Hugo 2019 Reading – October

It’s been a busy month. At least I have settled in to my writing schedule pretty nicely. I’m only writing 3 days a week, but I’m getting more total done than before, and I feel more relaxed about getting my chores done on the off days. Since its hard to break 1,000 words a day, I’m not doing NaNo, even if I was at a point where I was drafting more instead of editing. Perhaps next year when all my kids are at school full time I’ll get around to it. In the meantime, here’s what I read.

If Only Kissing Made it So” by Jason Kimble
a short story published by Cast of Wonders

The characterization of this first kiss story was good. I could really feel Martin’s desire and confusion over everything. The time travel bit was neat too, and it resolved paradoxes by making each day have to match up with what happened originally.


(5 stars) “Shod in Memories” by M.K. Hutchins
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

I enjoy fairy tale retellings, and this was no exception. I especially loved how Ella expressed disappointment that the prince didn’t recognize her the next day after dancing at the ball, and that the prince wasn’t in love after just one night. He went around the kingdom looking for her just because he wanted to ask her about her shoe. Very cute story.


“This Isn’t a Home, It’s a Wilderness” by Holly Lyn Walrath
a short story published by Flame Tree Press

This story will be on the Flame Tree Press website next month, so no link yet. I had a hard time getting into the story. It definitely feels like a metaphor for all the ills that went into colonizing here on Earth. So it was hard to care about any of the humans who traveled to this alien planet.


Fitting In” by Max Gladstone
a novelette by Tor.com

Though I enjoy the Wild Cards universe, I found myself falling asleep while reading this, as I’ve not been sleeping well lately. So, the inability to pay attention spoiled my enjoyment of the story a bit. I do like the struggle to do good in mundane ways (as a guidance counselor at a middle school) as well as fantastic (busting a group of thugs that want to force a bakery to sell to them). Jan was hilarious.


The Multiverse of Michael Merriweather” by Stephen S. Power
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

This story felt like a series of vignettes than a real story. I do like alternate futures, but I felt a bit let down at the ending when we learned why someone was seeing all these different futures. I couldn’t see what had changed.


(5 stars) “STET” by Sarah Gailey
a short story published by Fireside Magazine

The desktop version of this story clues you in right away that this story is told in the footnotes and editorial notes and not the textbook text that is presented first in the mobile version. Since I first read this on my phone, I was a bit confused at first, and almost didn’t go read all the footnotes. I’m glad I did. It’s a haunting look at the ethics of training AI, and expectations on dealing with grief. And I thought the unusual form was great.

Hugo 2019 Reading – September

School has started. Schedules are adjusting. And in the middle of it all, I went on the WXR18 cruise. It’s all been good, though my short fiction listening has put on the back burner. I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things this month. Nothing stood out to me, but it was all decent.

Ghost of the Pepper” by M.K. Hutchins
a short story published by Flash Fiction Online

An interesting allegory about peppers holding the sorrows of the dead, and how it’s better to share grief than try to process it all by yourself.


When You’re Ready” by M. Ian Bell
a short story published by Apex

An interesting look at how choices and environment shape a person’s life, including how tough times are necessary. It’s also a look at second chances, repairing lost relationships. I did have a hard time following the story though. Not sure if that’s due to listening or not though. There were two separate stories to follow that came together at the end.


Penitents” by Rich Larson
a short story published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

A post-apocalyptic story. It was hard for me to understand the punishment of the cubes on the people. I guess they wanted the people to suffer, but it seemed pointless. Especially when it was the sin of the parents that destroyed the world. That did seem to be the emotion that Larson was going for though, because the end hints at hope of it ending. The depiction of the characters from separate worlds was well contrasted.


Disconnect” by Fran Wilde
a novelette published by Uncanny

It was hard for me to suspend my disbelief for Izze’s condition. Part of it is the idea that her body parts went all the way to different galaxies, which seems really hard to find. Part of it is her saying that joints went missing. I understand bones leaving – but what constitutes the joint? Both bones that meet? The muscles & tendons that move it? Conversely, I had no problem suspending my disbelief of the anti-aging Severin.

I did like the depiction of Izze’s struggles. And how at the end, she turned her disability into a positive, almost like X-Men. Also, this time, I actually felt fear of “the scientists are going to study me!” It’s a fear that happens so often in mutant stories that didn’t seem founded that I’ve started to roll my eyes when I hear it. This story grounded me well, from the lack of answers from previous studies, to the harm that Severin was going through.


Ruby, Singing” by Fran Wilde
a short story published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

This story is very poetic, in the prose, as well as the lyrics that run throughout. A lot of details that suddenly gain more meaning when you understand what’s going on. It ends in a beautiful tragedy, which are the kinds of stories I don’t normally read.

Drones of a Fal’Cie v 2 is Done!

Drones of a Fal'Cie cover copyI was running up right against the deadline for this one. And then I was so relieved to get it done, I forgot to blog about it. That ending has been hard to nail down. I restructured it AGAIN, cut some characters, put them in somewhere else, and most importantly, focused on the relationship of the mother and daughter. I feel good about what I ended up with, but don’t expect it to do well in the contest as nobody else has read any of it. I’m just glad I hit deadline.

Stats:

  • Started September 6
  • Finished September 29
  • 6,782 words (137% of v1)
  • 3 scenes (100% of v1)

 

Hugo 2019 Reading – August

I only ended up listening to one story this month. It’s been hard to motivate myself to hand-wash dishes, which is when I listen to podcasts. We’ve had a busy time, with classes and visiting. Now that school’s starting, (with three kid-free mornings a week!) I’m looking forward to getting lots of writing done. In the meantime, here’s what I read.

After the First Comes the Last” by Holly Lyn Walrath
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

This was a poignant story about how selfishness and lots of power in youth evolved into thoughts bigger than self but running low on power later on. Speaks to truth in life, and very feminist as well.


Glass in Frozen Time” by M. K. Hutchins
a short story published by Diabolical Plots

I love superhero stories and stories about family. So I loved that this put the two together. What was unique was that it was about a family after a mission had gone badly, and denying the PTSD that went along with that. My only complaint was the daughter’s actions at the end didn’t quite seem realistic. Then again, I’ve never been around little kids that have had to take the adult role.


Red Lizard Brigade” by Sam J. Miller
a short story published by Uncanny

I feel like I would have understood this story better if I had read it. The story segments first go backwards in time, and then forwards again, and that’s something I couldn’t quite keep straight in audio. The setup for this world is cool – opening a portal to prehistoric times to get dinosaurs to train for warfare. I’d be interested in reading other stories from this issue.


(5 stars) “Field Biology of the Wee Fairies” by Naomi Kritzer
a short story published by Apex Magazine

This story really spoke to me. Amelia is a lot like me – someone who was more interested in school than in being pretty. I loved how she dealt with the expectations of catching a fairy in order to get pretty, and that the other pretty girls were also interested in science as well. A nice piece of wish fulfillment.


(5 stars) “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly
a novelette published by Tor.com

I love magical foods, and I really liked how this one used memories to tell messages and bring down the Tyrant King. The flashbacks were full of emotion, the intrigue intense. And the end was surprising, yet inevitable. Very well done.

Drones of a Fal’Cie v 1 is Done!

Drones of a Fal'Cie cover copy

This draft took a lot longer than I thought it would. The ending was hard for me to set up. I ended up having to throw away 500 words (an entire day’s work) because I’d gone down the wrong path. Because of the difficulty, I was having a hard time motivating myself to write until I started rewarding myself with multi-pulls from Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia for every 1,000 words or so. (I’m still using 4thewords, but the quests there have turned into grinding, which doesn’t excite me. Also, the monsters don’t seem to fit as well with my writing routine. Maybe when school starts and I have more uninterrupted time, it will be better.)

I am quite happy with the structure of what I ended up with. There’s still a lot to flesh out. I also worry about some things being confusing, but I don’t have much time for critique if I’m going to get this ready to be submitted by the end of September.

Stats:

  • Started July 20
  • Finished August 16
  • 1,406 words brainstorming changes
  • 4,949 words (150% of v 0)
  • 3 scenes (60% of v 0)

Hugo 2019 Reading – July

I spent July reading the Hugo Finalists in order to vote on the ballot for the awards next month. Still managed to get a fair amount read of stuff from this year. I feel like I’m finally getting into the swing of managing my time better.

The Wings of Earth” by Jiang Bo
a novelette published by Clarkesworld

I liked the interaction between the nations when the UFO appeared, and how each nation wanted to be part of the first to make contact with it. I’m not a big fan of first contact stories. They feel a bit abstract-y to me. I never really understood what purpose the wings of Earth were supposed to provide either. Maybe because it went too fast with the audio?


(5 stars) “One Day, My Dear, I’ll Shower You with Rubies” by Langley Hyde
a short story published by PodCastle

This story reminded me of the plotline in The Legend of Korra when Asami visits her father in jail during season 4. The main thing I didn’t like about that story was that Asami’s father dies to complete his redemption arc. In Hyde’s story, the father still dies, but it was out of justice, not redemption. I also feel like it developed better the complexities of being the child of an evil man, suffering fallout from it, yet being unable to completely reject him. Perhaps because that character arc of Elusia figuring out her relationship to her father had to stand on its own, since it wasn’t building up to a heroic sacrifice.


The Quiltbag” by Ashkok K. Banker
a short story published by Lightspeed

The clothes talking was an interesting element. Interesting moral at the end too, about leaving worlds alone that had the possibility to be redeemed. Though I didn’t feel completely engaged, perhaps because I didn’t feel as much tension because Octavia was very worried about the situation.


Seeds of the Soul Flowers” by M. K. Hutchins
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

I’m a little mad that this story is so close to “Tattered Flower” and accomplishes its theme so much better than my story does. Does a good job explaining the world, and making us care about the characters.


The Athuran Interpreter’s Flight” by Eleanna Castroianni
a short story published by Strange Horizons

Sam-Sa-Ee is a creative and horrifying creation. When listening to this, I didn’t see the structure this story has – the many scenes with headers. That really adds to the story. I didn’t quite understand the twist though – why the Henon would refuse to do business if the Envoy drank the water. Was it just superstition, or was there a real contamination?

Drones of a Fal’Cie v 0 is Done!

Drones of a Fal'Cie cover copyThough I haven’t posted here much, I have been busy writing. Mostly in revisions. But today I finished something new!

True to pattern, I got this idea while playing a video game – Final Fantasy XIII. I really liked the take on magic as a curse because it was forced on the party by an identity that wants to destroy their home. So I wanted to put my own take on that. I do think that it’s fun how I have a role for all 6 party characters in my story.

It does need a lot of work. I’m not happy with the ending – the characters didn’t have to work that hard for it, so it doesn’t feel satisfying. There’s a lot that needs to be fleshed out too. Not to mention all the names that need to be changed to make it mine. But I am excited to work on it.

Statistics:

  • Started May 22, 2018
  • Finished July 11, 2018
  • 3,296 words
  • 5 scenes

Hugo 2019 Reading – June

School’s out, summer’s here, and I’m trying to get the motivation to keep up on everything. Some days are better than others. I listened to some good fiction last month, though.

(5 stars) “Ana’s Asteroid” by M. K. Hutchins
a short story published by Cast of Wonders

I read a draft of this story in novel form. I’m so glad that Hutchins was able to find a way to tell this story, even if it didn’t work as a novel. The hard sci-fi was interesting. I do wonder about how fragile the air tube was, but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the story. I do really like how it had to be a kid save the day, and how the parents had to deal with that and let Ana risk herself.


The History of the Mermaid Socialist Revolution” by Rebecca DeVendra
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

The title of this story had me thinking that it would end with the mermaids breaking out of captivity. Instead, it ends on a darker note, commentary about how those in horrible conditions can be powerless to change their circumstances.


Cold Blue Sky” by J.E. Bates
a short story published by Apex Magazine

As a Computer Scientist, I really enjoyed this hard-scifi look at androids and hacking. It is much more realistic and detailed than portrayed in movies. Quite a fun heist story. I do have to laugh at the “but we looked at every byte” line, because as Kiro showed, malware can hide with just a little obfuscation.


The Weaver and the Snake” by Blaine Vitallo
a short story published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

I didn’t care much for this story. I never connected to Reilitas. She felt too aloof. The city eating snake was interesting, but we never saw it directly, which saddened me. The themes are more literary, which doesn’t interest me as much.


(5 stars) “Sidekicks Wanted” by Laura Johnson
a short story published by Cast of Wonders

I love stories about superheroes and sidekicks, so this story was right up my alley. It was amusing, and a delightful mashup of the fantastic and mundane. Frank was a solid character, with his desires leading him to seek an unconventional position.

Hugo 2019 Reading – May

May felt like I was still struggling to keep my head above water, though not as much as at the end of April. I’m glad that June feels a bit more relaxed. Just in time for kids to get out of school and upend my schedule again. 🙂 Here’s what I got through this week.

(5 stars) “Strange Waters” by Samantha Mills
a short story published by Strange Horizons

I loved this time travel story. A fisherwoman gets lost in time and just wants to get home to her family. The backdrop is that she washes up in the same town, and that town keeps a record of history that all the time travelers have shared, so it knows its future as well as its past. I loved Mika’s determination. I teared up at the ending.


(5 stars) “The Things That We Will Never Say” by Vanessa Fogg 
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

I liked this story because except for the seeing into the future bit, it could take place today, with mother and child living in different states instead of different planets. It made the awkwardness between the two feel real. Very poignant for such a small piece.


Tank!” by John Wiswell
a short story published by Diabolical Plots

I don’t go to many conventions, nor have I watched Cowboy Bebop or Adventure Time, so I didn’t have the connections to this piece that others had. I definitely related to the awkwardness though. Such a cute depiction.


The Testimony of Dragon’s Teeth” by Sarah Monette
a short story published by Uncanny

One interesting thing about reading short stories is stumbling in the middle of an established series of stories, hear people rave about them, and still feel like I haven’t missed anything because the story is self-contained. I’ve never read a Booth story before. I doubt I’d seek out more, as the somber, dark vibe isn’t to my taste. I did like the mix of the mundane archivist needing to sort out the mystery of who was doing witchcraft.


(5 stars) “The Flight of Morpho Girl” by Caroline Specter and Bradley Denton
a novella published by Tor.com

Similarly, I have only read one short story in the Wild Cards series before. Now this one, I would love to explore more stories from. I love super hero stories. And this one was poignant. A girl tries to figure out who she is, and how to keep her friendship after her metamorphosis had her switch to a different school. And she has to figure out how to relate to her Mom after a mission left her shaken. Good voice. Good conflict. Sweet resolution.

Hugo 2019 Reading – April

April was filled with travel, and then catching up on everything when I came back. I read for book club and from my 3 years deep to be read pile, so not as much what was published this year. But I found some really good stories.

Earn Your Breath” by Jaime O. Mayer
a short story published by Cast of Wonders

I liked the struggle in this story, against invaders, and against the societal expectations for genders imposed by Mother Breathless. I wanted to give this story five stars, but felt like the world building left out a crucial part – how do infertile women earn their breath mark? Are they shunned as well? It is true that if the society had taken infertile women into account, then Liith wouldn’t have had to struggle as much, as she would have had some kind of example to follow. Then again – intention for having children may have been enough to earn a breath mark, and Liith would still be left with her struggle. Yeah, good plot, good tension, admirable character, but that missing piece just ruins things for me.


(5 stars) “The Paper Dragon” by Stephen S. Power
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

An emotional story set in WWII that involves the Japanese sending an origami dragon to America to attack. Now, I’m under the impression that Japanese dragons are more peaceful than European dragons, so I’m not sure if this fits with actual Japanese culture. But the message about apologizing and seeking peace really hit home.


The Persistence of Blood” by Juliette Wade
a novella published by Clarkesworld

This story is set in another world with an invented culture, but beyond wysps that just float around, there wasn’t anything that set apart from Earth. Like “Earn Your Breath”, this story also dealt with a woman who no longer wanted to bear children in a society where it is expected. Unlike “Earn Your Breath”, this story included infertile women and how societal expectations affected them as well, so I appreciate that aspect. The ending was a bit disappointing, as no great changes were made, though the incremental was hopeful. I did like Selemei, her devotion to her children, and her determination to make things better for herself and other women.


You Do Nothing But Freefall” by Cassandra Khaw and A. Maus
a short story published by Lightspeed

This story was surprising. I hadn’t expected the fox to become human when it leaves with the maneki-neko. It was a bit hard to follow in audio, as I didn’t have a scene break cue to tell me that time had passed. It’s cute, exploring the confusion, and joy that is humanity.


Into the Gray” by Margaret Killjoy
a short story published by Tor.com

I’ve been enjoying the pictures for Mermay on twitter, so when I went looking on Tor.com for another story to read for this month, this one caught my eye. The prose flows beautifully. There were a couple of revelations at the end that made me question the beginning – how did Laria know the man she murdered was bad if she didn’t know anything about him, and how did he react when she became naked? But these can be glossed over because Laria could be a bit of an unreliable narrator in this instance. I also want to study the structure, as the first conflict seems resolved a third of the way through the story, but then leads into the bigger conflict at the end.