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Neil Clarke is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Clarkesworld Magazine. His work at Clarkesworld has resulted in countless hours of enjoyment, three Hugo Awards for Best Semiprozine and four World Fantasy Award nominations. He’s a current and three-time Hugo Nominee for Best Editor (Short Form). In 2012, Neil suffered a near-fatal “widow-maker” heart attack which led to the installation of a defibrillator and a new life as a cyborg. Inspired by these events, he took on his first non-Clarkesworld editing project, Upgraded, an all-original anthology of cyborg stories scheduled for publication this summer. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons.


CHARLES TAN: Hi Neil! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, how are you? How about Clarkesworld Magazine?

NEIL CLARKE: My pleasure. Thanks for asking.

Doing well. I’m almost recovered from back-to-back convention weekends (Readercon and Detcon) and happy to be back at home with my family. Clarkesworld is healthier than ever and moving in the right direction, so I have no complaints there either.

CT: If you don’t mind me asking, I wanted to ask how your heart attack influenced your current view of the field, how it affects Clarkesworld, and how it generated an anthology like Upgraded.

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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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The final installment of my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time List, is finally here, revealing the top ten. You can find  the individual posts as they were posted #41-50 here,  #31-40 here,  #21-30 here, and #11-20 here.  For those who just want to get to the Top Ten already I’ve listed that first.  For ease of reference, I’ve also included the entire list of fifty at the bottom of the post so if you want to refer people to the list, you can just link here.

These are (my opinion of) what is the best of the best, the most epic of the most epic.  Load them all up and have an awesome road trip, or ration them out over months of liistening.

I would love if other fiction podcast fans would comment here and say what their own favorites are and why.

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Table of Contents: Clarkesworld, July 2014

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The Best Podcast Fiction of All Time (#21 – #30)

This is my third installment of my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time List, covering #21-30. You can find #41-50 here and #31-40 here.  This is the middle list of the five pack–just two more to go!  I hope some of you are tuning in and listening to them all–would make for an epic road trip (though many of the stories are not suitable for children so probably not a whole family road trip).

Please comment, follow along, share this list with your friends.
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Table of Contents: Clarkesworld, June 2014

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This is my second installment of my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time List, covering #31-40. You can find #41-50 here. The list is picked from thousands of episodes of the backlog of seventeen short fiction podcasts. There are many more episodes that I love, but these are the cream of the cream of the cream. All of the stories on this list are ones for which I have epic love, so it was a matter of trying to rank them based on fine gradations of that epic love.

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Short Fiction Friday: Clarkesworld Issue 91, April 2014

REVIEW SUMMARY: Today’s Short Fiction spotlight focuses on the four works of original fiction presented in Issue 91 of Clarkesworld.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: These four short fiction offerings look at the presence of the truly alien on Earth, the child-rearing of an A.I. spaceship, a young woman with no magic of her own who suddenly finds herself possessed of an unusual way to travel her world, and the April Fool’s Day pranks of a future genius involving the then-common way that matter is transferred.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A refreshing presentation of aliens who are truly alien; elements of “science” woven into the science fiction; plot lines which urge the reader to delve further into the stories.
CONS: All four stories share the trait of ending with questions unanswered (a “pro” for those who enjoy that type of storytelling).
BOTTOM LINE: I often speculate what percentage of one’s enjoyment of, or disappointment with, short genre fiction is based on the frame of mind/desires/expectations going in vs. the skill and story choices of the author. I have noticed within myself a preference for short stories that share a structure with novels–a tight beginning, middle and definitive end–as opposed to those that end with more questions, or simply a new beginning. Then there are times, like with this issue of Clarkesworld, in which the stories end in thought-provoking, questioning ways as opposed to wrapping up the vignette with a nice and tidy bow, and I find myself having an equally enjoyable reading experience. That is a long-winded way to posit the belief that the skill of these writers and the interesting variety of storytelling will be a rewarding experience for most readers who take advantage of what Clarkesworld Issue 91 has to offer.

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Table of Contents: Clarkesworld, April 2014

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REVIEW SUMMARY: This week’s Short Fiction Friday looks at the three works of original fiction in the March 2014 issue of Clarkesworld.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Space travel, war, and the variable nature of ghosts are examined in the original shorts in the latest issue of Clarkesworld.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Fans of space-faring science fiction will find much to like in two of the featured short stories; intriguing look at humanity from the point of view of an advanced alien race; one story provides the opportunity for examining folklore/mythological aspects of the Japanese culture.
CONS: One story ends slightly more abruptly than it should have; restrictions of short story format inhibits the effectiveness of one offering.
BOTTOM LINE: One of the greatest things about a foray into current offerings in the short fiction worlds of science fiction and fantasy is that you truly have no idea what you are going to get. Forrest Gump’s “box of chocolates” reference is so apt here. Whether that chocolate contains a surprisingly delightful filling…or coconut (no offense to you coconut lovers out there)…you always get a little bit of chocolate in the mix. So it is with the original works in this issue of Clarkesworld. They may or may not turn out to be to your taste, but they all have something going for them that makes them worth reading. For those who lean towards science fiction, two of the three featured stories are far into the science fictional spectrum. The other story uses fantastical elements of the Japanese culture to examine the stress and pressure of growing up. Links are provided. Give them a taste.

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Table of Contents: Clarkesworld, February 2014

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REVIEW SUMMARY: A deeper look at a new work of short fiction by Hugo, Nebula, Locus and World Fantasy award winning author Ken Liu. This story is featured in Clarkesworld Issue 88, January 2014.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A bounty hunter who has successfully nabbed her quarry inadvertently learns more about him during their journey through hyperspace as she kills time with a text-based computer game of his creation.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Clever execution of the story-within-a-story device; unconventional story structure fuels the fires of discovery; enjoyable blend of science fiction and fantasy devices.
CONS: Readers may be left with the desire for further resolution between Alex and Ryder.
BOTTOM LINE: Ken Liu has won several awards for stories that are out-of-the-ordinary and explore complex topics and emotions.  Those talents allow him to excel at telling a more straight-forward story as well, albeit one with signature Ken Liu flourishes.

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Here’s the the table of contents for the anthology Clarkesworld: Year Five:

Here’s the book description:

Since 2006, Clarkesworld Magazine has been entertaining science fiction and fantasy fans with their brand of unique science fiction and fantasy stories. Collected here are all of the original stories this Hugo Award-winning magazine published during their fifth year. Included in this volume are twenty-four stories by visionary writers of short fiction, including Ken Liu, Nnedi Okorafor, Robert Reed, N.K. Jemisin, Yoon Ha Lee, E. Lily Yu, and more!

Here’s the table of contents…
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Table of Contents: Clarkesworld, January 2014

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Table of Contents: Clarkesworld, December 2013

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TOC: Clarkesworld, November 2013

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Short Fiction Friday: “The Symphony of Ice and Dust” by Julie Novakova

REVIEW SUMMARY: A discussion/review of the longer of the three original works of fiction featured in the October 2013 issue of Clarkesworld. This issue also contains two works of classic reprint short fiction as well as nonfiction articles.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In humanity’s far-distant future an exploratory mission to the planet Sedna reveals the presence of a human visitation some 11,000 years earlier along with an even more surprising discovery.

MY REVIEW
PROS: Plausible science layered in accessible prose; world-building sans the info-dump; ideas that spark the imagination.
CONS: One abrupt moment that could have been teased out a little further.
BOTTOM LINE: My first experience with the work of Julie Novakova results in a story worth singling out for a solo review.  Novakova presents a plausible view of future space travel and exploration that abandons the standard space adventure tropes (of which I am admittedly a fan) while generating a level of daydream-inducing fiction that will remind some readers of the science fictional stories that made them a fan of the genre in the first place.

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