August 2016

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How is it the end of the first week of September already? August went by very quickly.

I spent several days of it in Kansas City, MO, attending the 74th annual Worldcon (or MidAmeriCon II). After last month’s Readercon, where I wasn’t necessarily firing on all cylinders, I was maybe a little nervous about this one. It’s also the first really big con I’ve ever seriously been to.

(I mean, there was that comic book/sf/Star Trek convention I attended in…oh, I want to say 1988 or ’89? I was there only for a couple of hours, with my very bemused father, and I don’t remember much of it, beyond a lot of Trek costumes and my youthful enthusiasm at obtaining what in retrospect isn’t a particularly worthwhile comic. Oh, and a panel where, as near as I recall, Forrest J. Ackerman and Isaac Asimov amused themselves by being slightly dirty old men and celebrating one of their birthdays.)

Anyway, I had a lot of fun at Worldcon. It was not without its nervousness — I think I lasted all of five minutes at the late-night Tor party — but everyone I met was really great, and I attended some terrific readings and panels. I’m almost certainly going to next year’s in Helsinki.

(And yes, I was at that panel. It was exactly the trainwreck that’s been described. Which is a shame, really, because it could have been a very interesting discussion, worthy of much debate. That it seems to have been the only major controversy at the con, and that it was handled so quickly, is, I think, a real testament to the MidAmeriCon II organizers.)

So what else happened in August?

I read some stories, read some books, watched some movies, and listened to some (not much) music.

The stories

I read thirty-four short stories, and I think I only counted one that I heard read at Worldcon, rather than read myself. (I mean, if I’m going to count podcasts in my one-a-day habit, readings have got to count too.) Anyway, my favorites included:

  • “You Are Not a Metaphor” by Marina J. Lostetter (Flash Fiction Online)
  • “The Time Cookie Wars” by Benjamin C. Kinney (Flash Fiction Online)
  • “Those Brighter Stars” by Mercurio D. Rivera (Lightspeed)
  • “The Finest, Fullest Flowering” by Marc Laidlaw Nightmare)
  • “Red House” by Gavin Pate Nightmare)
  • “First Light at Mistaken Point” by Kali Wallace (Clarkesworld)
  • “The Assassin’s Secret” by Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed)
  • “An Ocean the Color of Bruises” by Isabel Yap (Uncanny)
  • “The Gentleman of Chaos” by A. Merc Rustad (Apex)
  • “Jesus Has Forgiven Me. Why Can’t You?” by Betsy Phillips (F&SF)
  • “My Grandmother’s Bones” by S.L. Huang (Daily Science Fiction)
  • “Exquisite Corpse” by Caroline M. Yoachim (Daily Science Fiction)
  • “Thundergod in Therapy” by Effie Seiberg (Podcastle)
  • “Between Dry Ribs” by Gregory Norman Bossert (The Dark)

I also really enjoyed the two stories I read in Jeffrey Ford’s A Natural History of Hell collection: “The Word Doll” and “The Angel Seems.” Both of them appear to be doing very simple things at first — the former is actually more short meta-fiction than short story — but both are doing much more interesting things under the surface. I said this on Twitter, but it bears repeating: I mean this in the best possible way, but Ford’s stories are kind of fucking with my head.

The books

I finished three books in August:

  • Experimental Film by Gemma Files
  • The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
  • Clockwork Phoenix 5 edited by Mike Allen

I’d read most of the Clockwork Phoenix collection earlier in the year, and I’ve mentioned some of the stories previously. Even when I didn’t love every story in the book, I loved the weird mix that Mike was going for, similar but different to the sometimes disquieting, sometimes dreamlike tales he publishes in Mythic Delirium. (Full disclosure: I had a story in that magazine last year.) The collection really is a uniquely impressive mix of stories.

I read Experimental Film for a book club…that actually met while I was at Worldcon. I probably would have gotten around to it anyway, though. There’s demonstrable proof that I’ve enjoyed Files’ writing in the past, for one thing, and I picked up a copy last year at Readercon. (Or maybe World Fantasy? I’m pretty sure I picked it up last year, along with her short story collection, last year at a con.) And I liked the book a lot — maybe less for what it has to say about film than about human interaction and storytelling. For instance, this:

…you’d be infinitely surprised what people will accept as a miracle, so long as it gives them something they really want: forgiveness of sin, unconditional love, the idea that your wounds make you special. That doing you art — your work — can help you save your own life.

I’m still not sure what my book club thought about it.

And finally I read The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin, which is the sequel to a book I read earlier in the year, also for my book club. Like that book (The Fifth Season), this one is genuinely remarkable. If I was less gobsmacked by it, that was only because the rich world that Jemisin has created was slightly more familiar this time around, and there was maybe less for me to puzzle out as a reader. But her writing is just staggering, and there were lots of passages that left me breathless. Like, for instance, this:

Yes. It’s all so understandable, really, when she thinks about it. The way of the world isn’t the strong devouring the weak, but the weak deceiving and poisoning and whispering in the ears of the strong until they become weak, too. Then it’s all broken hands and silver threads woven like ropes, and mothers who move the earth to destroy their enemies but cannot save one little boy.

Seriously, it’s hard to imagine not nominating this for a Hugo next year. I’m just disappointed I’ll likely have to wait another year for book #3.

The movies

I watched six movies in August.

  • Green Room:

  • Keanu:

  • Suicide Squad:

  • Om Shanti Om:

  • Trick ‘r Treat:

  • The Nice Guys:

The music

I didn’t listen to a lot of new music in August, or at least not enough that made enough of an impression to make me want to include it on my monthly mix. But here, for completeness’ sake, are the three songs I did include on that mix:

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