Review of Weirdbook #37 for Tangent

The thirty-seventh issue of Weirdbook is chock full of twenty science fiction, fantasy, horror, and even mainstream tales. While I can’t fully recommend any individually due to various technical problems, many of them (the Rozakis, Glasger, Harewood, Beal, Canfield, Hood, James, Casey, etc.) have at least an idea or image or motif of some kind that has great power. The issue as a whole has some pulpy fun and I wish more technically polished stories in other venues would be more like these in that regard….

Full review at Tangent: Weirdbook #37, November 2017

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Links (2017-12-19)

Nature

We don’t usually get snow around here until January, if at all, so I make do with snow at football games on TV (the Army-Navy game was awesome for so many reasons, including that) and looking at nature photography like The First Snow.

Science

Having just struggled to start up a lawnmower after a few weeks of occasionally lightly freezing weather, it brings home how amazing it is that Voyager 1 Just Fired Up Its Backup Thrusters for the 1st Time in 37 Years.

More amazing: Oldest Monster Black Hole Ever Found Is 800 Million Times More Massive Than the Sun.

Science Fiction

Here’s a quartet of SF links I liked and thought others might enjoy seeing if they haven’t yet. On the Trek, I’m not sure I always agree with Cambias’ classification and, regarding those particular Trek episodes, one could argue the pulpier ones aren’t the best ones. I still thought it was interesting, though, and it has a fundamentally sound point.

A Leigh Brackett Renaissance?
Pulp Trek!
A Return to Terry Carr’s Best Science Fiction of the Year
Octavia E Butler: Modern Master of SF

Grammar

Grammar is being destroyed everywhere, especially on the web. I’m sure I do my part, especially in my more casual posts but I try to do my best in considered posts. One thing that has always bothered me and which I’ve seen a lot in just the past week made me look for support. I don’t think people even believe this is correct and are consciously wedded to using it – I think it’s just one of those unquestioned things that have slipped into the usage of many writers (and editors!): “Try And…” vs “Try To…”

Humor

A “Felsius” for the rest of us.

Tunes

This year is almost over and if there are any musicians left alive by then, I hope they can breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy 2018. Here’s another rock memorial:

Continue reading

Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up (2017-12-16)

ufo

Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Nightmare were off this week, Grievous Angel didn’t have anything, and Tor.com is still “only sleeping,” so we only get singles from Diabolical Plots, Lightspeed, Nature, Strange Horizons, and Terraform. Those five stories give us two second-person present tense biter-bits and two cli-fi dystopias. Coincidentally (and thankfully) the one which is neither of these things is superb.

The Leviathans Have Fled the Sea” by Jon Lasser, Diabolical Plots, December 15, 2017, fantasy short story

After a bunch of whaling men got stuck in the sea ice, a bunch of whaling women took to the air and hunted the whales to extinction. The crew of one particular ship turns to hunting sirens and, after a catch, the captain’s life changes and perhaps the world does, too.

This gets points for juxtaposing some tired elements in a fresh way which creates an aura of interest but the moral of the story (one of two “humans suck and are destroying the world” tales in just this week) is too clear and too clearly moralistic and the pacing of the second half (and the whole resolution) falters.

The House at the End of the Lane Is Dreaming” by A. Merc Rustad, Lightspeed #91, December 2017, fantasy short story

This is partly a Lovecraftian Can’t-Choose-Your-Own-Adventure tale about a mysterious house, a mysterious book, a couple of sisters, and an incursion from Beyond. As such, this is one of this week’s two second-person present tense tales. This one has multiple “Act One”s interspersed with “Prologues” before finally moving on to additional acts but never relinquishes the fitful starts and stops and lather-rinse-repeat structures which it embellishes with collage elements of newspaper clippings and emails.

The artifice of the telling and the vagueness of the milieu and characters is all to the point as the story becomes a “godgame” tale (which makes it even less interesting than it had been) but it precludes any possible engagement (from me) and so (in my opinion) the story fails utterly. (And then the conclusion seems morally bankrupt.) This is another “wouldn’t have finished it except for having to review it” story.

Fifteen Minutes” by Alex Shvartsman, Nature, December 13, 2017, science fiction flash

In 2117, an AI keeps us monkeys around for sadistic entertainment, making us perform on the web for better food. So one man delivers a brief monologue about all this.

It doesn’t sound like much, but this is what I get for posting my “Web’s Best” early. This would likely have been in it (and may be in next year’s), especially at a mere 750 words or so. I can’t review this without spoiling it – even a hint could ruin it. I’ll add some spoiler notes in a comment to this post. All I can say for now is that its dark tone and conventionality are good things. Just please check it out and stick with it.

Sasabonsam” by Tara Campbell, Strange Horizons, December 11, 2017, fantasy short story

A man-eating tree-thing eats something which disagrees with it and we learn about pain, regret, infidelity, vengeance, and other fun things in less than 1800 second-person present tense words which feel like more.

An Incomplete Timeline of What We Tried” by Debbie Urbanski, Terraform, December 15, 2017, science fiction flash

This is not a story.
It is a list.
Like many stories this week, it makes reviewing an unpleasant task.

Literally: it’s a long (over one hundred item) list of inconsistently articulated statements in reverse order which decries our current and future actions regarding the environment and, while presumably intending to be cautionary, basically conveys an impression of hopelessness.

(And I assume this is by Debbie Urbanski. At the time of reading, Terraform had it as “Urbansk.” And golfing would be year “round” rather than “around” as an internal example of more errors.)

 

Collated Contents of the Big Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, with Links!)

Last year, I collated and linked to the webzine stories picked by Clarke, Dozois, Horton, and Strahan for their annuals. This year, I’ve collated all the selections. (I’ve also noted whether I’ve read them and, if so, whether they got an honorable mention, a recommendation, or were recommendations which made my Web’s Best Science Fiction or Web’s Best Fantasy.)

For a version of this list which collates nine SF/F/H annuals, please see “Expanded Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, Links).”

Latest change (earlier changes/credits are at the end of this post): 2018-10-01: Added link to “In Everlasting Wisdom.”

Four Annuals

Three Annuals: Clarke, Dozois, Strahan

Three Annuals: Clarke, Horton, Strahan

Three Annuals: Dozois, Horton,  Strahan

  • Sidewalks”, Maureen McHugh (Omni) [read late]

Two Annuals: Clarke, Dozois

Two Annuals: Clarke, Horton

  • “The Tale of the Alcubierre Horse” by Kathleen Ann Goonan (Extrasolar) [unread]
  • Extracurricular Activities” by Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com) [read]
  • ZeroS” by Peter Watts (Infinity Wars) [recommended]

Two Annuals: Dozois, Horton

  • “Winter Timeshare”, Ray Nayler (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [read]
  • “Starlight Express”, Michael Swanwick (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) [recommended]

Two Annuals: Dozois, Strahan

  • “My English Name”, R. S. Benedict (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) [unread]
  • “The Moon is Not a Battlefield”, Indrapramit Das (Infinity Wars) [read]

Two Annuals: Horton, Strahan

One Annual: Clarke

  • “Shadows of Eternity” by Gregory Benford (Extrasolar) [unread]
  • In Everlasting Wisdom” by Aliette de Bodard (Infinity Wars) [recommended]
  • “Belly Up” by Maggie Clark (Analog) [unread]
  • “Every Hour of Light and Dark” by Nancy Kress (Omni) [unread]
  • The Last Novelist, or a Dead Lizard in the Yard” by Matthew Kressel (Tor.com) [recommended]
  • “Meridian” by Karin Lowachee (Where the Stars Rise) [unread]
  • Regarding the Robot Raccoons Attached to the Hull of My Ship” by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali (Diabolical Plots) [read]
  • Wind Will Rove” by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [read late]
  • The Speed of Belief” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [recommended]
  • “Holdfast” by Alastair Reynolds (Extrasolar) [unread]
  • Focus” by Gord Sellar (Analog) [unread]
  • Shikasta” by Vandana Singh (Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities) [read late]
  • “A Catalogue of Sunlight at the End of the World” by A.C. Wise (Sunvault) [unread]

One Annual: Dozois

  • “Mines”, Eleanor Arnason (Infinity Wars) [read]
  • Pan-Humanism: Hope and Pragmatics“, Jessica Barber and Sara Saab (Clarkesworld) [read]
  • “The Dragon That Flew Out of the Sun”, Aliette de Bodard (Cosmic Powers) [unread]
  • The Hunger After You’re Fed“, James S.A. Corey (Wired) [read late]
  • The Martian Job, Jaine Fenn [unread]
  • Nexus“, Michael F. Flynn (Analog) [unread]
  • “The History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs”, Kelly Jennings (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) [unread]
  • “Whending My Way Back Home”, Bill Johnson (Analog) [honorable mention]
  • “Canoe”, Nancy Kress (Extrasolar) [unread]
  • “Dear Sarah”, Nancy Kress (Infinity Wars) [read]
  • Waiting Out the End of the World in Patty’s Place Cafe“, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld) [read]
  • “There Used to Be Olive Trees”, Rich Larson (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) [unread]
  • “Triceratops”, Ian McHugh (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [unread]
  • “The Influence Machine”, Sean McMullen (Interzone) [unread]
  • Prime Meridian, Silvia Moreno-Garcia [unread]
  • “The Proving Ground”, Alec Nevala-Lee (Analog) [read]
  • Number Thirty-Nine Skink“, Suzanne Palmer (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [unread]
  • “The Residue of Fire”, Robert Reed (Extrasolar) [unread]
  • “Night Passage”, Alastair Reynolds (Infinite Stars) [unread]
  • Vanguard 2.0“, Carter Scholz (Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities) [read late]
  • Assassins“, Jack Skillingstead and Burt Courtier (Clarkesworld) [read]
  • “Elephant on Table”, Bruce Sterling (Chasing Shadows) [unread]
  • “The Road to the Sea”, Lavie Tidhar (Sunvault) [unread]
  • “Zigeuner”, Harry Turtledove (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [unread]

One Annual: Horton

One Annual: Strahan

  • “The Mocking Tower”, Daniel Abraham (The Book of Swords) [unread]
  • Probably Still the Chosen One”, Kelly Barnhill (Lightspeed) [honorable mention]
  • The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine”, Greg Egan (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [recommended late]
  • Crispin’s Model”, Max Gladstone (Tor.com) [honorable mention]
  • Come See the Living Dryad”, Theodora Goss (Tor.com) [recommended]
  • “Bring Your Own Spoon”, Saad Z. Hossain (The Djinn Falls in Love) [unread]
  • “Babylon”, Dave Hutchison, 2084 [unread]
  • The Faerie Tree”, Kathleen Kayembe (Lightspeed) [honorable mention]
  • “Fairy Tale of Wood Street”, Caitlin R Kiernan (Sirenia Digest) [unread]
  • The Worshipful Society of Glovers”, Mary Robinette Kowal (Uncanny) [read]
  • “The Chameleon’s Gloves”, Yoon Ha Lee (Cosmic Powers) [unread]
  • “The Smoke of Gold is Glory”, Scott Lynch (The Book of Swords) [unread]
  • Concessions”, Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali (Strange Horizons) [read]
  • “Belladonna Nights”, Alastair Reynolds (The Weight of Words) [unread]
  • “Eminence”, Karl Schroeder (Chasing Shadows) [unread]
  • The Lamentation of their Women”, Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com) [read]
  • Confessions of a Con Girl”, Nick Wolven (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [read late]
  • Carnival Nine”, Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) [read]

Changelog/Credits:

  • 2017-12-15: Jonathan Strahan announced the contents of The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Volume 12. (Thanks to dolphintornsea at the F&SF forums.)
  • 2017-12-16: found and added links to the stories from Boston Review and Omni.
  • 2017-12-24 (updated the 26th): Gardner Dozois announced the contents of The Year’s Best Science Fiction: ThirtyFifth Annual Collection. Thanks to Roger Silverstein for the tip and Lavie Tidhar for posting it for the Facebook-challenged and showing up in the search engine.
  • 2018-01-23: Neil Clarke announced the contents of The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 3.
  • 2018-02-01: added link to Buckell’s “Zen” reprint.
  • 2018-02-07: moved this stuff to the bottom in a Changelog because it was pushing the stories down too far. 😉
  • 2018-02-07: added links to four Asimov’s stories (“Grimes,” “Wind,” “Turing,” “Confessions”). Thanks to RSR.
  • 2018-02-09: added contents of Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2018 Edition. Thanks to dolphintornsea at the F&SF forums for alerting me and to Horton for posting the full contents.
  • 2018-02-10: added neglected link to Fowler’s Asimov’s story. (Thanks to Laura.)
  • 2018-02-14: added link to Watts’ “ZeroS.” (Thanks to Laura, and a belated thanks to Roger Silverstein, whose tip I missed..)
  • 2018-02-16: added link to Samatar’s “Account.” (Thanks to Laura.)
  • 2018-02-23: Added links to “Soulmates.com,” “Number Thirty-Nine Skink,” and “The Speed of Belief” from the Asimov’s Reader’s Awards finalists, Thanks to File 770.
  • 2018-03-02: Added links to “Focus,” “Nexus,” and “Time Travel Is Only for the Poor” from the Analog Reader’s Award finalists. Thanks to Laura.
  • 2018-08-25: modified and moved note about the expanded version of this list.

Other 2017 Recommendations

The only things eligible for the Web’s Best science fiction and fantasy lists were, naturally, those science fiction and fantasy pieces first published on the generally accessible web. That doesn’t cover all the 2017 (or so) short fiction I read and enjoyed, though, and I wanted to round those up. Some would have made the “Best of 2017” and some wouldn’t but they’re all at least the “Very Good of 2017.”

Two excellent stories I read which were billed as fantasy but struck me as “mainstream with a speculative sensibility” were “The Living Dryad” by Theodora Goss (Tor.com, March 9, 2017 – as science fictional as it was fantastic, incidentally) and “Claire Weinraub’s Top Five Sea Monster Stories (For Allie)” by Evan Berkow (Flash Fiction Online, October 2017).

Take Us To Your Chief” by Drew Hayden Taylor (reprinted in the January 30, 2017 Strange Horizons) was also excellent and even SF, but was originally from Take Us to Your Chief and Other Stories (2016).

Finally, I did twenty-one reviews for Tangent this year (and another in 2016 of a 2017 anthology) and twelve were not of webzines. The stories I recommended from those were:

  • “The Catastrophe of Cities” by Lisa Goldstein (Asimov’s, January/February 2017)
  • “Command and Control” by David D. Levine (Infinity Wars, September 2017)
  • “Down and Out” by Ken Wharton (Science Fiction by Scientists, January 2017; reprinted in Compelling #4, December 2016/January 2017)
  • “Fatherbond” by Tom Purdom (Asimov’s, January/February 2017)
  • “The Gatherer of Sorrows” by J. M. Sidorova (Science Fiction by Scientists, January 2017)
  • “Heavies” by Rich Larson (Infinity Wars, September 2017)
  • “Hollywood Squid” by Oliver Buckram (F&SF, September/October 2017)
  • “In Everlasting Wisdom” by Aliette de Bodard (Infinity Wars, September 2017)
  • “Pieces of Ourselves” by Robert R. Chase (Asimov’s, January/February 2017)
  • “The Speed of Belief” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s, January/February 2017)
  • “Starlight Express” by Michael Swanwick (F&SF, September/October 2017)
  • “Sunflower Junction” by Simon Avery (Black Static #57, March/April 2017)
  • “The Transmuted Child” by Michael Reid (Interzone #268, January/February 2017)
  • “Tree With Chalicotheres” by Vicki Saunders (Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, July 2017)
  • “Weather Girl” by E. J. Swift (Infinity Wars, September 2017)
  • “ZeroS” by Peter Watts (Infinity Wars, September 2017)

Web’s Best Fantasy #1 (2017 Stories)

Web’s Best Fantasy #1 (2017 Stories)

Introduction

As with Web’s Best Science Fiction, Web’s Best Fantasy is a 70,000 word “virtual anthology” selected from the fifteen webzines I’ve covered throughout the year, with the contents selected solely for their quality, allowing that some consideration is paid to having variety in the reading experience. The contents were sequenced as best I could with the same concern in mind.

Enjoy!

Contents

Remote Presence * Susan Palwick
Lightspeed #83, April 2017

Though She Be But Little * C. S. E. Cooney
Uncanny #18, September/October 2017

When We Go * Evan Dicken
Beneath Ceaseless Skies #223, April 13, 2017

The Black Clover Equation * Zach Shephard
Flash Fiction Online, April 2017

An Unexpected Boon * S. B. Divya
Apex #102, November 2017

Crossing the Threshold * Pat Murphy
Lightspeed #85, June 2017

The Dark Birds * Ursula Vernon
Apex #92, January 2017

The Garbage Doll * Jessica Amanda Salmonson
Nightmare #53, February 2017

The Dead Father Cookbook * Ashley Blooms
Strange Horizons, July 17, 2017

Marking the Witch * Lina Rather
Flash Fiction Online, February 2017

The Şiret Mask * Marie Brennan
Beneath Ceaseless Skies #238, November 9, 2017

The Library of Lost Things * Matthew Bright
Tor.com, August 23, 2017

The West Topeka Triangle * Jeremiah Tolbert
Lightspeed #80, January 2017

Web’s Best Science Fiction #1 (2017 Stories)

Web’s Best Science Fiction #1 (2017 Stories)

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Introduction

Web’s Best Science Fiction #1 is a “virtual anthology” of 70,000 words of the best science fiction the professional webzines published in 2017*. Web’s Best Fantasy will cover the fantasy stories. The stories for both “volumes” were chosen from fifteen markets: Apex Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld Magazine, Compelling Science Fiction, Diabolical Plots, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Flash Fiction Online, Grievous Angel, Lightspeed, Nature, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, Terraform, Tor.com, and Uncanny**.

When Gardner Dozois took over the editorship of Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year from Lester del Rey with the Sixth Annual Collection, he wrote an introduction to that volume which said “Best” volumes “should really be called ‘Gardner Dozois Picks the Stories He Liked Best This Year’ or ‘Terry Carr Really Enjoyed These Stories,’ or some such.” He went on to say that his principles include selecting “only those stories that honestly and forcibly struck me as being the best published during that year, with no consideration for log-rolling, friendship, fashion, politics, or any other kind of outside influence.” Similarly, these are the stories I liked best this year. I liked them for their science fictional qualities and tried to separate those as much as I could from any other consideration beyond that of attempting to create an actual reading experience with this virtual anthology. The main significance of that is that having variety also plays a small role in the selection process. For instance, I would not be likely to include two stories from the same author or too many stories with strikingly similar elements. In addition to the selection, the sequencing of the stories also aims to produce a good and varied reading experience if the reader chooses to read straight through.

While I would have liked to have found more great upbeat, science-focused, and/or space-based stories than I did, I think these stories (even at their darkest and loosest) show that the state of the art in the upper echelon of Sturgeon’s Law is good. I hope folks have enjoyed or will enjoy these as much as I did.

 Notes

* Most of the title of this “book” is a play on the title of Donald Wollheim and Terry Carr’s World’s Best Science Fiction series of annuals from 1965-71, along with Carr’s numbering practice from his own subsequent The Best Science Fiction of the Year series (though he didn’t number the first volume). The length is a homage to Isaac Asimov’s ideal length for a book, as explained in the introduction to his 70,000 word essay collection, Science, Numbers, and I. Akin to a “fiscal year,” this “fictional year” covers January 1st-December 10th. (The first ten days produced twenty-four stories and the remaining three weeks should produce fifteen at most. Those later stories will be considered for #2.)

** For clarity, while fifteen markets were covered, only eleven are represented in the Web’s Bests. Among the most significant happenings in the 2017 webzine market: Compelling Science Fiction became SFWA-qualified but dropped from bimonthly to semi-annual at the end of this year; Fantastic Stories of the Imagination died at the beginning of the year; Grievous Angel became SFWA-qualified; Terraform disappeared for awhile in the middle of the year but returned as an SFWA-qualified market; Tor.com has been faltering near the end of the year. The rest of the market was relatively stable.

Contents

Uncanny Valley * Greg Egan
Tor.com, August 9, 2017

Little /^^^\&- * Eric Schwitzgebel
Clarkesworld #132, September 2017

Rising Star * Stephen Graham Jones
Uncanny #15, March/April 2017

Tav * Dustin Kennedy
Compelling #5, February/March 2017

Seven Permutations of My Daughter * Lina Rather
Lightspeed #83, April 2017

Cease and Desist * Tyler Young
Nature, January 18, 2017

Sweetlings * Lucy Taylor
Tor.com, May 3, 2017

Legale * Vernor Vinge
Nature, August 9, 2017

Penelope Waits * Dennis Danvers
Apex #101, October 2017

Fool’s Cap * Andy Dudak
Clarkesworld #129, June 2017

This Is for You * Bruce McAllister
Lightspeed #84, May 2017

The Martian Obelisk * Linda Nagata
Tor.com, July 19, 2017

A Series of Steaks * Vina Jie-Min Prasad
Clarkesworld #124, January 2017