Log in

Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

[ website | My Website ]
[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valente [Oct. 19th, 2015|06:24 am]
Marissa Lingen

Review copy provided by Tor Books.

The old phrase “planetary romance” has been out of style for decades, and it’s a shame, because it’s just the description we need of Radiance.  The planets in it are not the ones we’ve researched, and they’re not meant to be–they’re more the old romantic notion of a solar system that might contain civilizations and settlements livable to the human race in the blink of an eye.

And not just civilizations but art, and not just art but the movie industry. Radiance is a cascade of images, a filmstrip spliced together from bits of its characters’ lives and works–some of them overwhelming, meant to be, metaphors and bits of tossed away worldbuilding to sum to a felt rather than a logical whole.  Its main character, Severin Unck, is the documentarian daughter of a filmmaker, found on his doorstep; she finds in turn a boy with a horrible wound.  And then there are the callowhales, necessary for the idyll of space travel to be even as much of a flawed idyll as it is.

I loved the callowhales most. I loved the callowhales best. I think some people will stay for the tough-talking detectives, or the drugs, or life in the movies. But for me it was to find out everything, anything I could about the callowhales. Animal, vegetable, or mineral? I found them much more compelling than Severin Unck and her human compatriots in and out of the film world, but they were needed to give the callowhales context, contrast, and–oddly, given their descriptions–heft.  A Radiance of callowhales alone would have swum murkily through the solar system–it took the film industry to bring them into the light.

Please consider using our link to buy Radiance from Amazon.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

LinkLeave a comment

More short stories I have liked since last I told you [Oct. 18th, 2015|05:49 am]
Marissa Lingen

It seems like a good time to compile some more new/recent short stories I have read and liked.  One weird thing that happened is that I read a paper magazine I was not in, and I’m not entirely sure how to handle that, because I liked several things in it, but it’s so unusual that I don’t have a protocol for it.  It was Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet Issue 33, and what I particularly liked was:  “I Bury Myself” by Carmen Maria Machado; “Starling Road” by Alena McNamara; “For Me, Seek the Sun” by Michelle Vider; and “Request for an Extension on the Clarity” by Sofia Samatar (all stories) and “Child Without Summer” by Kelda Crich (a poem).  Elsewhere, more easily gotten to:

The Closest Thing to Animals by Sofia Samatar (Fireside)

Those by Sofia Samatar (Uncanny) (Yeah, I didn’t mean to make it Sofia Samatar month, it just happened that way.)

Solder and Seam by Maria Dahvana Headley (Lightspeed)

Hold-Time Violations by John Chu (Tor.com)

Soteriology and Stephen Greenwood by Julia August (Journal of Unlikely Academia)

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

Link2 comments|Leave a comment

Books read, early September [Oct. 16th, 2015|07:21 pm]
Marissa Lingen

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me. This is short and interesting, and I think most of the reviews I’ve seen of it that react badly do not take into account that it is not talking to them.  I think it’s legitimate to have a specific audience even when you’re publishing (with “public” in the root of “publishing”), and when you’re outside that audience to take it into account.  I particularly liked the way that Coates cited some of his stronger influences; that comes into play later in this book post.  Doesn’t take long to read, part of a conversation on race in America that’s long overdue.

Joseph J. Ellis, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution. If you don’t know a lot about how the US went from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution, this is a pretty straightforward book about that era and the personalities at the centers of power who shaped it.  It was fairly short and did not really subvert any of the standard narratives that I could see.  It’s a lot more useful as an introduction than as an in-depth look.  If you’ve been listening to Hamilton and wanting to know more, this is not the place.

John M. Ford, Heat of Fusion. Reread.  Reread for the first time since the week Mike Ford died.  The story that really stayed with me this time was “Erase/Record/Play.”  It’ll be a different one every time.  Weirdly, I have only ever read this book in late September/early October: 2004, 2006, and 2015.  Also I am having a perennial struggle with anger at the universe, because I would like to have new Mike Ford stories to compare these to, and right now it is for various reasons being hard that I do not.

Maria Dahvana Headley, Magonia. I fell in love with this book immediately. She knows things about chronic illness that are so true and funny, and she knows things about that intense passionate teenage friendship that is on the verge of being something else, and all of it goes with bird people in ways that made me sit down and get swallowed up right away.  I just said yes to this whole book, yes, families, yes, cloud ships, yes, all of it, give me more of this book. Sing me this story. Make me lists, tell me about your people, yes.  All the yes.

Reginald Hill, Death’s Jest Book. This is the other half of the story with Too Much Franny Root in it, and it’s probably my least favorite of the late half of the Dalziel and Pascoe series.  I will be glad to have moved on in the series from it, but things kept coming up, so this is the only one I got to this fortnight.

Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington, Hanzai Japan. Discussed elsewhere.

Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear, An Apprentice to Elves. Discussed elsewhere.

Jaime Lee Moyer, Against a Brightening Sky. Discussed elsewhere.

Karen Russell, Vampires in the Lemon Grove.  Okay, look.  Genre is a tag cloud, right? It’s not an exclusionary thing where one label bumps out another.  So I’m all for some weirdo getting paid extra money by the establishment and having her books sold all sorts of places–I bought this one in Half Price, but the original sale sticker said Urban Outfitters, which, really? no.  But let’s be real: Karen Russell is, in fact, some weirdo, kids.  She’s one of us.  There is a story in here with US Presidents reborn in the bodies of very confused horses. The vampires in the titular story: they are not just a meeeeetaphor, they are vampires, with, like, the fangs and stuff.  (Not that it does them any good, but I like that part.)  This is the weird shit.  Don’t let the fact that she’s not publishing in Uncanny and SH distract you: this is the serious weird shit.  They can tag it with literary all they want, and that’s great, pay the weirdo, very glad for her. But you need to not lose track of it just because someone who doesn’t read it told you that literary is four pages of description of a tree or all about someone’s divorce or some other dumb description I’ve heard of literary fiction in the last six months.  Lady will make you go, “What?  What?  What are you even doing?”  Which is part of what we’re here for.  Well.  I am, anyway.

Sonia Sanchez, Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems. Sanchez is one of the influences Coates listed above, and I was looking for some new-to-me poets anyway.  I’m not the main audience for her poems, either, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t touch me.  I got to “Malcolm” and knew they would be powerful, and “Towhomitmayconcern” made me smile.  I paused also on “On Passing through Morgantown, Pa.” and “Aaaayeee Babo (Praise God)”–four poems in a short collection is a good number for me.  Glad I picked it up.

Amy Stewart, The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks. A light compendium, engagingly written, lots of side bars (yeah, sorry, I don’t know what to call them that isn’t punny), lots of quick information if you’re feeling like plants and booze. A good worldbuilding reference guide for writers or probably a pretty good present for the relative in your life with whom you have very little in common except that you both like [fill in booze here]: if you can’t take a bottle of the previous on the plane, get them this and you’re set for Christmas.  Or do both if that’s your price point.

Chris Van Allsburg, Zathura. Well, this was the deciding factor: I went and took all the other Chris Van Allsburg books off my library list.  Striking visual style has consistently not added up to any of them being the book that I like and want to keep around for poring over with small people; I give up.

Jonathan Waldman, Rust: The Longest War. This book jumps all over the place, with varying chapter lengths, about the wars we’re currently fighting against oxidation in industrial and consumer settings, and what consequences those have, good and bad. It’s nerdy and engaging but a little unfocused in places.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

Link1 comment|Leave a comment

An Apprentice to Elves, by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear [Oct. 15th, 2015|05:41 am]
Marissa Lingen

Review copy provided by Tor Books. In addition, both of the authors are personal friends of mine for some years now.

Are reviewers allowed to write “NOW–THE TRIUMPHANT CONCLUSION,” or is that only for marketing copy?

This is the third in its series, and the trellwolves and their humans are still–mostly–at the center of its stage. But not in the same form: the new main character, Alfgyfa, is a young woman who has apprenticed to the svartalfar smith, Tin. (Smithing! Smithery! Hurrah!) While she can sense the trellwolves–while her sense of the wolfpack turns out to be relevant to her future as well as her personality and personal history–this book gives all sorts of angles on the surroundings and support of the trellwolf pack. It lets Alfgyfa explore the twists and turns of a space shaped by the other species around her–and a self shaped by a childhood among those species.

In addition to Alfgyfa’s adventures, we hear quite a lot from Otter, adopted daughter of the wolfheall, finding her way among the annoyances of tithe-boys and the joys of a newish-to-her society. Otter watches details. Otter notices people, even the wolf kind of people. Two kinds of alfar, trolls, wolves wild and domestic, humans….

Humans. Humans are the problem. Humans are only part of the solution, but they’re really pretty much all of the problem in this book. Monkeys, we say in my house, are a lot of trouble, and empires that do not understand the cultures they are trampling are even more trouble than individual monkeys. The resolution of both this individual book plot and the intercultural/interspecies weaving that has been going on all trilogy is so satisfying that I emailed the authors, “YAWP,” about it. Highly, highly recommended. Great fun even for those less Viking-influenced than I.

Please consider using our link to buy An Apprentice to Elves from Amazon.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

Link11 comments|Leave a comment

Now! in paper! [Oct. 14th, 2015|08:25 pm]
Marissa Lingen

One of my besetting sins as an author–not as a writer, that’s different–is that I have a tendency to leave things too much in the rearview. It takes some effort not to regard something I wrote last week with a baffled air of, “That? But that was last week, let me tell you what I’m working on now.” Since what I’m working on now is, by definition, not something that is finished and visible, this is not a functional approach to sharing one’s work with the outside world.

Short story collections are even less functional if you’re not able to talk about things you used to be doing. They have to pile up! And while they are piling you are doing something different.

In this case, my ebook collection of children’s stories from Tired Tapir Press is now a shiny new paper edition. It’s called Dragon Brother, and it’s got a shiny new cover by a local young artist with a comics specialty whose style is perfect for the youth content of the stories.  So…yay new edition, yay new cover, yay book!


Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

Link9 comments|Leave a comment

Hanzai Japan, edited by Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington [Oct. 12th, 2015|05:23 am]
Marissa Lingen

Review copy provided by Haikasoru Books. Haikasoru is also listed on the cover as the editor, but Mamatas and Washington are listed as the editors on the title page, so since that information is available I’m using it.

“Hanzai,” for those who are not aware, is basically “crime”: this is a Japanese speculative crime fiction anthology. Rather than choosing to focus on one niche of crime fiction, one niche of speculative fiction, or one way of involving Japan/Japanese-ness, it aims at being a broad-spectrum collection. It succeeds admirably at that–for those who are fond of the “hookers and meth” end of one genre or the vampire end of another, that stuff is in there. For those who are me, there’s still a lot to like. Here are some of the stories I really felt stood out.

Genevieve Valentine, “dis.” Creepy and atmospheric exploration of its crumbling setting. Vivid post-industrial details. Made my skin crawl in the best way.

Yumeaki Hirayama, “Monologue of a Universal Transverse Mercator Projection.” Translated by Nathan A. Collins. Probably my favorite story of the collection, it is, in fact, what it says on the tin: the map’s perspective. And what crimes the map is privy to–party to–the map’s desires and motivations and fears–the map’s unique voice–all of these things sum to make “Monologue of a Universal Transverse Mercator Projection” a truly unique construction. Delightful.

Brian Evenson, “Best Interest.” PowerPoint. Using a famous Japanese entity to one’s own ends. Highly entertaining.

Carrie Vaughn, “The Girl Who Loved Shonen Knife.” The voice on this story was just note-perfect. If you know the Very! Enthusiastic! Teenage! Girl! Voice! from a lot of anime, it’s that. And she’s got a cover band! And the end of the world will not stop her cover band! It is hilarious good fun with tropes and characterization.

Violet LeVoit, “The Electric Palace.” A complete 180 from the above story, this is very vivid and atmospheric, full of sensory detail in chiaroscuro.

Please consider using our link to buy Hanzai Japan from Amazon.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

LinkLeave a comment

Robin Hood and the Problem of Domestic Fantasy [Oct. 9th, 2015|02:19 pm]
Marissa Lingen

So I’ve been thinking, off and on, about why it is that we see a lot of novels about King Arthur and not a lot of novels about Robin Hood. You get Robin Hood movies, sure, but books, not so many, only a handful. I was rewatching Disney’s animated version not that long ago, and a particular image got my attention.

Robin Hood and Little John were doing their laundry.

While Disney’s Robin Hood is really great on gender stuff–Robin Hood clearly can’t cook because he’s a lovesick fool, not because he’s a guy and Little John, who can, fixes the ruined stew for him; they do laundry; when Lady Cluck says “this is no place for a lady!”, she clearly means “for a gently reared person,” because she charges immediately into the fray herself, to the tune of On Wisconsin*–this is not the only Robin Hood that features laundry in Sherwood Forest. In fact Sherwood Forest is strikingly domestic, for a mythic setting.

I think this is perhaps the problem with getting it into novels.

Jo Walton, when talking about writing Lifelode, has discussed the problems of domestic fantasy, how conflict and war tend to creep into books that are otherwise trying to focus on the daily and the smaller-focus, just structurally–that we have an addiction to the grand and the dramatic, as a genre, even when we are trying not to. And I think that the Robin Hood myth actually runs into this problem. Sure, there is swashbuckling. There is the dramatic. But it is the dramatic image. It is the arrow going into the target; it is the Merry Man swinging into a tree. It is not the dramatic tension, because we all know the precursors for the ending are historical, not personal.

Because of Robin Hood’s near-unique place in western legend, straddling myth and history so neatly, the story’s ending can’t be refitted without upending actual history. The end of the Robin Hood story is that actual, historical Good King Richard returns from the Crusades and ends the usurped reign of his brother, actual, historical Prince John. So…what, exactly, are Our Band of Merry Men doing? They can’t actually resolve their own problems in any lasting way. And fighting the Sheriff of Nottingham starts to look an awfully lot like doing the laundry if you’re never allowed to either beat him (slay/depose him) or have him beat you on any permanent basis. Oh, it’s Monday: time to wash out our green jerkins and hassle the Sheriff’s men. Oh, it’s Tuesday: time to go to market for turnips and shoot some arrows into Prince John’s tax collectors’ hats. But not into the tax collectors themselves! Because resolution is not in our purview. We resist. Others resolve.

The jerkins will get dirty again, the turnips will go again into the stew, the taxes will get collected again. The camera can fool the eye with pageantry into feeling that there has been progress from arrow shot to arrow shot. But on the page of a novel, it’s very hard to make a holding action against entropy feel like heroism. Even though it’s the main heroism any of us achieve on a daily basis. Even though it is a heroism worth having.

Try again, someone; I would have another domestic fantasy, or a Robin Hood novel that grapples with this, or both. But for the moment at least, I am not the one to write it.

*Multiple associations with north of one place or another. Willingness to throw shoulders in a brawl and clown for children. Bosom capacious enough for storage. Can we say “Marissa’s identification character?” CLUCKY I LOVE YOU.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

Link38 comments|Leave a comment

The many media hypothesis [Oct. 7th, 2015|12:19 pm]
Marissa Lingen
[Tags|, ]

Here’s my new short story in Nature, The Many Media Hypothesis. And here’s the blog post I wrote about the story behind the story.

The formatting they use makes it really easy to see that this is my ninth Nature story. Huh. The time does fly when you’re having fun entertaining the other nerds. I love my job.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

Link9 comments|Leave a comment

Against a Brightening Sky, by Jaime Lee Moyer [Oct. 5th, 2015|11:13 am]
Marissa Lingen

Review copy provided by Tor. Further disclosure: Jaime has been a personal friend of mine for years.

This is the third book in a trilogy. (Which begins with Delia’s Shadow.) While the characters have room for further adventures, they also have enough closure to be satisfying. So: people who don’t buy series until they know that they have an ending: this has an ending! (I felt that the previous volumes were self-contained enough to buy already, but I know some people are hard-liners about this sort of thing.)

In Against a Brightening Sky, it’s 1919. The Great War is over, the Spanish influenza is a worry, and the Russian Revolution has produced refugees seeking asylum in other lands, including San Francisco. Delia and her friends–cops, spiritualists, and assorted others–gather for a St. Patrick’s Day parade, but it dissolves into riots and chaos–and only they know the supernatural origins of the disturbance. A mysterious type of ghost warns Delia in time to keep them safe, but she seems to want other things of them, following Delia even into her dreams.

The ghost’s identity–and the identity of a bewildered girl they meet–soon become clear to any reader with knowledge of the period. But knowing the background does not mean knowing where Moyer will go with it. Gabe and Delia continue to be a married couple who trust each other, respect each other, and work well as partners with skills that complement each other. The greatest strength in these books in my opinion is not the mystery-solving, the adventure, or the supernatural element, but the genuinely caring and supportive relationships the characters share. That’s what makes them really special and worth seeking out.

Please consider using our link to buy Against a Brightening Sky from Amazon.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

Link7 comments|Leave a comment

Books read, late September [Oct. 3rd, 2015|01:26 pm]
Marissa Lingen

Lois McMaster Bujold, Penric’s Demon. Kindle. This is a novella in the Chalion universe. The Bastard is making his presence felt again. Unlike some of the other Bujold stuff in this universe, the characters don’t have the bite of experience to lend them interest–it’s a perfectly readable novella, but it’ll only scratch the setting itch here, not the character itch.

Joyce Chng, Xiao Xiao and the Dragon Pearl. Kindle. Kids’ book (MG novel) about an imperial family interacting with Chinese myth. There seems to be more coming, and I enjoyed this much, but note that a large portion of its very short length is taken up with recipes. Depending on what kid (if any) you’re dealing with, this may be part of the charm or a distraction.

Zen Cho, Sorcerer to the Crown. One of the most charming books I’ve read all year. Delightful without being lightweight. Regency setting with non-white characters as were realistic for that era (rather than the unrealistic whitewashing we’re used to), romance plot without the fantasy being overbalanced by the romance aspect. Faerie aspects all their own, global politics of great interest. I immediately added this to potential Christmas shopping idea lists for half a dozen quite different people, who would enjoy it in their quite different ways. Highly recommended. Great fun.

Norman Davies, Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations. I think this book was trying to do too much and too little. It was covering mostly “lost” countries in Europe, things that were countries that have now disappeared from the map, but while Burgundy, for example, is instructive to the modern mind–while there is plenty to say about how the current map is by no means eternal and inevitable–trying to cover modern Irish history or the collapse of the USSR in less than 100 pages each is a bit foolish even if you have a focus on the rise or fall of each. Davies’ two-volume history of Poland shows much better focus and is a better use of one’s time.

Peter Dickinson, A Summer in the Twenties. Kindle. Labor relations and railroads and the Roaring Twenties. And Peter Dickinson! This should really have been the ultimate book for me, but I ended up feeling pretty lukewarm about it, I think because the characters felt more like types than like people. I’d recommend almost any of Dickinson’s other historicals over this one.

Alyc Helms, The Dragons of Heaven. The superhero intro and cover copy were not at all the meat of this book, which was a lot of kung fu human/dragon family relations. It reminded me of Kylie Chan’s first trilogy, except that Alyc’s book had a beginning, a middle, and an end, all in one book. The superhero plot did eventually tie back in, but I had been hoping for more of it–maybe in a sequel? because even more integrated superhero and Chinese mythology stuff would be so great.

Reginald Hill, Dialogues of the Dead. Another of the Dalziel and Pascoe series, this one themed around a very nerdy referential word game. It’s only the first half of its story, so don’t make the mistake I did and pack to go out of town without the second half in your bag. Well. Soon.

Gwyneth Jones, Castles Made of Sand. Second in its series. Family formation overlaps with trying to keep a nation together overlaps with neurological implant…interest. And magic. This is sort of a kitchen sink series, but I love every bit of it. This volume, however, makes me writhe substantially throughout, for various reasons (not that I don’t love it!), and I probably should not read it away from home again. Do not start here. This is not a stand-alone.

Judy Jordan, Kallie Falandays, and Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs, Floodgate Poetry Series Vol. 2. Discussed elsewhere.

Charles Kingsley, Sir Walter Raleigh and His Time. Kindle. This is why we shouldn’t read really old history as a reference. Everyone in this supposed work of nonfiction was Incredibly Noble For Sure. Even when they disagreed. Especially when they disagreed! Oh So Noble. I believe I was looking for a lot more Throckmortons when I downloaded this, but I download a great many things, so who knows; anyway, it was not greatly satisfying, and I do not really recommend it.

Alethea Kontis, Tales of Arilland. Kindle. Tie-in short stories and outtakes from her series. Some fun stuff, some stuff that’s probably best suited for the true fan.

Nicole Kornher-Stace, Archivist Wasp. Post-apocalyptic ghost-hunting book, vivid and interesting, in no way to do with archives or wasps. I tried not to be too disappointed about the lack of archives, because it really was a fun post-apocalyptic ghost-hunting book. (But wasps who archive! Sigh.)

Jodi Meadows, The Hidden Prince. Kindle. Novella that’s interstitial to the main books of her Orphan Queen series, basically promotional material for the true fan.

Ty Nolan, Coyote Still Going: Native American Legends and Contemporary Stories. Kindle. These legends and stories come with recipes and a great deal of context and exegesis. Particularly useful for non-Native writers, teachers, parents, etc. who want to think hard about how they are using/teaching cultural material not their own. Far-ranging. Entertaining. Not very long, though.

Hannu Rajaniemi, Collected Fiction. Somewhat variable. Unsurprisingly, the more Finnish it got, the better I liked it.

Ruth Rendell, The New Girl Friend. When my mother-in-law gave me this volume, she warned me that it was not a volume of murder mysteries but merely a volume of murder stories, and this is entirely true: there was no mystery about it. Someone was going to bash someone’s head in, and you could usually tell who. This…is not a favorite mode for me. It is labeled “suspense” on the cover, but I think that’s as a genre label for “things we call mystery that have no actual mystery to them”; there was certainly no emotion of suspense, nor even dread. Other Rendell is better.

Jonathan D. Spence, The Gate of Heavenly Peace: the Chinese and Their Revolution and The Question of Hu. The former is a microhistory outside his period and definitely not where you want to start if you don’t have good knowledge of the Chinese Revolution(s). Interesting about three scholarly figures of those eras, if you do. The latter is about a translator/calligrapher hired for Westerners and shipped to France, and the problems of cross-cultural work, mental illness, and translation as a whole-body problem. Poor Hu. Oh dear. I’m glad it wasn’t much longer, because it was not much less upsetting than the Chinese Revolution(s).

Lynne Thomas and Michael D. Thomas, eds., Uncanny Magazine Issue 3 and  Issue 4. Kindle. Mostly I had read the contents of these online by the time I got to them on my Kindle–hard to know which direction that will go–but I had missed at least one really good thing that will go in my recs post next time. And it is nice to have them on my Kindle when airplane mode is required.

Helen Zimmern, The Hansa Towns. Kindle. A very old book–Germany was still finishing its unification–and it left out some of the things one would most want to know. For example, Zimmern wrote, “We cannot sully our pages by detailing the thirteen different ‘games’ or modes of martyrdom that were in use in Bergen. Our more civilized age could not tolerate the recital.” The hell we can’t! Sully away, lady! Still, stuff about the Hanseatic League is hard to come by, so we get what we can, even when it’s not as impure a recital as we might like.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

Link10 comments|Leave a comment

[ viewing | 10 entries back ]
[ go | earlier/later ]