Category Archives: reading

“Awesome Scifi”

I’ve said before that I think of the quintessential Clarkesworld style as “awesome scifi.” Helena Bell’s “All the Young Kirks and Their Good Intentions” in the current issue is a great example.

All the young Kirks in Riverside are in love with Jamie. She wears tight green skirts and impractical shoes. When she crosses and uncrosses her legs all the Kirks, even the girls, turn their heads ever so slightly to watch. Jamie does not have a boyfriend as none of the Kirks are so bold as to admit their feelings to another.

Gorgeous, isn’t it? It pulls you right in and makes you want to follow along even if you aren’t sure what’s going on.

Bell’s bio says that she’s a poet. I bet that’s true of a lot of Clarkesworld authors. Xia Jia, whose story I translated for this issue, is another Clarkesworld author who writes scifi poetically.

Update 2/3/2012: the other stoy in the issue, Mari Ness’s “And the Hollow Space Inside,” is beautiful and haunting. I like this one even more than her Clarkesworld story from last year, which was lovely. I can’t say much about it without giving away the point, so you should go read it yourself. This whole issue is really good.

Canto MCML

“Canto MCML,” by Lewis Shiner, F&SF, Jan/Feb 2012 — a short short at 1200 words, this is among the best flash pieces I’ve read. What I admire the most is the craft: the details are chosen to convey just as much as you need to know, and no more. There’s much I can learn from Shiner. Highly recommended.


Just finished reading an incredible new story from Chen Qiufan. I can’t wait till the market it’s meant for purchases it so that I get to translate it. (He’s got two stories that I’d love to translate right now. I just have to find the time…)

Stories I Should Have Read In 2011

It’s awards season, and I want to know what stories I should be nominating.

I didn’t read nearly enough in 2011, and I want to remedy that. So please tell me what you wrote in 2011 that you were proud of, what really got your attention, what you think I ought to read. I’ll try to keep a list here.

So far, these are the ones that I liked and would recommend:

  • “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees”, by E. Lily Yu, at Clarkesworld (April). A complex, beautiful political fable with a sting as sharp as those of the titular insects. Picked up by two of the Year’s Best anthologies. Easy to see why.

  • “Her Husband’s Hands”, by Adam-Troy Castro, at Lightspeed (October). I loved Castro’s Arvies from last year, and this one was just as good. A moving story about love, even in pieces.

  • “The Fish of Lijiang”, by Chen Qiufan, at Clarkesworld (August). I translated this story into English, so I’m somewhat biased. But Chen is one of the most talented writers I know, and I wish I managed to convey some of the beauty of his words in my translation.

I’ll add to this list as I read more in the coming weeks. So let me know what I should be reading! Thank you.

P.S., to see the updated list of recommendations, go here.

Scattered Along the River of Heaven

Clarkesworld’s January issue has a beautiful, powerful piece by Aliette de Bodard that I strongly recommend: “Scattered Along the River of Heaven.”

This is a political story. It deals with many themes that I think about often: de-colonization, exile, revolutions, the importance of memory and history, whether the oppressed must turn into oppressors in the struggle for freedom, the luxury of privileged and powerful peoples to suddenly appear magnanimous only when they’ve lost.

But much of the power of this story comes from its quiet, restrained tone. The Chinese/Vietnamese-inspired poems and milieu work well here, and the three generations of women at the center of the story form a moving emotional core.

I suspect that every reader will read this and get a different “message” out of it, as should be the case with the best kind of fiction.

As for me, the character I admire the most is Mingxia. I believe that she made the hardest, rarest choice of all.

Stories to Read

I used to do a lot of book reviews on my site, and then, after the Great Crash that wiped everything out, I just stopped.

I haven’t stopped reading, of course. So I’m going to try to bring a little bit of that back, over time.

I’ll start by recommending a few short stories I read recently that I liked:

  • “Keeping Tabs”, by Kenneth Schneyer, at Abyss & Apex. Intimate, moving, sympathetic, and psychologically complex, this is a wonderful sci-fi take on our celebrity culture — from the perspective of a fan.

  • “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees”, by E. Lily Yu, at Clarkesworld. This is a complex, beautiful fable with a sting as sharp as those of the titular insects. Ostensibly a fantasy about mapmaking wasps, I suspect that every reader will come out of it with a different idea of what it “meant.” The story was selected by Jonathan Strahan for his Best of the Year anthology, and it’s easy to see why.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is beautiful. Carefully crafted, suspenseful, interesting, indeed, thrilling. It’s not what I consider one of David Mitchell’s best works — mainly because his other books are so magnificent — but even so, it is great. I can only wish I had one-tenth his skill at creating narrative pull. Highly recommended.