Thursday, January 27, 2011

How much for the women?

It occurs to me that I haven't read nearly enough novel-length science fiction written by women. I'd like to fix that, so I'm looking for suggestions.

I've got a copy of Dust by Elizabeth Bear waiting for me. I've enjoyed her shorter stories a lot, particularly "Boojum" and "Mongoose" (both with Sarah Monette), "Tideline" (short story Hugo winner in 2008), and her story in METAtropolis. I should also read some Connie Willis, but I confess that I'm not a huge fan of time travel stories (funny, really). Maybe Bellwether? How about something by Nancy Kress (Probability Moon?) or Nicola Griffith (Slow River?)? They both had stories on the Hugo ballot last year that I enjoyed.

Have you got any recommendations?

Monday, January 24, 2011

An ode to Jonathan Strahan

It was Alastair Reynolds and Revelation Space that got me back to seriously reading science fiction. I picked that book up as a present for my mother, who had been complaining to me that she hadn't read any good SF in a long time. Once she'd read -- and enjoyed -- it, I gave it a crack myself, and got hooked. I then tackled all of Reynolds' back catalogue, but after that I stalled. I didn't know anyone who read (modern) SF, and I wasn't sure how to find out what was good. 

I hit on the idea of buying some short story anthologies as a way to sample a bunch of authors quickly. One of the first ones I grabbed was The New Space Opera, edited by -- you guessed it -- Jonathan Strahan (and Gardner Dozois). I loved it. Which was a pretty big deal for me; I'd managed to convince myself somewhere along the line that I didn't particularly like short fiction. Boy was I wrong.

Long story short (heh!), I started hunting out other anthologies edited by Strahan. Through these I discovered many of authors that I'd now rank amongst my favourites: Karl Schroeder, Ted Chiang, Jay Lake, Peter Watts, Sean Williams, and probably more besides. I have consistently enjoyed the anthologies that Strahan edits, and I await the next one eagerly.

Of course, I don't only read anthologies edited by Strahan, but I have found that my tastes seem to align most closely with his -- his are the anthologies I enjoy most consistently. He had help, from Gardner Dozois in particular, but I think Strahan deserves most of the credit for getting me interested in reading (and, by extension, writing) short SF.

The question I now realise I have no answer to is this: what is it about Strahan's particular choices that I so enjoy? "What do you look for in a story" is probably a pretty tricky question for him to answer, but perhaps I'll get a chance to ask him one day anyway? In the meantime, I've got a shiny new copy of his Engineering Infinity to read, and I'm going to see if reading it with that question in mind brings me any enlightenment.

While I do it, I'm also going to dream about one day having a story in something he has edited. Because that would be ace.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's holding me back, man.

It's been almost two months since SSWriMo ended, and I think it is fair to say that my writing progress since then has been less than stellar. Partly that's the season, sure, and partly it's finishing up a job and preparing to move cities. Mostly, though, I think it's the need to edit the stories I wrote last November that's stopped me from carrying on. Whenever I think I'd like to do some writing, I think that first I need to edit those stories. Since I'm not super excited about doing that, I end up picking up a book or watching some television instead.

I've decided, therefore, to give myself permission to leave those stories unedited for now. I will come back to them, but at the moment I think it is more important to just keep putting words on the page.

I am very keen for feedback on what I wrote, though. If you're at all interested in reading my SSWriMo stories -- "Beacons", "Arteries" and "Dreams of Flying" -- drop me an email or leave a comment on this post. I'd sure appreciate it!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Things I like #3: writing for the sheer joy of it.

I just got through reading a short story called "Zeppelin City", by Michael Swanwick and Eileen Gunn*, and it was very timely. I've been thinking about the purpose of genre fiction recently, worrying over questions of worth (if you can't write a worthy story, should you write one at all? What about a clever story?). "Zeppelin City" crossed my path at exactly the right moment because it didn't fret itself over any of that. It was just plain good fun.

It felt to me like the authors were having a grand time writing it. It was full of things that are cliched enough to be dangerous (brains in jars! Rhetoric-spouting revolutionaries! Daring girl pilots and grubby-but-cute engineers!), but written with such affection that you had to forgive them. Or perhaps congratulate them. Because brains in jars are cool, right?

I feel like I don't read this sort of story very often. Probably because it is a tricky thing to pull off successfully. I remember feeling the same way after "The Hero", by Karl Schroeder, and it was enough to send me chasing off after some of his books. I seem to recall it happening during parts of Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space series, too. The sense that the author wrote something because they thought it was cool, and that I was having fun reading it for exactly the same reason.

So there you go, another thing I like: writing for the sheer joy of it.

* "Zeppelin City" was originally published on, where you can still read it. I read it in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Four, edited by Jonathan Strahan.