Reading Round-Up: July 2019

Continuing the monthly summaries of what I’ve been reading and writing. (This one’s a bit overdue!)

 

BOOKS

To keep my numbers consistent with what I have listed on Goodreads, I count completed magazine issues and stand-alone short stories in e-book format as “books.” I read or listened to 7 books in July: 2 in print, 5 in e-book format, and 0 in audio. They were:

1.       Lightspeed Magazine #110 (July 2019 issue), edited by John Joseph Adams. The usual fine assortment of sf and fantasy short stories. This month’s favorites for me were Andrew Penn Romine’s “Miles and Miles and Miles,” Indrapramit Das’s “The Moon Is Not a Battlefield,” J. Anderson Coats’ “Mother Carey’s Table,” and Senaa Ahmad’s “Ahura Yazda, The Great Extraordinary.”

2.       Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma. You would think that as an English major in college, I’d have read something, anything, by Willa Cather. But if I did, I don’t recall it at all (please forgive me, Professor Malcolm Marsden!). So I’m counting this as my first Cather work. I’d like to read more by her eventually. I found this one an interesting character study. Full Review HERE.

3.       Sealed by Naomi Booth. An interesting combination of near-future environmental horror, graphic body horror, and a potentially unreliable narrator. Not for the easily squeamish, for sure. Full review appeared at Strange Horizons on August 30th.  http://strangehorizons.com/non-fiction/reviews/sealed-by-naomi-booth/

4.       Treasure Trail, by Morgan Brice. This is the first M/M urban fantasy/paranormal romance by Gail Z. Martin’s pen name that I have read, and it won’t be the last. This, the first in a new series, takes place in very haunted Cape May, NJ and introduces us to an antique shop owner with “the touch” (the ability to sense an object’s supernatural history) and a former cop turned rental property manager who sees ghosts. There’s also present- and past-day Mafia connections, because NJ.

5.       A Secret Guide to Fighting Elder Gods edited by Jennifer Brozek. A really fun anthology of Lovecraftian Young Adult stories. The stories hit all the requisite Lovecraft themes and monsters, but with settings mostly in the present day focusing on teens – and often, on teens seeing what the adults can’t or won’t see.

6.       The Trans Space Octopus Congregation by Bogi Takács. Bogi’s newest short story collection, due out from Lethe Press in October, has a wonderful mix of science fiction and fantasy, including a few stories set in a shared future setting. Eir stories touch on many present day issues, including the immigrant, transgender, and “alternate sexuality” experiences. A great read.

7.       The Triumph of the Spider-Monkey by Joyce Carol Oates. Not going to lie, this was a very difficult read for me. Long out of print and brought back by Hard Case Crime, this is a very disturbing look inside the head of a serial killer.

 

 

STORIES

I have a goal of reading 365 short stories (1 per day, essentially, although it doesn’t always work out that way) each year. Here’s what I read this month and where you can find them if you’re interested in reading them too. If no source is noted, the story is from the same magazine or book as the story(ies) that precede(s) it:

1.       “The Null Space Conundrum” by Violet Allen, from Lightspeed Magazine #110 (July 2019 issue), edited by John Joseph Adams.

2.       “The Mysteries” by Karen Lord

3.       “Miles and Miles and Miles” by Andrew Penn Romine

4.       “The Moon Is Not A Battlefield” by Indrapramit Das

5.       “Mother Carey’s Table” by J. Anderson Coats

6.       “Sand Castles” by Adam-Troy Castro

7.       “Song Beneath the City” by Micah Dean Hicks

8.       “Ahura Yazda, The Great Extraordinary” by Senaa Ahmad

9.       “Face Your Furs” by Seanan McGuire, on the author’s Patreon page.

10.   “The Good Girl” by Lucy Snyder, on the author’s Patreon page.

11.   “Freak Corner” by John Rolfe Gardiner, from One Story #254, edited by Patrick Ryan

12.   “The Story of O-Tei” by Lafcadio Hearn, from Oriental Ghost Stories, edited by David Stuart Davies

13.   “Green Glass: A Love Story” by E. Lily Yu, from If This Goes On: The Science Fiction Future of Today’s Politics, edited by Cat Rambo

14.   “The Last Adventure of Jack Laff: The Dayveil Gambit” by Steven Barnes

15.   “King Harvest (Will Surely Come)” by Nisi Shawl

16.   “Away Game” by Seanan McGuire, from A Secret Guide To Fighting Elder Gods, edited by Jennifer Brozek

17.   “The Icarus Club” by Weston Ochse

18.   “Stormy Monday” by Chesya Burke

19.   “Pickman’s Daughter” by J.C. Koch

20.   “Us and Ours” by Premee Mohamed

21.   “The Art of Dreaming” by Josh Vogt

22.   “Visions of the Dream Witch” by Lucy A. Snyder

23.   “The Tall Ones” by Stephen Ross

24.   “Just Imagine” by Tim Waggoner

25.   “Holding Back” by Lisa Morton

26.   “The Mouth of the Merrimack” by Douglas Wynne

27.   “The Geometry of Dreams” by Wendy N. Wagner

28.   “Being Emily-Claire” by Jonathan Maberry

29.   “This Shall Serve As A Demarcation” by Bogi Takács, from The Trans Space Octopus Congregation, edited by Steve Berman

30.   “Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategies of the Common Octopus” by Bogi Takács

31.   “A Superordinate Set of Principles” by Bogi Takács

32.   “Forestspirit, Forestspirit” by Bogi Takács

33.   “Given Sufficient Desperation” by Bogi Takács

34.   “Changing Body Templates” by Bogi Takács

35.   “For Your Optimal Hookboarding Experience” by Bogi Takács

36.   “Increasing Police Visibility” by Bogi Takács

37.   “Good People in a Small Space” by Bogi Takács

38.   “Records of a More Personal Nature” by Bogi Takács

39.   “This Secular Technology” by Bogi Takács

40.   “Three Partitions” by Bogi Takács

41.   “Unifications” by Bogi Takács

42.   “The Size of A Barleycorn, Encased in Lead” by Bogi Takács

43.   “To Rebalance the Body” by Bogi Takács

44.   “Shovelware” by Bogi Takács

45.   “The Oracle of DARPA” by Bogi Takács

46.   “Toward the Luminous Towers” by Bogi Takács

47.   “Wind-lashed Vehicles of Bone” by Bogi Takács

48.   “The Need for Overwhelming Sensation” by Bogi Takács

49.   “Spirit Forms of the Sea” by Bogi Takács

50.   “All Talk of Common Sense” by Bogi Takács

51.   “Standing on the Floodbanks” by Bogi Takács

So that’s 51 short stories in July, keeping me way ahead for the year so far. (July 30th was the 212th day of 2019.)

 

Summary of Reading Challenges:

“To Be Read” Challenge: This month: 0 read; YTD: 3 of 14 read.

365 Short Stories Challenge: This month:  51 read; YTD: 291 of 365 read.

Graphic Novels Challenge:  This month: 0 read; YTD: 17 of 52 read.

Goodreads Challenge: This month: 7 read; YTD: 78 of 125 read.

Non-Fiction Challenge: This month: 0; YTD: 5 of 24 read.

Read the Book / Watch the Movie Challenge: This month: 0; YTD: 0 of 10 read/watched.

Complete the Series Challenge: This month: 0 books read; YTD: 0 of 16 read.

                                                                Series fully completed: 0 of 3 planned

Monthly Special Challenge: I may not do something like this every month. Having checked several different websites, it seems like July is not a month that lends itself to any specific reading goal (it’s the National Month of several foods, though: National Baked Bean Month, Culinary Arts Month, Grilling Month, Horseradish Month, Hot Dog Month, Ice Cream Month, Blueberries Month, and Picnic Month!) So my mini-challenge to myself was to make July Series Month, to help me catch up on one of my year-long challenges (The “Complete the Series” Challenge).

Friends, I completely bombed this self-challenge. I brought two series on a three-week business trip (Seanan McGuire’s Velveteen series, and one of the two remaining books I need to read in Chinua Achebe’s Africa Trilogy) and read precisely none of them. (In fact, I discovered on the trip that I’d brought the wrong Achebe with me, so stopped reading….)

August’s monthly special challenge is/was in honor of PulpFest and FarmerCon, the annual overlapping conventions that celebrate the fiction of the Pulp magazine era and the work of author Philip Jose Farmer. Tune into my next post to see how I did with that!

SUNDAY SHORTS: Seanan McGuire Destroys Air Travel

The “Sunday Shorts” feature is dedicated to reviewing short stories and novellas, two forms I absolutely love.

My full-time job requires me to travel fairly frequently (anywhere from one to three weeks, depending on the month) and much of that travel is by air across the continental United States. I’m pretty comfortable with the process at this point (airport security and airplane seating being what they are), although I find that I’m likely to get motion sick if I try to read or watch anything during takeoff, landing or even slight turbulence. I’ve been in one (admittedly minor) emergency landing and experienced plenty of rough air and less-than-pleasant customer service on the ground. But I’m not afraid of any aspect of flying.

Even so, two recent short stories by Seanan McGuire, both posted on her Patreon, made me squirm uncomfortably. “Carry On” was first published last year (and is reprinted in this month’s Nightmare magazine) while “Emergency Landing” is this month’s Patreon story. Each turns a different aspect of air travel in an opportunity for emotional/psychological horror.

In our present day, airlines are charging more and more for “incidentals” (in-flight snacks and entertainment, extra leg-room, checked and carry-on luggage). “Carry On” is a brutal look at a possible future where the price of fuel justifies airlines charging passengers not just for the combined weight of their carry-on luggage, but also for the weight of the passenger and their clothing. Step on a scale with your bags, and be judged before entering security. Mary, the focal-point character, has saved for ages to be able to fly cross-country to see her sister and meet her new niece; but getting past the weigh-in without having to pay, in money and embarrassment, is not easy. McGuire really captures the indignities heaped, even now, upon travelers who are overweight. The tension of the wait, the bad weigh-in, the events that follow, the recognizable emotions Mary feels at the end, are all so real. Mary feels isolated even in a large terminal with hundreds of other people experience the same trauma she is. This is the second time I’ve read the story, and it once again made me cry for the main character.

“Emergency Landing” takes place almost entirely on a plane already in the air. The narrator describes her dash to make her connecting flight out of Atlanta, her initial impressions of her seat-mates, and then the plane takes off – just before the narrator sees missiles streak towards the airport they’ve just departed. The rest of the story is a tense game of “how much do we tell the passengers about what’s happening on the ground” and “what do we do about landing since our fuel can’t last forever.” The emotional stakes are just as high as in “Carry On,” but from a different direction. While Mary feels invisible among her fellow travelers, Caitlin feels too seen because of what they think she knows. The story moves fast as Caitlin’s fellow passengers move from anguish to fear to false bravado and Caitlin must decide whether sharing her knowledge will make things better or worse. It’s not often I describe stories or books as leaving me breathless, but this one did.  I also think that had this appeared in an anthology (it would have been perfect for Stephen King and Bev Vincent’s recent Flight or Fright), it would appear under Seanan’s Mira Grant name, given that the main character is an epidemiologist.

SEANAN McGUIRE - Author Interview

This week I welcome the lovely and talented, and occasionally just a little bit — okay, occasionally a lot — scary Seanan McGuire.

Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire

Seanan is the author of the October Daye series of urban fantasies, the first seven of which have been purchased by DAW Books; the InCryptidseries of urban fantasies, the first two of which have been purchased by DAW Books; and the Newsflesh trilogy, published by Orbit under the pseudonym “Mira Grant.” She’s working on several other books, just to make sure she never runs out of things to edit. Her short fiction has appeared in multiple anthologies, and she was a 2010 Universe Author for The Edge of Propinquity. Seanan was the winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her novel Feed was named as one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2010. In her spare time, Seanan writes and records original music. She has three CDs currently available (see the Albums page for additional details). She is also a cartoonist, and draws an irregularly posted autobiographical web comic, “With Friends Like These…”.

ANTHONY: Seanan, thanks for taking the time out of your absolutely insane writing schedule to chat with me. How many different series do you have running at the moment?

SEANAN: It’s either three or four (or possibly five, depending on how you count), it’s hard to say–I have one series on the way out, the Newsflesh books as Mira, but I still have one book yet to be published.  At the same time, I’m working on the next Mira Grant project, which isn’t even properly announced yet.  So the number is sort of squiggly.

ANTHONY: Do you find any significant differences in your work ethic or habits from one series to another?

SEANAN:  Nope.  I am a very efficient little Halloween girl, and I approach everything with the same set of checklists, research habits, and absolutely rigorous schedules.  It’s how my brain naturally functions.  Now, I do tend to listen to different music depending on what I’m doing, but that’s all part of setting the proper mood.

 ANTHONY: Let’s talk about your newest series, INCRYPTID. Where are we at the beginning of the series and who are the main characters, both heroic and villainous?

SEANAN:  At the beginning of the series we’re following Verity Price, the latest in a long line of cryptozoologists, as she undertakes her journeyman studies in Manhattan and tries to get to know the local cryptid community.  Her family–now the Prices, formerly the Healys–split off from an organization called the Covenant of St. George about four generations ago.  The Covenant hunts monsters.  The Prices protect them.  Conflict is inevitable.

 Verity’s family currently consists of her parents, Kevin and Evelyn, her siblings, Alexander and Antimony, her Aunt Jane and Uncle Ted and their kids (Arthur and Elsinore), and assorted grandparents.  She also has her adopted cousin, Sarah Zellaby, a telepathic mathematician who looks human but actually evolved from a species of parasitic wasp.  It’s complicated.  I am super excited.

 ANTHONY:  Fantasy, horror and SF seem to move in ways — we’ve been riding the vampire/werewolf/zombie wave for a while, angels seem to have peaked recently … cryptids seem to be the upcoming thing. In a world that seems to grow smaller and more interconnected by the day, with less unexplored/”dark” places to capture our imagination, why do you think the concept of cryptids is more interesting than ever? I mean, we even have shows like “Bigfoot Hunters” on cable television, “reality” rather than scripted dramas.

SEANAN:  Because the smaller the world gets, the more things we’re discovering in the shadows.  Twenty years ago, the giant squid was barely a real thing, and now it’s not even the biggest thing in the ocean.  Ten years ago, we were just discovering that the tree lobster–a stick insect the size of your hand–wasn’t extinct.  Every time we say “that’s it, we know everything,” we find something else.  Cryptids represent a mystery that might actually be something we can solve.  And they’re a part of our cultural makeup.  No matter where you go, there are cryptids, ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night.

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

ANTHONY: Without risking any spoilers, what can we expect for Verity Price and the rest of the characters moving forward?

SEANAN:  You know.  Stuff.  More books, hopefully.  I’ve finished the second volume, Midnight Blue-Light Special, and I’m itching to get to work on the third.  There are talking mice.  The usual.

ANTHONY: One question I always hate to get is “which of your characters is your favorite?” (Followed quickly by “Who would win in a fight…”) So I won’t ask you either of those, but it’s natural to want to compare all of your strong female leads. So: what do you admire most about Toby, Verity, etc.?

SEANAN:  Toby has more than her fair share of stubborn.  She could be stubborn on an Olympic level, and once she says she’ll do something, she will.  Not.  Give.  Up.  Verity is fearless when she’s defending her friends or the people (and cryptids) she cares about, and while she knows she’s mortal, she really doesn’t give a shit.  Velveteen is more powerful than she thinks she is.  And Rose Marshall is all about doing the right thing, no matter how much she whines.

ANTHONY:  The Field Guide to Cryptids on your site really whetted my interest in the book, perhaps moreso than reading the descriptive blurb on various bookstore websites. Who did the illustrations, and will we be seeing those in the book itself?

SEANAN:  The Field Guide illustrations were done by the amazing Kory Bing, who is just incredible to work with, and does a fabulous web comic called “Skin Deep” that you should totally check out.  I’m so excited to be working with her, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.  The illustrations won’t be in the book; it’s not that kind of book.  But maybe we’ll do a picture book or something somewhere down the line…

ANTHONY:  How much fun was it cataloging and categorizing the various extant and extinct Cryptids of North America?

 SEANAN:  So much fun.  Sooooooo much fun.  And there’s so much more to come.

 ANTHONY:  And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

My favorite book in the whole history of all the books ever written, ever, is IT by Stephen King.  And you should read it because every twenty-seven years Pennywise the Dancing Clown kills a bunch of people, and now that it’s 2012, the twenty-seven year cycle is starting again, and you want to know how not to wind up on his dance card.

You  can follow Seanan on Twitter as @seananmcguire. You can become a Fan of hers on Goodreads. You  can friend her on Facebook,  follow her adventures on her livejournal and check out all of her books on her own website.