Other people’s short stories I liked in 2016

On my list of things to do in 2017: keep better track of which stories I liked in anthologies, not readily linkable. There are a few on this list from things I read on my Kindle once I thought of that, but not many, and while I went through my book posts trying to spot the anthologies that came out this year and the stories I liked in them, I am tired and have a cold and probably missed some. And again: this list makes no pretense at being comprehensive, nor is it the N best for your award-nominating needs. I care about getting short stories into brains; that is what this is for, and secondarily to pat people on the back and say go team. I have not read all of any one thing, and I have not read some of everything. I have just read some things and liked them. Here they are.

Das Steingeschopf, by G. V. Anderson (Strange Horizons)

Palingenesis, by Megan Arkenberg (Shimmer)

Blood Reckonings, by Alec Austin (BCS)

The Paper Sword, by Alec Austin (Hidden Youth)

The Spy Who Never Grew Up, by Sarah Rees Brennan (Uncanny)

The Signal Birds, by Octavia Cade (Liminal)

Mortal Eyes, by Ann Chatham (BCS)

A Dead Djinn in Cairo, by P. Djeli Clark (Tor.com)

A Hundred and Seventy Storms, by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny)

Anon and the Antlers, by Michael J. DeLuca (Orthogonal)

Asleep in the Traces, by Michael J. DeLuca (Middle Planet)

Binaries, by S. B. Divya (Lightspeed: PoC Destroy SF)

Written in the Book of the Woods, by L.J. Geoffrion (Reckoning)

Big Thrull and the Askin Man, by Max Gladstone (Uncanny)

A Name to Ashes, by Jaymee Goh (Hidden Youth)

Civitas Sylvatica, by Cae Hawksmoor (Reckoning)

The Stone Garden, by C. A. Hawksmoor (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

The Virgin Played Bass, by Maria Dahvana Headley (Uncanny)

Transition, by Erin Hoffman (Reckoning) (a poem, not a story)

Plague Winter, by Emily Houk (Reckoning)

My Grandmother’s Bones, by S. L. Huang (Daily SF)

Spirit of Home, by Jose Pablo Iriarte (Motherboard)

The Night Bazaar for Women Becoming Reptiles, by Rachael K. Jones (BCS)

Zombies in Winter, by Naomi Kritzer (Persistent Visions)

The True and Otherworldly Origins of the Name Calamity Jane, by Jordan Kurella (BCS)

Foxfire, Foxfire, by Yoon Ha Lee (BCS)

Where She Went, by Linden A. Lewis (BCS)

The Governess With a Mechanical Womb, by Leena Likitalo (Clarkesworld)

A New Home, by Karin Lowachee (Lightspeed: PoC Destroy SF)

Contra Gravitatem (Vita Genevievis), by Arkady Martine (Lackington’s)

“Fear Death by Water,” by Arkady Martine (Unlikely Story)

Skills to Keep the Devil in His Place, by Lia Swope Mitchell (Shimmer)

In His Own Image, by E. C. Myers (Hidden Youth)

Hundreds, by Mari Ness (Daily SF)

The Middle Child’s Practical Guide to Surviving a Fairy Tale, by Mari Ness (Fireside)

A Citizen’s Guide to the Kingdom of Heaven, by Josh Pearce (Orthogonal)

The Sweetest Skill, by Tony Pi (BCS)

Left the Century to Sit Unmoved, by Sarah Pinsker (Strange Horizons)

Recalled to Service, by Alter S. Reiss (Tor.com)

Playing Prometheus, by Frances Rowat (Persistent Visions)

Once I, Rose, by Merc Rustad (Daily Science Fiction)

Blue Flowers: Fragments, by Sofia Samatar (Uncanny) (This also may be a poem. Or not. As you will. It is a thing I like.)

The Right Sort of Monsters, by Kelly Sandoval (Strange Horizons)

As Long as It Takes to Make the World, by Gabriela Santiago (Lightspeed: PoC Destroy SF)

Three Alternate Histories, by Kate Schapira (Reckoning)

Today I Am Paul, by Martin L. Shoemaker (Clarkesworld)

Listen, by Karin Tidbeck (Tor.com)

Only Their Shining Beauty Was Left, by Fran Wilde (Shimmer)

Foreign Tongues, by John Wiswell (Flash Fiction Online)

Project Daffodil, by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (Nature Futures)

Exquisite Corpse, by Caroline M. Yoachim (Daily SF)

Well, that was a year for sure.

I have seen years before, and this was one.  Yep.

I wrote seventeen stories this year. No complete novels but serious revisions on an earlier novel and serious progress toward the next one. My new agent (Kurestin Armada) and I found each other in January, and I have learned a lot about doing revisions from working with her–it’s shaping the new things I write, making them better pre-revision.

I’ve already sold nine of the seventeen stories; one of the unsold ones I just finished writing two days ago. I sold a total of thirteen stories this year, so one thing that I don’t notice when I’m in the middle of it is that my work is selling faster than it used to. Nor is this because editors are universally faster than they used to be, because several major publications have been quite slow this year. In any case, last year at the end of the year I had nothing in the “coming soon!” category, and this year is quite the opposite. Much of what I sold has not yet seen the light of day, which means there’s a great deal to look forward to in 2017.

I did two writing retreats, which were really great for me, both enjoyable and productive. That’s something new this year that I hope to continue whenever possible. I also did the big trip to Finland and Sweden, and the effects of that are still making themselves felt in the stories I’m writing–and not always in the ways I would have predicted, which is perfect, which is just what travel is supposed to do. I expected to get a lot of science fiction out of the trip, and I got a bit, but even more has been fantasy. Brains! Can’t beat ’em, might as well join ’em.

Here’s what did come out, in case you missed it:

The Dust Gate, The Sockdolager!, Fall 2016.

The Most Important Thing, Nature Futures, 20 October 2016.

Upside the Head, Science Fiction By Scientists, December 2016.

How Far Are We From Minneapolis? (essay), Reckoning Issue 1, winter Solstice 2016.

Stuff I wrote, available to you!

Busy time here, as in so many places, but when you have a moment to sit down you might like something to read. Friends, I am here for you.

In the very first issue of Reckoning, a magazine of environmental justice, I have a personal essay called, “How Far Are We From Minneapolis?” Reckoning also has a range of genres of fiction, poetry, and some other pieces of nonfiction than mine. I’m very excited about this new venue.

One of my stories that already appeared in Analog, “Blue Ribbon,” is now reprinted in Year’s Best YA Speculative Fiction 2015, edited by Julia Rios and Alisa Krasnostein. I am delighted with how far afield Julia and Alisa read in selecting stories for this volume, looking for a broad range of speculative stories for a teen audience rather than limiting themselves to things labeled for teens. Analog doesn’t have a full online edition, so if you missed the magazine issue with my story, here’s your chance at it in a more lasting form.

In a good cause: choices for Aleppo

Some of the most annoying words in the language are, “You know what you should have done….” Or, “You should just….” “Just.” There are some situations where “only” and “just” should be stricken from the conversation.

The crisis in Syria is on that list. The people who are on the ground there know what factors they have to deal with–their health, their resources, people who cannot be abandoned and need care–and the last thing they need is for me to sit here comfortably in my non-threatened home and tell them how things would be fine if only they’d chosen what I imagine I would choose.

Which is one reason I like the Karam Foundation’s Emergency Aid for Children of Syria. They have options to support the families who are leaving Syria as refugees and options to support the families who are staying under the airstrikes, where schools and hospitals are getting hit as well as homes and other institutions. Individuals and families don’t all have to make the same choice–they don’t all have the same choices. Stay or go, the situation is grim, and they need help.

The International Rescue Committee is also providing aid, and they give some really grim statistics about who has gotten out, who is still trying to, where the funds are. I just found out this morning that there is a friend-of-a-friend connection to this organization, and it looks like they do really good work.

One of the strangely hard things about writing these charity posts is that lecturing you about how bad things are is not my goal, and yet holy crud are they bad. This has all been understated, but it has to be; the situation is hard to overstate. So I’m choosing to focus on the organizations as much as I can: here, here’s a good bit, here’s a thing that will make a difference for somebody. It’s what I’ve got right now.

Short stories I have liked since last time I did one of these posts

If WordPress drops my links out of this I will cry.

The Virgin Played Bass, by Maria Dahvana Headley (Uncanny)

A Hundred and Seventy Storms, by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny)

The Spy Who Never Grew Up, by Sarah Rees Brennan (Uncanny)

Blue Flowers: Fragments, by Sofia Samatar (Uncanny)

Foreign Tongues, by John Wiswell (Flash Fiction Online)

Fear Death by Water, by Arkady Martine (Unlikely Story)

Skills to Keep the Devil in His Place, by Lia Swope Mitchell (Shimmer)

Palingenesis, by Megan Arkenberg (Shimmer)

Zombies in Winter, by Naomi Kritzer (Persistent Visions)

Playing Prometheus, by Frances Rowat (Persistent Visions)

Once I, Rose, by Merc Rustad (Daily Science Fiction)

A Dead Djinn in Cairo, by P. Djeli Clark (Tor.com)

The Stone Garden, by C. A. Hawksmoor (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

The Sweetest Skill, by Tony Pi (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

Das Steingeschopf, by G. V. Anderson (Strange Horizons)

Please note as always that I make no pretense of having read everything in the field or even everything in a particular magazine, so if you feel like recommending a story you’ve liked in the comments section, by all means do so. The only schedule I keep on these posts is that I do one at the end of the year with everything from that year all in one big post, so if you’re hoping I’ll have the time to read a particular story and like it, now’s your chance to speak up.

 

Books read, early December

Daniel Abraham, The Spider’s War. The end of its series. Too much abusive boyfriend, not enough banking. Seriously. It felt like Abraham started out doing cool things with banking, and then the banker did not get to use her banking skills in the climax of the book basically at all. She got to use metaphors for them, which were her feminine wiles. This did not thrill me. Also, the person she was forced to use feminine wiles on was incredibly distasteful to her and me, and I totally get what Abraham was doing with the portrayal of a Nice Guy TM wreaking havoc without really understanding why what he was doing was not okay, but that didn’t mean I enjoyed spending any time with him in fiction, either in his perspective or the perspectives of those around him. I really loved the series that started with A Shadow in Summer, and every project Abraham does is quite different from the others, so I’m glad this series has found its resolution so we can see what other themes and tropes he feels like playing with.

Chaz Brenchley, Three Twins at Crater School Chapters 20 & 21. Kindle. I know, I keep saying I am terrible at reading serials, but the thing is we’ve got to the point in the book that’s jam-packed with plot. Each chapter is fairly short–think kids’ book chapters, that’s the model Chaz is using–and yet things! keep! happening! So if I’m in line at the post office and need something on my Kindle, I can find out what. And I am such a sucker for school stories.

Avner Cohen, The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb. Cohen apparently has another book about Israel’s development of the bomb. This one was about Israeli attitudes and discussion practices around nuclear weapons. I found it mildly intellectually interesting and not the least bit emotionally engaging. Probably falls in the category of “if you have a particular interest in this topic but not otherwise.”

Charles de Lint, Waifs and Strays. Reread. One of the problems of collecting an author’s stories around a particular theme is that it can feel repetitive or expose weakness. In this case de Lint’s sense of teenage dialog is a serious weakness. I have found some of his work compelling, but this is just not a collection of his best stuff. Start somewhere else if you’re curious about de Lint.

A. M. Dellamonica, The Nature of a Pirate. Discussed elsewhere.

Bradley Denton, Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede. Reread. I am really curious about how this reads to someone who wasn’t living on the prairie in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Denton’s sense of prairie, of that part of middle America, is literally incomparable. I have no idea what other author even tries to get across that sense of the world, especially in the late 20th century. The music references were fun, the gonzo sf conceit continues to be better than I would have assumed without reading other Denton, but it’s the dust of the middle and southern plains that I really love in Denton’s work.

Maria Emilia Paz, Strategy, Security, and Spies: Mexico and the US as Allies in World War II. I really like having specific references about parts of the world wars that were not the obvious theaters, books that make clear the ways in which it was a world war. Paz has a keen sense of where each country was clueless about the other’s perceptions and motivations here–particularly the fact that the US no longer thought of itself as an invading power that had taken some Mexican land (on the “that was a long time ago” front) but Mexico really did perceive it that way and have several diplomatic needs accordingly. Interesting stuff, and brief enough not to become tedious.

Benjamin Rosenbaum, The Ant King and Other Stories. Reread. Rosenbaum’s stories are clever (sometimes the failure mode of clever), and I really like the other cities section. (I am a sucker for that.) The stories I liked best outside that section tended to be the least wry, to feel the least like they were smirking at their own characters. And I do love the off-the-wall surreal moments. That’s what I keep this collection around for.

Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Brooke Allen, and Carolyn Nowak, Lumberjanes: Band Together. The thing about Lumberjanes is that every new thing feels natural but you can’t see them coming. “Oh, mermaid music festival, sure,” is a thing that makes emotional sense in context, and it was fun, and we got a little more Roanoke cabin backstory along the way. Not clearly a major advancement in plot, but a fun, fast read.

Lynne Thomas, Michael Thomas, and Michi Trota, eds., Uncanny Magazine Issue 13. Kindle. I really liked the Sofia Samatar prose poem or whatever it was (I don’t have to know what it was! it was a thing I liked!), and the nonfiction of this issue was particularly strong, to the point where I am tempted to call it a service to the community. The stories were all quite readable but just barely not into the “favorites” category for me, although Amal’s thing was close, thoughtful and personal and wrenching and why not a favorite again? Hmm. Maybe I just needed to sit with it for awhile.

Adam Zamoyski, Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna. This goes into a lot of detail about the Congress of Vienna, which apparently lasted for quite some time. Zamoyski is interested in the personalities as well as the policies, so it’s a fairly engaging read, but if you pick it up on the wrong day it will replicate the “gahhhh will this never ennnnnd” feeling experienced by so many of the people involved. And suddenly there’s Napoleon! and then not! So really: pretty accurate emotionally as well as detailed in facts.

The Nature of a Pirate

Review copy provided by Tor Books.

This is the third in its series, and there is no reason not to read the first two and every reason to do so. But this one I think really comes into its own. This is the first time I have been able to figure out that it reminds me of Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series with people applying scientific method in circumstances where that is not the default. Lots of people are wanting more like that while they wait for more Steerswoman–at least lots of people in my social circles–so here you go, a portal fantasy with Steerswoman-like traits.

It also has lots of examinations of trust, complicity, and assumptions. The stuff about complicity in particular, how you work for change within a flawed society, which things are effective, which things make your position clear…all of that has timing that I’m sure Alyx wishes was not quite so apt.

There are also some quite vivid creations called frights that sink ships and cause other kinds of mayhem, so…yay mayhem.

Please consider using our link to buy The Nature of a Pirate from Amazon.

This is a long-distance call

I’ve been doing this for ten years now.

Not making the lussekatter; that’s a tradition of longer standing. But writing about the making of the lussekatter every year. About doing the work of the dark of the year, singing the light back into the world while you make the saffron-rich bread. About Santa Lucia Day, how it comes before Solstice so there is more dark to come, and what that means to me. It’s the same every year. It’s different every year. Holidays are like that.

This year in particular I am so glad to have a ritual to fall back on, work that yields to patience and experience and knowledge. The long rise changed my life. This year I made a half-batch, carefully measuring the beaten egg into my tiniest measuring cup, pouring half of it into the dough and half down the drain. (I know. It would have been fine with a whole egg. But I want it the way it’s supposed to taste, not a slightly richer version.) And between the smaller mass of dough and the knowledge gained from years past, it was an easy knead, turning pliable almost as soon as I picked it up.

In addition to Christmas songs, I find myself singing other songs every year, whatever pops into my head. “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and “This Year” and whatever else feels appropriate. This year I discovered that what I was singing was Paul Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble,” with a line I never really thought of before: “These are the days of miracle and wonder, and don’t cry, baby, don’t cry.” The days of miracle and wonder, we find out, are not the same as the days of ease and laughter. The days of miracle and wonder make us weep, and not just for joy. Not even mostly for joy.

Sometimes miracle and wonder come upon us all unawares. But sometimes we have to work for them. We have to work our asses off for them, and cry and despair and feel that we’ve come to the end of the line. And some of us have–I don’t want to pretend that it’s inevitable that we always win out, that we always come through the dark times. Sometimes it is just all too damn much. And the people around us, the people we turn to for help, may have reached their point of “all too damn much” in ways and for reasons that we don’t know or don’t understand.

And it’s so easy to feel distant from everyone we love, to see the distances and not the ways in which we’re close. It’s so easy to feel like we’re struggling alone instead of together. But it’s not true. Or it doesn’t have to be.

And still we try to carve out something beautiful, something fragrant and fine. Something we can give, something that connects us. Something miraculous and wonderful. Even in a year where the dark days have taken turns we never imagined. Especially in that kind of year. I’m struggling to remember which rabbi it was, what the exact wording was, who said that the work of the world is neither ours to complete nor ours to abandon. Not my tradition–but one of my truths. One of my great truths.

It’s time to sing the songs and bake the bread. It’s time to find our way kicking and screaming into miracle and wonder. And it’s time to do the work in the dark time to bring the light back into the world in the days ahead.

Happy Santa Lucia Day.

2006: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/380857.html
2007: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/502825.html and http://mrissa.livejournal.com/503100.html
2008: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/596214.html
2009: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/688906.html
2010: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/751599.html
2011: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/798532.html
2012: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/842565.html
2013: http://www.marissalingen.com/blog/?p=260
2014: http://www.marissalingen.com/blog/?p=659
2015: http://www.marissalingen.com/blog/?p=1141

In a good cause: for science!

I suspect that everyone who reads this blog knows that science is a strong and passionate interest of mine. Science! Because it works! Science! Because it’s built to incorporate new information when new information is available, and to provide tools for making it available! Science! Well. I don’t think you’re the people who need convincing.

But there are people who need convincing, because our president-elect has just been making noise about “nobody knows” whether climate change is real. Oh, sure, nobody except a vast consensus of scientists and a still more vast consensus of scientists whose fields are relevant to it. And the people who listen to them and read their papers and look at data. But other than that, nobody.

It’s a really good time to support science with a public face. Science playing a role in civic affairs. Science trying to shake us all by the shoulders and say “LISTEN UP BUDDY THIS IS SERIOUS.” This is why this week’s charity Union of Concerned Scientists. http://www.ucsusa.org/ Tons of scientists doing tons of work in a democratic society, towards a democratic society. Worth the time and attention. Go. Support. For science.

In a good cause: autism resources

A lot of charities for health variants assume that those health variants are illnesses or disabilities. And a lot of them are. And some of them aren’t. One of my metrics for whether I’m willing to support a group that’s “about” autism is whether they automatically assume that it’s a disease, a disability, a flaw. I’m a non-autistic/neurotypical person, but I have several autistic people dear to my heart, and they’re different from me, not flawed in the way that my balance disorder is a flaw. They process differently than I do. I’m really glad to see the word “neurodiversity” in the world, because I think having different modes of thought, different perspectives, is a positive good, and some of those are about brain wiring, not just philosophy. Sometimes we’re using a metaphor when we say that someone sees the world differently. Sometimes if you’re measuring, for example, discrimination between number of fine lines per inch, it’s really quite literal and you can poke it. And seeing the world in more than one way helps all of us.

Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) is one of my favorite resources for this philosophy. With the motto “nothing about us without us,” they form a solid opposition to the kind of rhetoric that treats autistic people as objects, and inconvenient objects at that. Website is http://autisticadvocacy.org/

(I am putting websites in text right now because WordPress ate my link yesterday. Sigh.)

Autism Housing Network definitely inclines toward the portions of the autism spectrum that are more clearly disabilities, or at least are disabilities under our current society. But people with those types of autism do need choices for where and how to live as adults. http://www.autismhousingnetwork.org/ has been recommended to me as a good resource for people struggling with those choices.

I would be glad to hear about other organizations that support neurodiversity in our broader culture, with a clear focus on not treating difference as a problem to be eliminated or solved. Or, as always, any other charities near and dear to your heart can go in the comments section, too.