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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Short Fiction Friday: New Fiction from Tor.com

REVIEW SUMMARY: Two short tales from Tor.com touched with a seasonal chill.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SUMMARY: A deeper imagining of a familiar heroic tale and a glimpse of psychological interrogation in an alternate, magical-filled Europe make up the latest free fiction offerings on the Tor.com website.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Lyrical prose; storytelling that evokes the mood of Autumn-Winter transition; tight narrative structure.
CONS: I tried folks, I really did…nothing leaps to mind.
BOTTOM LINE: Fantasy with a hint of folklore, when done well, can create a rich sense of history, a texture that makes a story more than the sum of its parts.  Both of the recent selections from Tor.com showcase talented writers mining familiar territory to craft memorable stories.

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Today’s Mind Meld was suggested by Orbit’s publicist. [Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

The movie The Princess Bride is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2012. Next year, by the way, the William Goldman novel that inspired it will turn 40, another landmark to be celebrated by fans worldwide.

So, we asked this week’s panelists…

Q: How has The Princess Bride influenced today’s fantasy writers?

Here’s what they said…

Rachel Caine
Rachel Caine is the New York Times, USA Today and internationally bestselling author of more than 30 novels, including the immensely popular Morganville Vampires series, the Weather Warden series, and the Outcast Season series.

The Princess Bride was the first movie I’d seen that was able to take fantasy, give it a gorgeous look and feel, add a snarky, humorous edge and NOT fall over into broad comedy … the jokes were razor sharp, the acting was brilliant, the fencing was Old Hollywood fantastic. And let’s face it, who among us hasn’t said, “Have fun storming the castle!” or, “Never go in against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line!” … or, my personal favorite, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya …”

In fact, I think Inigo Montoya formed the basis of what I wanted in a character — someone with a tragic past, a sense of humor, a wicked talent for mayhem, and the ability, when the moment of truth came, to shed all of that and convey the fury and passion inside.

It was a watershed for much that came after its release — suddenly, writers in fantasy felt free of the old constraints. Fantasy could be epic without being humorless, and it could be funny without falling into slapstick. It set a solid middle course that allowed fantasy to be seen as thrilling, funny and romantic all at the same time — a feat that Joss Whedon would repeat years later for the paranormal genre.

It’s quite simply my favorite fantasy movie of all time. So excuse me, but I need to go watch it again …
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MIND MELD: Great Genre Reads For Teenage Girls

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

This week’s question was suggested by one of our readers:

Q: What genre books would you recommend to young teenage girls that read at an advanced level?

Here’s what they said…

Mari Ness
Mari Ness is a speculative short story writer. She lives in central Florida, and blogs weekly about children’s literature over at Tor.com.

I’m always a bit taken aback when I get a question like this, because my response is that young teenage girls that read at an advanced level should read, well, everything! At that point I was certainly still reading books that would be classified as young adult — but heading over to the science fiction and fantasy section whenever I could, and loving just about everything, the more epic and unrealistic, the better. (The one exception was The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, which I may have been a bit young for; I ended up loving Donaldson’s other, later stuff.) So I advise the same to any young teenage girl — go. Explore. Read whatever looks interesting. Some of it will suck. Some of it will make you babble endlessly to friends and family. Some of it will change your world.

Specific recommendations? That’s also tricky, without knowing what the girl might be looking for — epic? Funny? Romantic? I quite liked Ursula Le Guin’s Annals of the Western Shore series; Sorcery and Cecelia, by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Steverner, an amusing blend of magic and humor, and Robin McKinley’s Beauty and Deerskin, for fairy tale lovers, and nearly anything by William Sleator for science fiction fans. More recent young adult books that I can recommend include Inara Scott’s The Candidates, an entertaining superpowered high school tale; Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns, set in a land somewhat inspired by Spain, with a heroine who slowly learns how awesome she is; Justine Larbalestier’s Liar, which I can’t talk about without spoiling; Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series, ditto (but definitely start this series in the beginning); Nnedi Okorafor’s Zahrah the Windseeker, about a timid girl about to make a journey into a fabulous jungle. Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose still haunts me.

For those wanting to jump into adult stories — that was when I found Samuel Delany, Nancy Springer, J.R.R. Tolkien, Joe Haldeman, Douglas Adams, Julian May, Joan Vinge, Octavia Butler, Connie Willis, Lucy Maud Montgomery (I highly recommend seeking out her five volumes of journals) and other novelists that I really can’t exactly recommend, you understand. But it was a feast of reading, and something I encourage all readers to do: just explore, since this list is self evidently woefully incomplete.
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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Mari Ness

[Interviewer’s Note: This is a series of interviews featuring the contributors of Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF edited by Jetse de Vries.]

Mari Ness lives in central Florida, and likes to watch space shuttles and rockets leap into the sky. Her work has previously appeared in numerous print and online venues, including Fantasy Magazine, Hub Fiction and Farrago’s Wainscot. She’s still hoping to spend time in a space station some day.



Charles Tan: Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, what’s the appeal of science fiction for you?

Mari Ness: “Space, the final frontier.”

Corny, I know. But whenever I see science fiction, I flash back to watching Star Trek with my dad, my teddy bear and/or Tina my doll, watching people getting to go everywhere and everywhen. Unlimited possibilities. I loved that. I still can’t figure out why it’s taking us so long to break the laws of physics and leap into those possibilities.

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