I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages. And I do mean years. Finally got it this year because I was reminded of it by someone when I read a very poor version of the Snow Queen.
Many of the stories are excellent, although it’s not quite the anthology I was expecting. I wasn’t expecting there to be discrepancy in whether the stories were pretty faithful or quite different versions; I found it a bit disconcerting to bounce from one to the other, and then have completely made up (that is, not based on commonly told fairy tales) stories in there as well. I’m not saying any of those three options is bad but it felt jarring to have them all mixed together. But I think that’s mostly my expectations.
Lisa Goldstein’s use of Hansen and Gretel motifs to tell a story about a woman’s relationship with her daughters was a delight and a really intriguing way to end the anthology. I loved Patricia A McKillip’s take on the snow queen and Esther M Freisner’s “Puss” was deeply troubling. Actually a lot of them were deeply troubling, but that was kind of the point both because original fairy tales just were troubling and because this anthology was always intended to be about both the fantasy and the horror aspects of the stories. Hence the title. There were a lot of really great stories in this anthology and I can see why it keeps getting talked about. I guess I finally need to read Angela Carter now
This book was sent to me by the publisher at no cost. It will be out on 31 October; RRP $22.99.
This collection of short stories reminded me a bit of Rob Shearman’s work. These aren’t quite as weird as Shearman’s (in the ‘New Weird’ sense, not just really quite strange), but there’s a similarity in the focus on everyday details in a weird, sometimes science fictional setting; an emphasis on relationships and humanity amidst technology and worlds (both local and global) falling apart.
I’ll bet this doesn’t often get talked about as science fiction; I bet it gets discussed as literary fiction, like The Book of Strange New Things. But for me, it’s definitely sf. Continue reading →
My copy claims that Sheldon died shortly after completion of this book. WOE.
Confusingly, the quote on the front of my copy calls this a science fiction novel, which confused me immensely since I thought Tiptree only wrote two, and I have read them both. Anyway, it became a bit clearer as I read: this is three short stories linked together by the idea of two students asking a librarian at the Great Central Library of Deneb University, for help in their research on humans. So you could tenuously see this as one, 1001 Arabian Nights-style narrative, but I think that’s stretching it a bit..
Anyway, the three stories do all centre on humans; in the first and third, it’s humans in conflict with aliens – new aliens – and in the second it’s human on human violence. They are, despite the conflict, surprisingly positive stories about humans overcoming difficulties. All of the stories take place in or around a place called the Rift: an area of space that is relatively empty of stars, and therefore planets – which, pre-FTL, makes it hard to navigate through (something about needing landmarks, I think).
The first story is definitely my devastating favourite. “The Only Neat Thing To Do” got a number of accolades when it was published, and they are well deserved. Coati Cass is 16, space-mad, and has just been given “a sturdy little space-coupe” for her birthday. So off she goes exploring… and of course, runs into something unexpected. The nobility that Tiptree imagines for Coati, and the realism of her voice, are both just wonderful.
“Good night, Sweethearts” is an interesting story of identity, celebrity, loss and starting over. It’s a good story but it doesn’t really stand out for me.
Lastly, and longest, is “Collision”. This story is told both by humans and by the aliens with whom they are coming into contact; the conceit is that this story has been constructed through interviews with participants. There’s a human exploration team, and there’s bad humans called Black Worlders who have been doing some nasty things, and there are aliens who are getting angry at humans… The blurb says that “explorers cross impassable chasms of language, biology and hallucination to prevent a new age of war,” which about sums it up. Like I said before: surprisingly positive.
Overall this may not be quite the strongest of Tiptree’s work, but it’s still damn fine and should be read for “The Only Neat Thing To Do” anyway.
Bonus note: referencing your own work (Brightness Falls from the Air) to make sure it’s clear these stories are in the same world. Good work, Tip!
I decided that I was going to read the Hugo-nominated fiction works despite the whole Rabid Puppies thing because for me, it seemed important that I have read them and be able to comment on their worth, as well as the politics around their nominations. I don’t expect everyone to agree with this stance; I’m not suggesting other people should do the same, or need to. This is very simply MY perspective.
The short stories.
No, no, no, no, and no.
In my opinion, none of these stories are worthy of a Hugo nomination.
“On a Spiritual Plain,” Lou Antonelli: I don’t mind the premise, of a world somehow able to keep part of a ‘soul’ after death. But the execution (…heh…) is just boring. A great big meh.
“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds,” John C Wright: an attempt to be the new CS Lewis? Gets a bit grandiose at points and quite eye-rolly at points and made me hope that other Christian writers could be a bit more subtle – either that or not try at all to be subtle and just come right out and examine ideas less circuitously (Wright does kinda get there in the end).
“A Single Samurai,” Steven Diamond: there is no story here.
“Totaled,” Kary English: interesting idea – a woman’s brain used after a car accident in an experiment – but no character development, no explanation for how or why this came about (that made sense, I mean), and only average prose.
“Turncoat,” Steve Rzasa: I didn’t loathe it. It’s still not Hugo material, but it’s an interesting enough take on the AI/ human / how you live together question. I can see why it speaks to some: it is after all basically two battle set-pieces with a wee bit of philosophising/ religious musing along the way. Competent… but not award-winning
So, it’s exciting to be finished 2007 – the year and the reading – and I have already started on 2008, because I know there are going to be some hiatus…es? Hiati? Anyway, some breaks in reading. We are going to do a complete wrap-up of 2007 in the short fiction scene, hopefully soonish, but it will take some fiddling so bear with us. (If that doesn’t make sense, check out Last Short Story to see what kept me busy this year, amongst other things). To keep you going, below is my recommended list for the Aussie scene:
Alex’s Moderately Subjective Year’s Best – 2007 (in random order)
Martin Livings, “There was Darkness,” Fantastic Wonder Stories
Ben Payne, “Inside,” Ticonderoga Online 11
Tansy Rayner Roberts, “The Bluebell Vengeance,” Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 28
Kieran Morgan, “Finding Each Other Again,” Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 30
Sue Isle, “The Sun People,” Shiny 1
Grace Dugan, “Knowledge,” Interzone 211
Alex’s Equally Subjective Honours List – 2007
Trent Jamieson, “Cracks,” Shiny 2
Richard Harland, “Corpus,” Dark Animus 10/11
Dirk Flinthart, “Networking for Dummies,” The Worker’s Paradise
Nathan Burrage, “Black and Bitter,” The Worker’s Paradise
Rowena Cory Daniells, “Magda’s Career Choice,” The Worker’s Paradise
Cat Sparks, “Right to Work,” The Worker’s Paradise
Trent Jamieson, “Small Change,” Shiny 1
Terry Dowling, “Swordplay,” Rynemonn
Dirk Flinthart, “The Garden of the Djinn,” Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 31
Ben Peek, “Excerpts from Books Fifty Years From Now,” Overland
Darren Goossens, “Thyme Machine,” Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 30
Bren MacDibble, “Collecting Whispers,” Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine
Dirk Flinthart, “Truckers,” Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine
RJ Astruc, “The Perfume Eaters,” Strange Horizons July
Paul Haines, “Where is Brisbane and How Many Times Do I Get There?” Fantastical Journeys to Brisbane
Tansy Rayner Roberts, “The Pastime of Aunties,” Fantastical Journeys to Brisbane
Greg Egan, “Glory,” New Space Opera
Bren MacDibble, “A Complete Refabrication,” Orb 7
Shane Jiraiya Cummings, “Beneath Southern Waves,” Daikaiju 2
Rjurik Davidson, “Domine,” Aurealis 37
Garth Nix, “Holly and Iron,” Dark Alchemy
Stephen Dedman, “Sufficiently Advanced,” New Ceres 2
Cat Sparks, “The Bride Prince,” New Ceres 2
Robert J Santa, “A Jury of Peers,” Shadow Plays
Andrew J McKiernan, “Calliope,” Shadow Plays
DH Duperouzel, “Of Wind and City,” Shadow Plays
Stephen Dedman, “Centenary,” Cosmos 14
Rick Kennett, “The Dark and what it said,” Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 28
Jack Dann, “Cafe Culture,” Asimov’s January
Penelope Love, “Tell Him I too have known,” Fantastic Wonder Stories
Shane Cummings, “Yamabushi Kaidan and the Smoke Dragon,” Fantastic Wonder Stories
Simon Brown, “Lonely as Life,” Fantastic Wonder Stories
Rowena Cory Danieels, “Soulshaper,” Fantastic Wonder Stories
Kylie Seluka, “Burning Bright,” Fantastic Wonder Stories
Bill McKinley, “The Return of the Queen,” Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 27
Jennifer Fallon, “The Demons of Fear,” Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 27
Steve Duffy, “Truth in Sentencing,” Antipodean SF 103
Kate told me to look at this website ages and ages ago, because she was hoping to get some stuff published there. It quite seriously took me about 6 weeks to get around to it, because I thought it was going to be this huge site with lots of stories it would take me ages to get through. Turns out instead that it is for a hard-copy, pulpy magazine that publishes short stories and reviews, every two months. I looked at the site and signed up immediately. I got my first one a couple of weeks ago – so cool – it was great fun to read, with some really different and weird stuff in there. I am really, really hooked, and am definitely going to keep at it.
The reason I think that Kate found it in the first place is because Tansy Rayner Roberts is one of the founders. She’s a Tassie writer, our age, who has had two books published which we really liked. Kate is always hoping that she will have more books published, preferably in the same series as the other two, because she likes the (semi-anti) hero, Aragon Silversword. And this from a girl who says she can’t stand Lord of the Rings (Kate, not Tansy).