Thursday, March 27, 2014

Beneath Ceaseless Skies science-fantasy months

The Beneath Ceaseless Skies science-fantasy month is thoroughly solid – Scott H. Andrews curated a stunning double issue – and makes me hugely happy; science fantasy looks like a very fun thing to do! I haven’t read all of them yet, but for the moment…
Behold Sekhmet! Blood and brawn, fang and claw, shoulders caked in salt. Risen from the anaerobic sea, the ancient broth, to hunt and kill her foe.
‘Sekhmet Hunts the Dying Gnosis: a Computation’ by Seth J. Dickinson (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Mar 2014). I think most would be hard-pressed not to read on after the first three gorgeous sentences. Seth calls this the sort of fable a tiger raised on science might tell and that seems a fitting description! It’s an incredibly accomplished story, where every sentence sings out in perfection, visceral poetry. I adore it.
‘The Breath of War’ by Aliette de Bodard (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Mar 2014). On a planet where people carve stone into ‘breath-siblings’ a pregnant woman seeks her stone-companion: a warship. Of all Aliette’s stories I’ve read recently I think this is easily the strongest – it’s rather different from her non-fantasy SF, but tensely told and striking. In a lot of ways it shares resemblances with her Subterranean story, but I do love this one more. I’m not sure if this is part of the Xuya universe, but it shares many themes with her Xuya stories. Seth had a lot more to say about this story, and his insights as usual are thoroughly smart.
Beneath a high pale sun, Doormaker follows the broken road into the demon’s kingdom.
She is clad in an armor wrought of primordial isotopes, imbued with mathematics of sufficient strength to reinforce its stability against the demon’s fallout. Beneath it, she hides her war-given wounds, which burn and twist at certain hours of the day or beneath the shadows of certain trees.
‘The River Does Not Run’ by Rachel Sobel (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Mar 2014). A wizard sets out to defeat a demon in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s a relatively brief story, tightly focused, and the imagery is evocative. Science fantasy with maths magic! My favorite kind of main character!
‘The Bonedrake’s Penance’ by Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Mar 2014). This is very different! But beautifully written, of course. I’m always faintly puzzled by stories where dragons (or other fantasy creatures) raise children, but that may be due to me not reading a lot of fantasy outside of short fiction. (You would think it’d be common in YA, of which I read a lot, but I actually can’t think of any title that fits the bill…)
‘The Mote-Dancer and the Firelife’ by Chris Wilrich (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 2012). An older story but also from a science-fantasy month at BCS, reprinted in Rich Horton’s Space Opera. An interesting look at a telepathic-digital afterlife and grieving!
And relevantly…

This is a thoroughly fantastic panel that I think is essential to watch for anyone interested in short fiction in the genre, whether to read, write, or edit. They cover the rise of online zines and how that opens doors and access to international audiences and writers. Some podcasts were recommended, The Synthetic Voices and Tina Connolly’s Toasted Cake.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear my name brought up, along with Seth J. Dickinson and Yoon Ha Lee. Many thanks to Sarah Pinsker, Neil Clarke and Scott H. Andrews for that kindness. All editors talked in depth about the nitty-gritty of running, editing and maintaining zines. Funding! Story selection! And things. It’s fairly long a clip, but really quite worth checking out.

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