Archive for the ‘Hope for the Genre’ Category

A Hope for the Genre?! No way!

show_art_Killjoys_new

Genre: Space Opera/Space Western

Medium: Television

The premise: Killjoys is a sci-fi adventure story co-produced by SyFy and the Canadian genre channel, Space. It tells the story of three bounty hunters Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen), John Jaqobis (Aaron Ashmore), and D’avin Jaqobis (Luke Macfarlane) who navigate a colonizing human society known as the Quad ruled by an oligarchic council called the Nine and a domineering corporation simply referred to as the Company. Bounty hunters, known as Killjoys, work on behalf of the Company to bring in or assassinate wanted criminals. Life is neither easy nor simple for these protagonists, who most negotiate obstacles both martial and political to stay alive, all while also overcoming the dark secrets of their own pasts.

Why it’s awesome: If you’re a fan of Firefly, Farscape, or Outlaw Star, you’ll enjoy Killjoys. (Or if you remember the glory that was campy nineties television.) Although the show doesn’t lack for serious moments, danger, or suspense, it is tremendously good fun to watch and does not take itself seriously to the extent that so much television does today. Sometimes as genre fans we want to explore deep, thoughtful questions–and sometimes we want to watch a kickass heroine take down baddies and rescue her friends from certain danger. Hannah John-Kamen is wonderful to watch as Dutch and Aaron Ashmore complements her perfectly as her partner Johnny. A host of entertaining secondary characters from their fellow Killjoys to bureaucrats to the bartender at their favorite watering hole round out the cast.

Why it’s hopeful: It’s refreshing to see a woman-centered science fiction show on sci-fi. Especially since Dutch is a woman of color. She’s also a capable, complicated yet sympathetic character with real human relationships and a mysterious backstory. There’s no doubt who Killjoys is really about. Even better, Dutch’s friendship with Johnny is the emotional centerpiece to the show. Whatever romantic relationships the two pursue elsewhere, they are always reunited. It shouldn’t be revolutionary to have a compelling friendship between a man and a woman on an action show that doesn’t devolve into sexual tension…but it is. And while some critics have said that Killjoys is thematically light, it has plenty to say about class and class structures, power, and the destructive force of capitalism in society. There’s a lot to like here and I’m happy to report that the show will return for a second season in 2016.

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!

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

From Nightmare: “Ishq” by Usman T. Malik. The open sewerage ravine near Mochi Gate slowly began to fill up with wet leaves, bird nests, shopping bags, old shoes, and Hashim sat by the dead girl, waiting, waiting. Beautifully eerie piece about grief, love, and illness.

From Pseudopod: Flash on the Borderlands XXIV: Femmes Fatales. There’s a little something for everyone in this trio of flashes. Nice change of pace, too.

From Podcastle: “The Specialist’s Hat” by Kelly Link. One of my absolutely favorite Link stories and read just perfectly.

From Apex: “Silver Buttons All Down His Back” by A.C. Wise. It’s just past dawn; the sleek lines of the rocket stand against a sky silvering from deep blue to almost-white where it touches the horizon. The moon is a slim crescent, grinning. I adored this story set in the not-too-distant future which explores the ways it which we hurt each other–especially when we’re expecting to be hurt ourselves.

From Daily Science Fiction: “Robo-rotica” by Sarina Dorie.  The title probably says it all. Laughed so hard I cried.

From Lightspeed: “The New Atlantis” by Ursula K. LeGuin. Delicately and easily, the long curving tentacle followed the curves of the carved figure, the eight petal-limbs, the round eyes. Did it recognize its image?  Does LeGuin still have it, you might be wondering? Damn right she does.

From Strange Horizons: “City of Salt” by Arkady Martine. I am the jackal gnawing on the bones of the city; I am the city, being devoured. I stayed. I earned it. Truly unusual, as well as richly imagined and vividly told.

From Lackington’s: “Ambergris, or The Sea-Sacrifice” by Rhonda Eikamp. The sound was the world, the world’s horn, commanding, the conch-shell that held them all in its whorls and would never let them go until they had drowned in life. Gorgeous and original fairy tale about a father and his powerful daughter.

From The Golden Key: “Water Lily Monster” by Anne Lacy. Often the first story in an issue is quite good, but this one just hits it out of the park. Had me at the first line: When night comes, the crocodil mamma rises to the surface and wakes her goblin babes.

From Shimmer: “You Can Do It Again” by Michael Ian Bell. Beautifully told tale with a striking, almost frenetic pace that provides a unique look at grief, regret, and the inability to let go.

From Clarkesworld: “Postcards from Monster Island” by Emily Devenport. If you love GodzillaKing KongPacific Rim, etc., you’ll dig this story.

From GlitterShip: “How to Become A Robot in 12 Easy Steps” by A. Merc Rustad. A thoughtful meditation on the nature of identity, sexuality, and depression. With robots.

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

That’s right–in addition to periodic “Watch it Now” posts, at the end of every month, I’ll also collate some of the best online speculative fiction reads for your enjoyment. These will include flash fiction, short fiction, novellas, and novelettes from science fiction, horror, fantasy, and everything in between. They will always be free publications, although I encourage you to support them if you can.

Of course, I have my favorites when it comes to venues, so if you have a recommendation from another source, please don’t hesitate to share.

For February, I suggest the following 7 works for your enjoyment:

From Lightspeed“And the Winners Will Be Swept Out to Sea” by Maria Dahvana Headley. I am not afraid of monsters. I’ve never been afraid of monsters. I’m afraid of love. The prose here is frenetic and gorgeous. I also encourage you to listen to the audio version!

From Escape Pod: “The Evening, The Morning and the Night” by Octavia Butler. Technically the story is a much older one (from 1987) but is it ever a bad idea to revisit Butler, especially when she’s read so brilliantly?

From Strange Horizons: “Limestone, Lye, and the Buzzing of Flies” by Kate Heartfield. No—that is the wrong memory. That didn’t happen. Not to me. A truly unsettling and unique tale.

From Daily Science Fiction: “Marking Time” by Stephanie Burgis. Everyone’s lives are made of moments. Beautifully wrought magical realist meditation on regret.

From Jersey Devil Press: “The Nature of Johnny’s Medicine” by Sloan Thomas. I trust in my destiny as much as anyone around . . . maybe more. There’s a wonderful subtleness to this one.

From The Dark Magazine: “In the Dreams Full of Sleep, Beakless Birds Can Fly” by Patricia Russo. Better a child with wings and a beak, better a child that flew away, than one who never grew, who wasted away and died. Heartbreaking and lovely. Amazing what you could with dialogue and silences.

From Apex Magazine: “The Best Little Cleaning Robot in All of Faerie” by Susan Jane Bigelow. When everybody on the bridge of the interstellar mercenary cruiser Zinnia fell into a magic sleep… Hilarious and different and obviously it gets you at the first line.

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

The 15 in ’15 series concludes with this year’s exciting new genre literature!

[Note: It was most convenient to link to Amazon in this case, but please consider purchasing from your local bookstore.]

  1.  The Just City by Jo Walton (1/13) Time traveling Athena? Greek philosophy as spec fic? Yes, please.
  2. Get in Trouble by Kelly Link (2/3) Link is at the top of the Pantheon in American dark fantasy/magical realism.
  3. Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman (2/3) Gaiman only releases new collections every several years, so there are many reasons to be excited about his newest compilation.
  4. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (2/3) Old West steampunk from a Hugo-award winning storyteller.
  5. Shutter by Courtney Alameda (2/3) Debut horror with a promising premise–always worth a look.
  6. The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson  (2/10) I tried to avoid sequels as much as possible for this list but the Shades of London series is so good you should just go read it anyway. Besides, it’s Maureen Johnson.
  7. The Death House by Sarah Pinborough (2/26) Sounds thoroughly creepy.
  8. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (3/3) From the genius who brought us Never Let Me Go, his first novel in a decade.
  9. Harrison Squared by Daryl Gregory (3/24) Lovecraft meets family drama in this macabre tale of a boy searching for his mother.
  10. The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu (4/7) His debut novel! (If you haven’t read his stories, get to it.)
  11. The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor ( 5/5) Prequel to the amazing Who Fears Death, a story of another powerful woman making her way through an unforgiving world.
  12. Uprooted by Naomi Novik (5/19) From the brilliant author of the Temeraire series, a different take on dragons and sacrifices.
  13. The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi (5/26) Bacigalupi returns to a climate change ravaged future to explore a new dimension of our diminishing resources–the men who protect water supplies in desert cities.
  14. Time Salvager by Wesley Chu (7/7) A compelling new take on time travel and environmental issues.
  15. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente (8/26) From the author of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, a reimagining of film and Hollywood in an alternate universe.

 

What books are you looking forward to in 2015?