Dansky. But come on, there’s sixty stories in this volume. There are at least a couple fo dozen more that are almost as good as the ones I mentioned.

The wealth of great new short stories out there is almost too rich to contemplate. This is just a smattering of what apepals to me.

What are you putting through your eye-jellies at the moment? What do you recommend? What will I be reading after I finish reading this unnervingly tall to-be-read pile?

 

November 7, 2013

TMoRP Day 14 – Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Podcast

Yesterday’s entry got really long and rambly. Sorry. This will be shorter.

Ken and Robin Talk about Stuff (KaRTaS) is a weekly podcast by tabletop game design luminaries Kenneth Hite and Robin D Laws. Each show is divided into four segments of roughly 15 minutes, with a general remit of discussing tabletop roleplaying games – designing, running or playing them. In practise, the subjects expand in every direction – they discuss real-world geopolitical events like Syria, Libya and the NSA spying scandal, political issues like the internal wrangling of the Republican Party and the lunatic escapades of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, more bizarre ideas from the realms of conspiracy theories, odd subcultures and the occult, and numerous topics from across the whole stretch of human history. All these are at least nominally grist for the mill of the gaming table and/or fiction, with the presenters mining their subjects for inspiration, using them as launching points for campaigns and stories. You get the idea.

The hosts are funny, erudite and endlessly curious. Even if you don’t have a particular interest in gaming or writing fiction, the sheer scope of their subjects is reason enough to tune in to the show. In one section they might be talking about water rights in the Middle East, and in the next they will cover little-known figures from the lunatic occult fringe of the Nazi Party (apparently there were elements of pre-war Germany that were too crazy even for the Third Reich, the revelations of which are somewhat eye-opening). I don’t recall an episode where I didn’t learn something about which I had previously never heard.

Ken and Robin are charming, amusing hosts who present their material like a cheerful discussion over a tasty cheese platter and a couple of good bottles of red wine. Their conversational style, their easy wit and the sheer breadth of their knowledge (or at least the quality of their research) makes for fun listening, very worthy of an hour out of your week. There’s no particular continuity (other than their occasionally revisiting an earlier subject of discussion) so you can easily start with the latest episode and see what you think. Give it a listen.

June 10, 2013

Review – Shotguns v. Cthulhu (Edited by Robin D Laws)

An excellent anthology of stories injecting thrilling action into H.P. Lovecraft’s often rather staid cosmic horror cycle (though the editor, Robin D Laws, takes care to point out that there was a fair amount of potboiling action in the source stories themselves). With one clunking and risible exception that sounds a lot like after-play report from a particularly overwrought convention scenario, by a writer who has been around more than long enough to know better, these are all fine stories. The writers tend to keep the focus down at the individual level, showing how remarkable characters survive (or don’t) their brushes with the unnatural and various apocalyptic horrors.

A few of the best are Kyla Ward’s “Who Looks Back?” in which adventure-seeking tourists run into something nasty on a New Zealand volcano; “Old Wave” by Rob Heinsoo, about the cultural cost of encountering the Mythos in the Pacific; and Kenneth Hite’s erudite and clever archaeological case study “Infernal Devices”. Most of the rest of the collection are good; those three are great.

Stone Skin Press have put together a few of these themed anthologies over the past year. Based on this and the Aesop-updating ‘The Lion and The Aardvark’, they are a small publisher well worth watching.

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