Date:

September 22nd, 2006

I rushed over to read Elizabeth Bear’s new story at Strange Horizons as soon as it became available. I liked it, it reminded me of “Old Leatherwings” (one of my favorites by her), probably because of its focus on setting. The chilly sea atmosphere and the loving descriptions of characters and place will take you all the way through before you realize that there’s not a whole lot of spec in this fiction (does the bargain really count?). If you like the melancholy of that Billy Joel song “Downeaster Alexa” (and I do), you’ll like this tale. Go, read, enjoy.

Now, in a complete aside, I cannot tell you how excited I am to see Bear selling fiction that’s only tangentially speculative. This is a gnawing worry for me; nothing I write has much shiny to it. Bruce Sterling would certainly deride all my stuff as “Abess Phone Home” (not that he’d ever actually read any of it, but you know what I mean). Can I take a further sidetrack here and let you know that I learned the Turkey City Lexicon term (at Viable Paradise) before I read the story which inspired this particular phrase? I was roughly two thirds of the way through the story (in The Locus Awards : Thirty Years of the Best in Science Fiction and Fantasy) last December before I said to myself “Holy cow! This is the abbess phone home story!” Sadly, I didn’t care for it, but not for its lack of sfnal elements.

Right, back to the main road. My next three reading recommendations are actually listening recommendations. They come from the ever-pleasing Escape Pod podcast. They may be available elsewhere (Escape Pod does a lot of reprints), but I heard them there and thought there was value add in the way they were read. One is Merrie Haskell’s flash piece “One Million Years B.F.E.“. I’ve listened to this at least three times, and it never fails to make me giggle. I’m sure I don’t even get all the anthro jokes, but there’s plenty to laugh for the layman. The next is “Aliens Love Oranges“. This is one of those stories that by rights should be in Stories of the New South, but they’d never take it because it’s not angsty enough and there are no references to the “War of Northern Aggression”. Catty of me, wasn’t that? I’d explain, but that would be yet another derail. Anyway, Sue Burke’s tale is sweet but has some serious meat to it, kind of like oranges do. Mur Lafferty, with her authentic but not stupid-sounding southern accent, is the perfect reader for this piece. The story is also comforting in the “tangentially speculative” way that Bear’s is, though I don’t expect that to be your reason for listening. Just listen because it’s well-written, touching and will make you smile. And last but not least, also in the very funny category, “The Uncanny Valley” by Jared Axelrod is well worth the time it takes to listen to it. I’d have cut the last line, but you know, still good.

Someone recently pointed me to Connie Willis’ Christmas story “Just Like The Ones That We Used To Know“. If you’re feeling in need of Christmas innoculation at this early date then make haste and read this engaging, well-woven story. You may want to save it for Thanksgiving, if you think that’s when your nerves will be most frayed. I especially love how deftly she handles the ensemble. I never would have believed you’d be able to have that many distinct characters in one story. But it works, so there you go.

One more thing, I usually rate the stuff I read (and like) online in Stumbleupon. Though there’s overlap between here and there, it’s not complete, so here’s my Stumbleupon page, and its feed.

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