Archive for July, 2015

You guys! It’s #TitansgraveTuesday! What is that, you ask?

Titansgrave is an RPG webseries by Geek and Sundry DM-ed by Wil Wheaton and featuring Hank Green, Alison Haislip, Laura Bailey, and Yuri Lowenthal. And it is awesome. Wheaton and his crew originated the world and story, basing the gameplay on the AGE system. Even if you’re not a role player yourself, it is exceptionally fun to watch. The art done for the series is absolutely gorgeous and the cast is both funny and engaging. If you dig speculative fiction of just about any ilk, I recommend it.

Introduction Video:

 

Episode One:

 

Try it–I promise, you won’t regret it!*

 

*May inspire cravings for craft beer, twenty-sided dice, and a RPG group of your own.

What’s that? A bird? A plane? A review of an anthology paying tribute to one of science fiction’s most singularly game-changing writers?

It’s probably that last one.

It should go without saying but: spoilers below. It is difficult to review anything without spoiling something. Thus, there will be no kvetching about spoilers.

Octavia’s Brood edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, out April 14, is a collection of stories, essays, and–in one remarkable case–a T.V. script, which seeks to capture the visionary fiction aesthetic and social justice mentality of the great Octavia Butler. Brown and Imarisha solicited its contents from a wide range of activists, from journalist Dani McClain to actor LeVar Burton. The stories include speculative fiction of all stripes, including more recognizable spaceships-and-aliens sci-fi, fabulism, zombie apocalyptic horror, and–unsurprisingly–plenty of dystopian fiction.

In other words, there’s pretty much something for everyone between the covers of Octavia’s Brood, provided you’re interested in having your ideas and social assumptions challenged. Much like Butler’s work, this is an anthology driven by questioning and the questions asked–about race, gender, and sexuality in society–are not easy ones. Consequently, I recommend it as a slower read. Take some time to chew on what you’ve been given. Think about the stories and go back to them if you can. This is a book that requires patience and introspection; if you blow through it, you’re not going to get anything much out of it.

But assuming you are that kind of reader–and if you love Butler, you almost certainly are–definitely pick up this book. If you can, read it with some likeminded (or maybe slightly different-minded) friends. It will precipitate the types of conversations many of us want and need to have. Good fiction, like Butler’s fiction, can do that for us. It can make us grapple with the issues of our identity, the ways in which we conceive of one another, the often unnoticed harm that happens to those of us outside the margins.

That’s all well and good, Julia, you might be saying, but how were the stories? That’s what we read anthologies for, after all. Ideas can only get us so far.

I’ll admit, not everything in here was my cup of tea in terms of plot and structure, but as I said, that doesn’t seem to be the goal. There’s something sort of scattershot, sort of busy, in this approach–a cramming in of different types of stories to spur as much conversation as possible. And, because many of these people aren’t writers by trade, the quality of prose can be a little uneven at times. Some stories seemed to need more room to breathe. Others felt sluggishly paced. But there were plenty of gems, too, by my estimation.

My top five were:

“Revolution Shuffle” by Bao Phi. The anthology opener kicked it off with a socially conscious zombie twist worthy of early Romero. Hit all the right buttons for me and gave us that “on the edge of revolution” feel that persisted throughout Octavia’s Brood.

“The River” by adrienne maree brown. Hands down the most beautifully written story in the book and the prose lent itself to the eerier qualities of this ghostly story set in post-industrial Detroit.

“The Long Memory” by Morrigan Phillips. An unusual sort of tale that deals with the issue of cultural and social memory and the problems we encounter when only a handful of people are aware of that inheritance.

“The Surfacing” by Autumn Brown. Interesting in media res approach which details the ousting of a woman from her subterranean society, only for her to discover everything above wasn’t quite as she thought.

“Lalibela” by Gabriel Teodros. This story that shifts through space and time reminds us how much has changed and how little.

It should be noted, too, that the essays at the end of the anthology are pretty fantastic all on their own, especially if you like talking about Butler’s work or Star Wars.

On the whole, despite its flaws, I was glad for the opportunity to read Octavia’s Brood and dwell on its questions. I sincerely hope there will be more anthologies like it in the future.

7/10.

Yes, we’re back with some of the best the web had to offer in May and June:

From Scigentasy: “Gravity Well” A.J. Fitzwater. Gravity says: you crazy broads. Gaia’s embrace is too strong. What of your wayward suns? And how many tampons do you need between here and the moon anyway? I love the frenetic everything about this very short story.

From Tor.com: “Waters of Versailles” by Kelly Robson. Annette giggled. “Your pipes are weeping, monsieur.” Viva la novella! Seriously, this utterly charming alt-historical fantasy is the perfect argument for why this form belongs in genre publications.

From Strange Horizons: “Post-Apocalyptic Toothbrush” by Betsy Ladyzhets. Egads! A poem?! Just enjoy it, friends.

From Lightspeed: “Emergency Repair” by Kate M. Galey. Queers Destroy Science Fiction! is here! And you should indeed read and/or listen to all of the stories, but this one by newcomer Galey is just all sorts of lovely and wonderful.

From Escape Pod“Beyond the Trenches We Lie” by A. T. Greenblatt. This morning, the Globs are waiting for us, just like always. Despite what the official propaganda shows, we, this little band of ragged soldiers, don’t even bother to line up anymore. My preferred flavor of military sci-fi.

From Daily Science Fiction: “The Pixie Game”  by Anna Zumbro. Jack puts his face close to the leaves and sticks out his tongue. Gage sees a rustle and a flash of green, then a tiny figure clinging to the tip of Jack’s tongue before it retracts. Gross but somehow also very poignant? Go figure.

From Glittership: “King Tide” by Alison Wilgus. Some particular trick of the moon, the weather, and the Earth’s closeness to the sun had pulled the tide all the way to 5th Avenue, a good half-block further uphill than usual. Wilgus also writes/draws comics and is generally awesome.

From Uncanny Magazine: “Young Woman in a Garden” by Delia Sherman. When Theresa finally found La Roseraie at the end of an unpaved, narrow road, she was tired and dusty and on the verge of being annoyed. For those of you who like a little art history with your speculative fiction.

Happy reading everyone! Tell me your recommendations in the comments!