March/April 2017 Reading Recs
There is so much good fiction coming out this May that I’m already buried! So, before I plunge into more reading, here’s a quick roundup of some of my favorites from March and April. . .
As an homage to Senator Elizabeth Warren and women persisting everywhere, Tor commissioned this series of flash pieces by women. The entire series is worth your time, but these three struck me particularly hard:
God Product by Alyssa Wong
Everything by Alyssa Wong strikes hard. And this one of her hardest yet—absolutely horrific, heartbreaking, and stunning.
Anabasis by Amal El-Mohtar
Prose-poetry that slices with light and pain. Borders, belonging and not belonging, and a woman who persists.
A gorgeous, rich fairy tale in miniature—and with an uplifting end that will have you cheering.
Flash pieces at Arsenika
Arsenika is a new magazine of speculative flash fiction and poetry which debuted in April. The first issue establishes a strong and distinctive voice: shimmering, poignant stories and poems.
Reflected Across the Dark by Laurel Amberdine
Portals begin opening across the world, and people disappear. A flash about siblings, love, separation, grief. The last line hits hard.
An absolutely beautiful piece; a delicate, shimmering tale of family, grief, and our belief in small chances.
All the poems in the issue are also well worth reading. I particularly enjoyed the fierce Mirror, Reflect our Unknown Selves by Tlotlo Tsamaase and the lagahoo speaks for itself by Brandon O’Brien.
Real Ghosts by J.B. Park
What kind of memories do we want to leave behind for our loved ones? And do we really want to remember our loved ones as they truly were? Park takes on these questions in a story of complicated family ties and “memorial holos.” A deft, thought-provoking tale.
On Grief and the Language of Flowers: Selected Arrangements by Damien Angelica Walters at Mythic Delirium
Another take on family. A florist provides unique arrangements for a funeral. This story with an unusual format delicately evokes a life and an entire web of complex family dynamics—grief, love, and knotty relationships for which resolution is no longer possible.
The Adventurer’s Wife by Premee Mohamed at Nightmare Magazine
An elegantly crafted alt-history with Lovecraftian tones. The sense of foreboding steadily builds, and the ending is a knockout. Quietly subversive—see the accompanying author interview for her comments.
Come See the Living Dryad by Theodora Goss at Tor (novelette)
Another lovely piece of historical fiction, exquisitely crafted. In nineteenth century London, Daphne Merwin is exhibited as a side show freak—a living dryad, a beautiful woman with branches on her hands and twigs on her feet. But what—and more importantly, who—is she? One of Daphne’s descendants tries to find out. Theodora Gross’s story is quietly moving and beautiful. I think she is one of the best writers working today; her plots and story structures are often remarkably inventive, yet delivered with such quiet grace that while reading you’re absorbed in the narrative, only incidentally noticing her technical brilliance. I have seen objections that this story is not actually “speculative fiction”; indeed, it’s a historical fiction/murder mystery which could easily have been published as “mainstream literary.” But however you label it, it is utterly lovely.
And in that Sheltered Sea, A Colossus by Michael Matheson at Shimmer
Some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever seen. A lushly atmospheric piece which immersed me in a world unlike any other. Ghosts, titans, and the weight of family. A woman living alone in a drowned land encounters a stranger who might just set her free. This piece is gorgeous.
A Complex Filament of Light by S. Qiouyi Lu at Anathema Magazine
I’ve read a few of S. Qiouyi Lu’s stories now. All beautifully written, strange, shimmering, liminal pieces. Like the other pieces I’ve read, this one shines with imagery and echoes with yearning and loss. But for me, there was also a moment of shocked recognition: of seeing a truth of my community in a place that I did not expect. Depression is a topic not easily discussed among Asian-Americans—not even among the younger generations. To see this addressed in a work of fiction is deeply meaningful to me. To see it addressed within the context of the pressures of graduate school makes it resonate even more. This is a lovely story about pain, but it’s also about hope.
(Note: Lu’s story appears in the first issue of Anathema Magazine, a new journal dedicated to publishing speculative fiction by queer people of color. The other stories I read in this issue are also gorgeous and well worth your time.)
To live this Freely: In memory of Ren Hang by Wildfred Chan
“We have Ren Hang’s work; we no longer have Ren Hang. We have photography with its miraculous might, yet again we are reminded it cannot stop suffering, and is no match for death.”
I had not heard of the Chinese photographer Ren Hang until his death this year. Clearly, he was a talent who will be missed. Chan presents a gorgeous, moving essay on Hang’s work and what it meant to him, accompanied by photographs which are erotic, mysterious, playful, and beautiful.
A Chronology of Touch by Kayla Whaley at Catapult
An extraordinarily beautiful essay about self-touch, shame, and innocence.
The Roots of Cowboy Music: The Search for a Black Self in the American West by Carvell Wallace at MTV.com
Stunning and moving. This aching piece entwines memoir with history, discovery, and the open spaces of the American West.
Touched by Stephen M. Phelps at Aeon Magazine
The best science writing I’ve seen in some time. Phelps, a neuroscientist and professor of integrative biology, describes the science of touch perception and gives us an explanation of the “sheathless” (unmyelinated) neurons which mediate both pain and the pleasures of sensual touch. Interwoven with the science is the progression of a personal love story. This essay is wondrous—enthralling, gorgeous, moving, and a bit heartbreaking.
“Saudade” is a Portuguese word for longing. And while it feels a bit awkward to link to one of my own previous blog posts, it in turn contains multiple links to great writing (and a song!) on longing and sadness.