Friday, March 26, 2010

Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week :: Deutoroi by Samantha Henderson

DeutoriMy story recommendation of the week goes to Deutoroi by Samantha Henderson, from the First Quarter, 2010 issue of Abyss & Apex. This is Henderson's second SROTW, putting her in strong company with Paolo Bacigalupi, Catherynne M. Valente, Aliette de Bodard, Leah Bobet, and Eugie Foster.

Our protagonist Merea is the Thessa, a woman able to communicate (to a degree) with animals, trees, even the wind. As the story begins, Merea is pursued by would-be king Dathan, who needs her to help track down the Deutoroi, the white stag whose blood is necessary to give a king legitimacy in this land. Merea is drawn to this destiny but also fears it will drive her insane:
The Thessa must surrender to madness to find the Deutoroi, and all Thessa went mad in time. That's what she had come to understand after her mother died, and what she most feared. The horror of losing herself in the wind that lashed the tops of the trees, or giving in to the voice that called her from the west, from the Narcos Wade. The horror and delight of it. She heard it in the whispering of the plum trees when she was sent to pick their fruit, in the smell of a breeze that brought her up short, prickling all over.
I just loved this story. The writing is evocative but never ostentatious. It has a simple, pastoral setting, but Henderson hints at fascinating complexities to this world. The tale moves quickly in a predictable direction, yet still packs several surprises. Our sympathies are initially with Merea, hunted and used by Dathan, but we soon learn that Dathan is motivated by a sincere desire to prevent war, and we begin to wonder if Merea is truly blameless or has shirked her responsibilities. A similar pattern unfolds as they begin their hunt for the Deutoroi.

Webzine Abyss & Apex is one of the most reliable free sites for excellent fiction by up-and-coming authors. In the past two years alone, it has published work by Camille Alexa, Marie Brennan, Aliette de Bodard, Vylar Kaftan, Ruth Nestvold, Tony Pi, Cat Rambo, Patricia Russo, Ken Scholes, and Lavie Tidhar, among many others. Go give it a read, starting with "Deutoroi".

Friday, March 19, 2010

Amy's Music :: RIP Alex Chilton

Big StarThis week I was sad to hear of the death of singer and guitarist Alex Chilton. He was 59. Alex Chilton deserves to be remembered for his influential 1970s band Big Star. I love Big Star's pop songs especially "September Gurls" (not a typo, it's truly "gurls") and "Back of a Car" with their ringing guitars. You might have heard Big Star's song "In the Street" as the theme for the TV show "That '70s Show".

Big Star were sadly never commercially successful when they released their albums and in early 1970s. Record company distribution problems and band disagreements hurt their chances. But their innovative, power-pop music went on to inspire many other musicians. R.E.M., The Replacements, Game Theory, and The Bangles are a few of the artists who have acknowledged Big Star as an influence.

Here are some of the lyrics, or a best guess, from "September Gurls":
September gurls do so much
I was your butch and you were touched
I loved you well never mind
I've been crying all the time

December boys got it bad
December boys got it bad

September gurls I don't know why
How can I deny what's inside
Even though I'll keep away
They will love all our days

Also, before Big Star, Alex Chilton was the teenage singer of The Box Tops 1967 hit song "The Letter", which begins with the lines:
Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane
Ain't got time to take a fast train

RIP Alex Chilton.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Aaron's Hugo Recommendations :: Short Story

Here are my nominations (strangely lacking in gender balance) for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story of 2009:

Aliette de Bodard, Blighted Heart (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 7/30/09)
Kij Johnson, Spar (Clarkesworld, Oct '09)
Mary Robinette Kowal, Jaiden's Weaver (Diamonds in the Sky)
Margo Lanagan, Ferryman (Firebirds Soaring)
Cat Rambo, Rare Pears and Greengages (Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight)

I think the Kij Johnson story is the only one in this group with much of a chance at making the final ballot, even though (or perhaps because) it is rather a disturbing, unpleasant reading experience. Good luck to all these excellent authors just the same!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Aaron's Hugo Recommendations :: Novelette

Here are my nominations for the Hugo Award for Best Novelette of 2009:

Daniel Abraham, The Curandero and the Swede (F&SF, March '09)
Gemma Files & Stephen J. Barringer, each thing I show you is a piece of my death (Clockwork Phoenix 2)
Eugie Foster, Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast (Interzone, Jan-Feb '09)
Rachel Swirsky, Eros, Philia, Agape (, March '09)
James Van Pelt, The Radio Magician (Realms of Fantasy, February '09)

(Note that the publications listed are the original publications -- several of these stories have already been reprinted.)

Novelette is often my favorite of the short fiction categories, and this year is no exception. This is an outstanding list of stories, and I would dearly love to see some of these on the final Hugo ballot.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Aaron's Hugo Recommendations :: Novella

I didn't get to read that many novellas from 2009, but the small number I read included some outstanding stories. I plan to nominate these five for the Hugo Award:

Nancy Kress, Act One (Asimov's, March '09)
John Langan, The Wide, Carnivorous Sky (By Blood We Live)
Ian McDonald, Vishnu at the Cat Circus (Cyberabad Days)
James Morrow, Shambling Towards Hiroshima (Tachyon)
Jason Sanford, Sublimation Angels (Interzone, Sept-Oct '09)

With the exception of "The Wide, Carnivorous Sky," which is more likly to appeal to horror readers than SF fans, all of these have a reasonable chance of joining John Scalzi's The God Engines on the Hugo ballot. (I haven't yet read The God Engines, but given Scalzi's popularity with the Hugo voters, I am confident he doesn't need my help.)

Good luck to all of these deserving authors!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Aaron's Hugo Recommendations :: Best Novel

If I had to submit my Hugo nominations today, these are the novels I would nominate (in alphabetical order by author):

Daniel Abraham, The Price of Spring
Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl
China Miéville, The City and the City
Ken Scholes, Lamentation
Catherynne M. Valente, Palimpsest

I fully expect the Bacigalupi and Miéville novels to make the final ballot, and I would love to see any of the others recognized as well.

Obviously, there are many great novels from 2009 I have not yet read. Given what I know of the authors and what I've heard about the books, these are the five I suspect have the best chance of moving into my list, in the unlikely event I am able to read them in the next ten days:

Daryl Gregory, The Devil's Alphabet
Malinda Lo, Ash
Adam Roberts, Yellow Blue Tibia
Jeff VanderMeer, Finch
Walter Jon Williams, This Is Not a Game

I will update if my list changes before the 13th.