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MIND MELD: The Next Big Genre Stars…In Their Own Words

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

A while back we ran a Mind Meld that asked “Who Are Tomorrow’s Big Genre Stars?” For this week’s Mind Meld, we asked several of the authors mentioned in the previous post this question:

Q: What story or stories, by you, would you recommend for readers new to your work?

Here’s what they said…

Alexander Irvine
Alexander C. Irvine is an American fantasist and science fiction writer. Many of his works have appeared under the simpler moniker “Alex Irvine. He can be found online on his blog.

I guess the short stories I’d have to recommend would be “The Truth About Ninjas,” “Gus Dreams of Biting the Mailman,” and “Vandoise and the Bone Monster.” Novel-wise, I’m going to have to go with The Narrows as an introduction. If you like that, you’ll like everything else I’ve done.

But if you asked me tomorrow I’d tell you something different…

Rachel Swirsky
Rachel Swirsky’s short fiction has been nominated for the Hugo, the Nebula, the Locus, and the Sturgeon. Her first collection, Through The Drowsy Dark, is available through Aqueduct Press. Find her at rachelswirsky.com or blogging at rachel-swirsky.livejournal.com.

I write short fiction on scattered subjects, so I’ll give a range of options so that readers can decide what best suits them.

I’m really excited about my first novella, “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window,” which came out in Subterranean a few weeks ago. It’s the longest piece of work I’ve ever done and it was a chance to explore some themes that interest me in a very different way than I’ve been able to. It’s an epic fantasy with large-scale world building and it was a lot of fun

to write.

My Hugo-nominated novelette “Eros, Philia, Agape” from Tor.com tells the story of a robot and a woman who are trying to figure out how to love each other when one owns the other. It’s been described as being similar to an Asimov’s story, but told with a literary perspective, though my inspirations when I was writing were coming more from Octavia Butler and Tanith Lee.

My Nebula-nominated novelette, “The Memory of Wind,” also from Tor.com, has a much more elaborate writing style. It takes place in ancient Mycenae and tells the story of Iphigenia, the girl who was sacrificed by her father so that the siege on Troy could take place. It’s sort of poetic and heavy on mythology, which is something some readers like a lot, and others would prefer to miss.

For readers who don’t want to spend the time on a novelette or a novella, I’d recommend one of two short stories that appeared in Subterranean Magazine. “Dispersed by the Sun, Melting in the Wind” is a short, imagistic post-apocalypse story, chronicling the final memories and experiences of the last two people on earth. “A Monkey Will Never Be Rid of Its Black Hands” is near-future science fiction about a man coming to terms with what happened to him as a young man when his uncle cut off his hands because he tried to dodge the draft.

For readers who don’t mind audio–or who prefer it–two of my stories that have appeared in year’s best anthologies are only available on the internet in audio form. “Heartstrung” is magical realism about a mother and daughter, and “How the World Became Quiet: A Post-Creation Myth” tells the myths of a weird, improbable post-apocalyptic future. (Several of the stories I mentioned above are also available in audio from Escape Pod or Tor.com.)

Thanks to anyone who goes to check out one of my stories. I hope you enjoy it.

Jay Lake
Jay Lake lives in Portland, Oregon, where he works on numerous writing and editing projects. His short fiction appears regularly in literary and genre markets worldwide. Jay is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and a multiple nominee for the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards. Jay can be reached through his blog at jaylake.livejournal.com or his Web site at www.jlake.com.

This is such an interesting question. For one thing, as writers we have a pretty strong cultural bias against blatant self-promotion. (“Hey, read this!” is generally a bit frowned upon.) For another, this is close to “What’s your favorite story of those you’ve written?” Which is a bit like asking who my favorite child is. Or would be if I had 300 children.

All that being said, it’s a bit of a poser. Accessibility matters, for example. That pretty much restricts my answers to stories published online. Something from a magazine several years ago would be an academic recommendation to anyone who wasn’t a collector (or hoarder) of magazines. Likewise anthologies from more than a couple of publishing cycles past. And while I could recommend work in one of my five collections, that violates the try-before-you-buy ethos loosely implied in the question.

So having imposed some conditions on myself, I’ll take a crack at this. I am a writer who has been characterized as chameleonic, to say the least. Not to mention idiotically prolific. So it depends on which Jay Lake you might be interested in. The SF writer? The fantasist? The New Weird guy? The clockpunk dude?

For progressive SF, I’d recommend either “The Sky That Wraps the World Round, Past the Blue and Into the Black” (Clarkesworld, 03/08) or “On the Human Plan” (Lone Star Stories, 02/09) They’re both fairly recent work, both were quite well received, and “The Sky That Wraps the World Round, Past the Blue and Into the Black” is the anchor story in my new collection from Subterranean Press, The Sky

That Wraps. They also both have the virtue of being quite accessible even to people who aren’t normally enthusiastic readers of SF.

For more traditional SF, I’d recommend “Torquing Vacuum” (Clarkesworld, 02/10). That’s in my Sunspin hard SF continuity, and has more clanky bits. Also, perhaps an older story, “The Cleansing Fire of God” (Strange Horizons, 09/03), for some of my most frequent themes and some actual space program stuff mixed in with alternate history.

As for fantasy, another set of older stories leaps to mind, “Green Grow the Rushes-Oh” (Strange Horizons, 2003). Twelve linked flash pieces on the theme of the traditional English song. Also, “A Water Matter” (tor.com, 10/08), which explores some of the background action of my fantasy novel Green.

New Weird checks in with “The Soul Bottles” (Fortean Bureau, 04/06 [reprint]), the story that spawned my Flowers novels. You can read me in clockpunk mode with “Chain of Fools” (Subterranean Online, Summer 2008) and “Chain of Stars” (Subterranean Online, Fall 2009), both of which are set in the world of Mainspring, though neither crosses over.

That seems like quite a lot, doesn’t it? Well, it’s a place to start. Enjoy!

Vandana Singh
Vandana Singh writes science fiction and fantasy and teaches college physics. Her Ph.D. is in particle physics, but she has yet to write a story about quarks. Apart from the aforementioned story collection, she has several short stories in various anthologies and magazines, and two standalone novellas from Aqueduct Press (Distances and Of Love and Other Monsters) as well as an ALA notable children’s book, Younguncle Comes to Town. She lives near Boston.

I would suggest my story “Infinities” as one place to start. I write a lot about India, being from there, and this story is steeped in it. It is also, to me, one of the most personally meaningful stories I’ve written — I had to wait for years until I was ready to write it. A fair chunk of my stories are centered around ordinary people living middle-class lives in India, yet being touched by something out of the ordinary, which gives the stories their sfnal ethos. “Infinities” can be found in my collection, The Woman Who Thought She was a Planet and Other Stories, and in Year’s Best Science Fiction Volume 27 (ed. Dozois) and Year’s Best SF 15 (eds. Hartwell & Cramer).

I also write at the other end of the spectrum — that is, stories that are set on distant worlds and populated by appropriately strange beings. One example is my novella Distances (Aqueduct Press) that is, among other things, a Tiptree Honor book. It has mythology, mathematics, strange customs and weird variations on the human theme.

Alan DeNiro
Alan DeNiro’s short story collection, Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead, was published by Small Beer Press in 2006. He has written many stories set in a space opera milieu called the Parameter, some of which have appeared in Strange Horizons, Twenty Epics, and Talebones.

Tyrannia” (which is at Strange Horizons) is the first story in a triptych, and something of a more recent vintage that kind of was a pivot story for me–helping me move into a different stylistic direction. An allegorical tale of political revolution. There are also bears.

My story in Interfictions 2, “The Warp and the Woof” (with an unpronounceable subtitle) is also one of my more favorite recent stories. A bit longer. It’s about a thriller writer making a living in a post-apocalyptic future, with a whole other menagerie of characters.

Finally, my novel Total Oblivion, More or Less is as good of a place to start as any! Scythian invaders swoop down from Canada into the Midwest, technology stops working, and chaos ensues. 16-year-old Macy tries to survive, make sense of it all, and not hate her dysfunctional family.

Elizabeth Bear
Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. This, coupled with a childhood tendency to read the dictionary for fun, led her inevitably to penury, intransigence, the mispronunciation of common English words, and the writing of speculative fiction.

For fantasy fans, I’d probably recommend Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth, which are historical fantasies set in the seamy underworld of espionage and theatre in Elizabethan London. For science fiction fans, there’s the Jenny Casey books, which are near future thrillers with mysterious alien technology and a mature, take no nonsense heroine.

Kay Kenyon
Kay Kenyon’s latest work is a science fiction quartet with a fantasy feel: The Entire and The Rose. The lead title, Bright of the Sky, was in Publishers Weekly’s top 150 books of 2007. Right now Kindle readers can try out her series with a free download of Bright. She is the chair of Eastern Washington’s Write on the River conference. At her website, she holds forth on writing, the industry and other curious pursuits.

Bright of the Sky – This book combines some of my favorite things in SF: big world building (the Entire is a manufactured tunnel universe), remixing cultures, sense of wonder. Added in, things I especially like to do: quirky characters, buried secrets, dystopian chords. The series raised my profile quite a bit, so I guess Book One’s the place to start.

Daryl Gregory
Daryl Gregory’s first novel was Pandamoneum, which won the 2009 Crawford Award and was a World Fantasy finalist. His second novel was the 2010 Philip K Dick award finalist The Devil’s Alphabet. His third novel, Raising Stony Mayhall, will appear from Del Rey in 2011. He’s currently working on a collection of short stories and is co-writing with Kurt Busiek the comic “Dracula: Company of Monsters.” He lives in State College, PA, where he has trained himself not to say “PIN number.”

My most popular story has to be “4512”, my daring, autobiographical tale of personal banking, which takes its title from my current PIN. But please, people, let’s not repeat last month’s debacle where one reader emptied the entire account! I just deposited another check, and I’d like to leave some for the awards judges.

My second most popular story is probably “Second Person, Present Tense,” (Asimov) about neuroscience, consciousness, and a teenage identity crisis. You can also read a few more free stories on darylgregory.com. I don’t know which of those stories is a good introduction to my work — like a lot of writers, I cross genres so often they don’t even check my passport anymore — but there should be something up there to interest or annoy almost anyone.

David Moles
David Moles was born in California and raised in San Diego, Athens, Tehran, and Tokyo. A graduate of the American School in Japan, the University of California at Santa Cruz, and Oxford University, he has been writing and editing science fiction and fantasy since 2002, and is a past finalist for the Hugo Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, as well as the winner of the 2008 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, for his novelette “Finisterra.” David’s most recent book is the novella “Seven Cities of Gold”. He currently lives in San Francisco.

“Seven Cities of Gold.” But since it’s so far only available as a limited hardcover from PS Publishing, it might be easier to get your hands on “A Soldier of the City,” in Engineering Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan. But since Engineering Infinity isn’t out till January, “Down & Out in the Magic Kingdom,” which you can find in Jonathan’s Eclipse 2, or read (and cut up and remix and resell–it’s Creative-Commons-licensed) online.

Tim Pratt

Asking an author to choose their own best work is always a tricky proposition, as the works an author loves may not be the ones readers will like best.

So I’ll split the difference: my most popular story, far and away, is my interdimensional film story “Impossible Dreams” (available at Escape Pod in audio form and in text form via the Wayback Machine).

My personal favorite recent story is the metafictional fantasy “Her Voice in a Bottle” from Subterranean magazine while my all-time favorite of my own work is my fractured epic “Cup and Table” (available at Podcastle in audio form) — it’s one of the few stories where I feel I really nailed the ending.

Daniel Abraham

It’s a trickier question than it seems. I’m writing under several names right now, and I’m fond of work under each name. For short stories, I’d probably recommend “Flat Diane” and “The Cambist and Lord Iron” by Daniel Abraham and “Hurt Me” by MLN Hanover.

The Cambist and Lord Iron” is still online for free in text form or as a podcast at Podcastle.

“Flat Diane” isn’t available for free as text, but it is in my collection from Subterranean. It can be found as a podcast at Pseudopod.

“Hurt Me” isn’t in print yet, but will be in the anthology Songs of Love and Death (along with stories by Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, Peter Beagle etc. etc. this November. (plug, plug, plug . . .)

For novels, I think the Long Price Quartet are a good place to start, but MLN Hanover’s Unclean Spirits and/or James S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes (in print next summer) are also good starting points.

About JP Frantz (2322 Articles)
Has nothing interesting to say so in the interest of time, will get on with not saying it.

3 Comments on MIND MELD: The Next Big Genre Stars…In Their Own Words

  1. I adored Mr. Irvine’s THE NARROWS! Can’t go wrong with that book.

  2. People with enough sense to include links win.

  3. Alex Irvine’s The Narrows is indeed a great book, but I think his A Scattering of Jades is one of the finest debuts I’ve ever read, and should be sought out, in print or not.

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