REVIEW: Clarkesworld Year Six, Edited by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace

REVIEW SUMMARY: Clarkesworld Year Six includes all 34 original pieces published in Clarkesworld Magazine during their sixth year. If you’re looking to get caught up on Clarkesworld, you can’t beat their yearly volumes.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Large variety of voice and style; good mix of famous writers and newer voices; includes many excellent examples of speculative fiction that pushes the boundaries; stories can be read in any order.
CONS: None. One of the strongest collections I’ve read in a long time.
BOTTOM LINE: This collection is jam-packed with Nebula and Locus award winners and Hugo nominated works. Well worth the money for that alone.

Skimming the table of contents of Clarkesworld Year Six, you’re going to recognize a lot of titles. The fiction that Clarkesworld published in their sixth year includes Nebula and Locus winners and nominees, Hugo nominees, and stories included in Gardner Dozois’ Years Best Science Fiction, Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, and Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy. So it easily goes without saying that the 34 stories included in Clarkesworld Year Six are some of the best of the best.

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“Let me buy you a pint, Elric…”

This week, we posed the following to our panelists:

Q: We’ve all encountered characters in stories and novels that we’ve felt a real connection to, and would love to chat with more. Maybe buy them a drink. What characters have you encountered in Fantasy and SF that you’d like to buy a pint for?

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MIND MELD: Our Non-Writer Influences

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We asked this week’s panelists about their influences outside of the literary world.

Q: Who are your non-writer influences? And how have they influenced your work?

Here’s what they said…
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Aliette de Bodard is an engineer, writer and apprentice cook who lives in Paris, France, in a flat with more computers than warm bodies, and a couple of Lovecraftian plants in the process of taking over the living room. Her trilogy of Aztec noir novels, Obsidian and Blood, has been published by Angry Robot; and her short fiction has won a Nebula, a British Science Fiction Association and a Writers of the Future Award. Her latest release is the SF novella On a Red Station, Drifting, a finalist for the Nebula, Hugo and Locus Awards. Visit AlietteDeBodard.com for more information (and recipes!).

Food in My Fiction

by Aliette de Bodard

A copy editor once told me that I ought to stop writing detailed descriptions of food in my Obsidian and Blood Aztec novels; and they did have a point. Along with an over-enthusiastic love of the colon, em-dash and semi-colon, food porn is probably one of the most identifiable characteristics of my fiction.

I was probably doomed from a young age: coming from two families that both highly rated the importance of food and meals, I couldn’t help but grow up a food fanatic. For me, food is an essential element of worldbuilding: what people have on the table is as revelatory of a culture as religious beliefs or language. It is a matter of ingredients and dishes; a matter of meal customs and what they reveal; and of course a matter of food as a national pride and a reminder of home for exiles.
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REVIEW SUMMARY: A novella set in an intriguing universe with memorable characters.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A former magistrate flees planetary civil war, and is taken in by distant relations who find that such a gesture is not without friction or cost.
MY REVIEW:
PROS: Interesting characters; unique setting; excellent prose; interesting take on artificial intelligence.
CONS: The social dynamics and ending may frustrate and confuse unprepared readers; the cover does the story no favors.
BOTTOM LINE: A sumptuous meal of a novella with excellent prose.
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(Cover image for Nebula Awards Showcase 2013 by Julie Dillon)

REVIEW SUMMARY:  The seven stories short-listed for this year’s Nebula Award for Short Story demonstrate that the medium remains a strong and effective method of telling good stories.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:  Aging, death, child care, cultural identity, the importance of books, the price of true love and other pertinent life issues are examined against the backdrop of science fictional and fantasy settings in these seven short stories.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Each nominated story possesses its own strengths; wide variety of style and subject matter; emphasis on the human condition.
CONS: Readers who primarily enjoy fantasy may be disappointed to find that six of the seven stories have a science fictional bent; the judges did not make their task easy when narrowing it down to these seven entries.
BOTTOM LINE:  Take advantage of the fact that these stories are all available free online.  SFF readers exhibit a range of tastes and there is arguably something for most readers to enjoy from this solid group of nominees.

Last week the nominations were announced for this year’s Nebula Awards.  The Forty-Eighth Nebula Awards Weekend will be held May 16-19th, 2013.  Details concerning the awards weekend can be found here.  I have been hosting Short Fiction Friday for a month now, featuring a different current issue of a short fiction magazine each week.  With the announcement of these nominations I thought it would be fun to read the Short Story nominees and offer up a brief description of each one.  I was initially hesitant to provide a rating for these stories because each is a strong contender.   Here as always I made an effort to rate the stories according to a combination of my own personal experience in reading them as well as stepping back to make a more general view of how I accessed each story’s effectiveness judged solely against itself.   With this year’s nominees I firmly believe you could get seven different people in a room and each one could passionately argue for a different story to be crowned the winner.  I do not envy the judges their task.

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MIND MELD: Food in Science Fiction versus Fantasy

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This week we asked about Food and Drink in SF.

Food and Drink in science fiction sometimes seems limited to replicator requests for Earl Grey tea and Soylent green discs. Why doesn’t do as much food as Fantasy? Does Fantasy lend itself more to food than Science fiction? Why?
This is what they had to say…
Laura Anne Gilman
Author and Freelance Editor Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the popular Cosa Nostradamus novels, the award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy, as well as the story collection Dragon Virus. She also has written the mystery Collared under the pen name L.A. Kornetsky.

This will, I will admit, be a purely foodie view: I enjoy cooking, I enjoy eating, I enjoy reading about cooking and eating. And for a long time, it seemed as though we foodies were, if not the minority in genre, then certainly underserved.

There were the banquets in fantasy, of course, and the trail rations, and sometimes even a discussion of where the food came from, but – like bathroom breaks and sleeping – it often seemed tossed into the pile of “boring, don’t write about it.”

And science fiction? Mainly, science fiction mentioned food in context of technology: food-pills, space-age packets, vat-grown meat, etcetera. I suspect that many writers of the time had been heavily influenced by the early space program, and extrapolated their SF on the actual science. Surely, science fiction was saying, we had more important things to do than cook – or eat!

Even when they were dealing with an important, food-related issue (overcrowding, famine, etc), MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM made it a (very serious) punchline. So did “To Serve Man.” But scenes of characters preparing their food, or even enjoying it, were notably, if not entirely, absent.

(even CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY made the “too busy to eat” point with the 3-course-meal-gum…)
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Dear SF Signal Readers,

Hi! My name’s Zack Jernigan. I conducted this roundtable interview over the last year. Just so you know, I wrote a long, painfully self-conscious introduction about my upbringing as a white, heterosexual male born into a middle-middle-class family and how that contributed to my desire to start a discussion on the subject of Writing About Race in Sff Literature, but I scrapped it. When you’ve received such amazing responses from your interviewees, it’s best to get to them with the minimum of words.

So: Suffice it to say, this is an important topic for discussion. I hope that you enjoy reading part 2, below (Part 1 is here), and that you’ll feel free to comment. I also encourage you to visit the authors’ websites and buy their amazing work.

And enjoy!


Writing About Race in Science Fiction and Fantasy

A Roundtable Interview with David Anthony Durham, Aliette de Bodard, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Ken Liu
(Continued from Part 1)

Q: There is a greater deal of “non-western” science fiction and fantasy being published-successfully-right now. As a result, a sense of excitement about reading and writing works that celebrate a wider range of skin tones and cultural influences appears to permeate the current discourse. Do you think we’re seeing a permanent shift in the sff literary culture, or do you think the possibility exists for it to once again restrict itself to certain perspectives?
David Anthony Durham

Permanent shift. In some ways it feels like a rapid shift, but there’s no going back. A few years ago, when I first began going to cons, there were a handful of writers of color that been around for a while-Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson, and a few others. It was a short list, and it didn’t take long to rattle through it.
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Dear SF Signal Readers,

Hi! My name’s Zack Jernigan. I conducted this roundtable interview over the last year. Just so you know, I wrote a long, painfully self-conscious introduction about my upbringing as a white, heterosexual male born into a middle-middle-class family and how that contributed to my desire to start a discussion on the subject of Writing About Race in Sff Literature, but I scrapped it. When you’ve received such amazing responses from your interviewees, it’s best to get to them with the minimum of words.

So: Suffice it to say, this is an important topic for discussion. I hope that you enjoy reading this first part, that you’ll return for the second, and that you’ll feel free to comment. I also encourage you to visit the authors’ websites and buy their amazing work.

And enjoy!


Writing About Race in Science Fiction and Fantasy

A Roundtable Interview with David Anthony Durham, Aliette de Bodard, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Ken Liu

Q: Is there an advantage to approaching the subject of race in science fiction and fantasy literature, as opposed to approaching the subject in mimetic (“mainstream” or “mundane”) fiction?
David Anthony Durham

I hope so.

Personal point of reference on a limitation of mimetic fiction… My first two novels were mainstream works about African-American history. Readers that picked up those books did so because they wanted to read about race and slavery. They went in knowing the material would be difficult, and most of them probably believed that ruminating about our racial history is relevant for modern day. That’s great, but it means a limited readership. What about reaching more folks-including folks that don’t think they’d be interested in reading about race?
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MIND MELD: Genre Resolutions for 2012

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

It’s the beginning of 2012, a time for new beginnings, new vistas, and new resolutions to make the next year a good one.  Resolutions can come in many forms.

So I asked this week’s panelists:

Q: What are your resolutions with respect to genre in 2012?

Here is what they said:

Joe Abercrombie
UK fantasy writer Joe Abercrombie is the author of the First Law Trilogy: The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings, as well as the standalone fantasies Best Served Cold and The Heroes.

‘My genre resolutions are the same as every year – read more, write more.

Oh, and spend less time on the internet.

Having a bit of trouble sticking to that last one…’
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[Interviewer’s Note: This is a series of interviews featuring the contributors of Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF edited by Jetse de Vries.]

Aliette de Bodard is a French computer engineer who moonlights as a writer, with short fiction forthcoming or published in markets such as Asimov’s, Interzone and Realms of Fantasy. She’s a Campbell Award finalist and a Writers of the Future winner. Watch out for her debut novel, the Aztec fantasy Servant of the Underworld, published by Angry Robot.

Gareth L Powell is a regular contributor to Interzone. His stories have appeared all over the world and been translated into seven languages. His first collection, The Last Reef, was published by Elastic Press in 2008 and Pendragon will publish his first novel, Silversands, in 2010. He lives in the English West Country with his wife and daughters and can be found online at: www.garethlpowell.com.


Charles Tan: First off, what’s the appeal of science fiction?

Aliette de Bodard: For me, science fiction is about imagination–it’s not so much making accurate predictions of the future (because we know that past the 10 or 20-year mark, we can’t hope to be accurate), than it is about how we deal with the future. When such-and-such a technology is developed, how will we react? When such-and-such a culture forms, what will it look like? What will people think like, given such-and-such circumstances? For me, science fiction is a huge sandbox through which to view all possible variations of human (or not-quite human) nature.

Gareth L. Powell: I agree with Aliette. As a writer, science fiction gives you so much more to work with. It enables us to examine what it really means to be human, by placing characters in situations that never arise in the world we see around us today. It’s a vast playground, and its scope encompasses the lifetime of the universe: past, present and future.

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INTERVIEW: Aliette de Bodard

[Interviewer’s Note: This is a series of interviews featuring the contributors of The Apex Book of World SF edited by Lavie Tidhar. It’ll run every Monday to Friday until I run out of interviews. Two of these interviews will be reprinted in Apex Magazine but the rest are exclusive to SF Signal.]

Aliette de Bodard lives in Paris, where she works as a Computer Engineer. In her spare time, she writes speculative fiction, with short stories published or forthcoming in Asimov’s, Realms of Fantasy and Fantasy Magazine. She was a Campbell Award finalist and a Writers of the Future winner. Her first novel, the Aztec fantasy Servant of the Underworld, will be released in 2010 by Angry Robot.


Hi Aliette! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, how did you first become acquainted with speculative fiction?

In a stealthy way, mostly. I read and enjoyed a lot of it as a child (notably Tanith Lee’s Black Unicorn, Patricia McKillip’s The Changeling Sea, and Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain), but without making much of a difference between those books and, say, an Agatha Christie or an Alexandre Dumas.

It wasn’t until I got London (when I was 16) that I became aware that all those books were all in the same genre–and that I could find the books those had been inspired by or that they had inspired by looking along the same row of library shelves. That was when I started reading widely in the genre and acquainting myself with the classic works of SF and Fantasy.

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SF Tidbits for 8/11/09

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SF Tidbits for 8/5/09

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