2016 and YOU: What You Need to Know to Survive the Apocalypse Literary or Otherwise
Wait. It’s been 2016 for a second now. And this all sounds a little sensational.
You know, I’m little late to the start of the New Year. And you’re right. What is this nonsense? 2015 had it’s ups and down, it’s sad puppies, rabid puppies, and rational folks who celebrate diversity instead of fear, but 2016 looks great. After we clean up the mess these puppies left on the rug, 2016 looks and smells a whole lot better without this business stinking up my favorite genre.
What do we have to look forward to? For one, a renewed commitment to highlighting the very best in Sci-Fi from yours truly. I’m refocusing on this blog this year. Never mind that I’m four months behind. Also, I have some exciting games related projects that I will be discussing in detail soon. And lastly, I'm sad to say that we must say goodbye to Golem Arcana but you can keep playing until none of the Khan's false heirs survive.
Onto my survival guide or at least one of things besides food and water you should be packing away. Exhibit A: the Best American series, which highlights standout fiction every year, has added The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy to their roster. Cheers to them. I studied these collections in college and was always surprised by the diversity and talent they showcased. Buy it, borrow it, or win it through conquest, I don’t care as long as your means our legal. Seriously, this book is worth the tiny price of admission. Anyone remotely interested in cutting edge sci-fi should read this collection. You’ll discover new writers and new turns on the genre. Kickstarter-lit anyone?
That’s right folks this blog is finally schilling a book, but it’s not mine. My imaginary marketing department is furious. They’re fired now. Hope you can forgive me, for pushing this book, but it really helped me start off the year on the right foot. The writing here is top notch. My personal favorites being Skullpocket and Sleeper. You really should read them for yourself, but here are my thoughts on both.
In Sleeper Jo Walton (you can read it here courtesy of Tor) deftly explores the inherent problems and responsibilities of forming fully-simulated lives. He handles the business of interacting with a computerized projection with grace. I'm always impressed by any author who can describe our interactions with technology without dating their story and their content. Stories that hinge on technology always seem in danger of dating themselves and slipping into irrelevancy with the next MEinterface update. Though I enjoyed Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead (you can read this Kickstarter inspired story here courtesy of Lightspeed), the more I think about it, the more I wonder if the restriction of form will really matter in ten more years. Will anyone care or know about Kickstarter? The story still stands up, but it hinges on form and I’m not sure this will be any more than a passing novelty, no different than a tweet based story. In 50 or 100 years, I doubt anyone will bother with an archaic word like screen or computer at all, but we’ll see. Stories like the technology that inhabits them, should do all they can to futureproof themselves. What makes Sleeper succeed is that it's clever façade hides the timeless story of creation and perhaps that aim of all art, to sneak into our homes and forever change us.
Now Skullpocket is probably the closest this collection gets to the type of fantasy that I love. Sure, it’s not Sword & Sorcery, but the more I think about it the more I think it’s an outdated term at best.
Skullpocket excels at world building, creating memorable characters, and weirdness that is both humorous, gross, and often enlightening. It’s hard not to notice echoes of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and that’s a huge compliment. The great strength of fantasy is when it’s held in juxtaposition with our own current values and culture. Setting the story in the New England makes it easy for the Nathan Ballingrud show us how our human society might look on the outside. The Church of the Maggot and Ghoul society is the distorted mirror that allows us to see our own bizarre rituals more clearly. In the notes in the back (one of my favorite features of these collections) Nathan Ballingrud comments that he’d like to write more in this world. I sure hope he does.
Is Sword and Sorcery DEAD? Where is it? Not in this Best anthology. Should we run to hills or maybe grab some pitchforks?
I’m not really bothered by all the Sci-Fi to be honest. I love reading it, but struggle to write it. It’s typically the more respected genre and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon when Game of Thrones is the most widely accepted tortureporn fantasy. Most of the “Fantasy” here is really no different than the kind of weird stuff that occasionally bubbles out most lit journals these days. Also, the editor has a long history of editing Sci-Fi focused journals and Joe Hill is Steven King’s son, so their taste has definitely colored this collection. I don’t begrudge them for that. Also, John Joseph Adams is the editor for Lightspeed, so keep that in mind. That is to say, as always, everyone’s got their own taste.
So, naaaaaaah! Basically. Keep reading. Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings is on my catch up reading list!