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.

Refusing the Call v 3 is Done!

Refusing the Call Banner copy

I took “Refusing the Call” v 2 to the futurescapes workshop to be critiqued by a group led by Mary Robinette Kowal. Now, I had identified some areas of concern, but I felt pretty good about it overall.

Mary revealed that the problems were much deeper than that. The biggest one was I hadn’t been following the MICE quotient. Now, I thought I understood the MICE quotient. After all, I’m a programmer and eat nested code for breakfast. But I still had an event opening, and a character ending, and everything was fizzling.

As I rested, and pondered on the critique, I realized that the fixes would make things much better, and indeed, when I took v 3 back to them for review, everyone agreed that the story had leveled up. (Yay!) There are still some confusions I need to address, and dialogue to strengthen, but I’m feeling pretty good about it.

Stats:

  • 749 words
  • 1 scene
  • 2 characters
  • Started April 17, 5:00 am
  • Finished April 17, 9:00 pm

Hugo 2019 Reading – January – March

I feel bad that I haven’t interspersed these Hugo Reading reviews with other updates on my writing. It’s been hard, mentally, to write. I’ve set aside “Masculine Rescue” for now. I’m not going to make the deadline for the anthology I wanted to submit to, and I wasn’t excited for it. Maybe I’ll pick it up again later. I did do another draft of “Refusing the Call” and “Tattered Flower” but didn’t blog about either, as they were more of a minor rewrite than a major. Right now, I’m turning my attention to the entries to the Mormon Lit Blitz. I’ve got very rough drafts for two entries done. Now to polish them up before the deadline.

Enough about my writing. Let’s look at what other people have written. I liked everything I read the last few months for 2019 Hugos, though not enough to give 5 stars to.

Dances with Snoglafanians” by Aimee Ogden
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

This was a fun skewering of the Avatar story. It really pokes fun at how a human could master the natives’ ways in a matter of days, and how it really wouldn’t protect them when the colonists came. But the natives had a much better way of protecting themselves. Excellent twist.


Dust to Dust” by Mary Robinette Kowal
a short story published by Fireside Magazine

This story was short but very heartfelt. It had a good look at what happens to those left behind when industry meets magic, as well as ethics of performing a spell for good on someone that doesn’t want it done. Really, it’s amazing how that all fit in less than 2,000 words.


White Sand Vol 2 by Brandon Sanderson and Rik Hoskin
a graphic story published by Dynamite

Lots of intrigue in this volume. I am a bit disappointed that we don’t get the full explanation of how the magic works and how it feels like we do in Sanderson’s novels. I’m also going to want to read the entire series as a whole. This part doesn’t stand well on its own. At least I don’t feel like I can predict what will happen. The plot is certainly twisting.


RWBY by Shirow Miwa
a graphic story published by Viz Media

I am a fan of the RWBY anime, so I wanted to see what new adventures were in the manga. This volume has some new stories that take place during seasons 1 or 2, and retells each of the trailers used to promote the show at the beginning. I liked the added details to Weiss’s story, giving her motivation for fighting the giant knight. They also added a new type of grimm – the possession type – which could create some interesting fights in the future.


A Priest of Vast and Distant Places” by Cassandra Khaw
a short story published by Apex Magazine

This story was an interesting thought about what home and love are, told through a conversation between a person and plane. The religious angle was an intriguing take. It’s told in second POV, but it flowed smoothly, and I was able to suspend disbelief for the few facts that didn’t match my experience.


Gennesaret” by Phoenix Alexander
a short story published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

This story is a haunting allegory for marginalized people. Attempts among themselves to be “normal.” Silenced when met with the dominant group, leaving the person in pain to be overridden and ignored. And using the dead as martyrs for their cause. Heart-wrenching.

Hugo 2018 Reading – February

And we’re in the final days before nominations close. My health hasn’t been the greatest though, so I haven’t been pushing it as much with reading or writing. Hence why this post is late. I’ve been getting through some good stories though.

(5 stars) “The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant” by Rachael K. Jones
a short story published by Lightspeed

This story was hilarious, as cyborg try to figure out how to cook food for humans in order to escape detection. Yet it also is a cautionary tale about taking the pursuit of fame too far. The theme, and its slow encroaching horror, was well executed.


(5 stars) “Waiting Out the End of the World in Patty’s Place Cafe” by Naomi Kritzer
a short story published by Clarkesworld

This story broke my heart. One would think that when the apocalypse comes, that you would want to be with people that matter most – your family. But this story is about Lorien coming to realize that she may not be welcome at home after all. That reconciliation may not be possible, and it’s not her fault. I really admire Kritzer’s ability to tell these human stories in the face of disasters.


“A Glowing Heart” by Anton Rose
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

This story has only a faint fantastical element – that of a rare and amazing bird that the narrator needs to kill in order to sell the parts for medicine for his mother. It was decent, just nothing that stood out as new.


“The Long Dizzy Down” by Ziporah Hildebrandt
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

Bill’s voice was hard to understand, so it was hard to get into this story. The premise was interesting – ships going rogue and kidnapping children in order to help it get into colonies so it could clone itself.


(5 stars) “The Woodcutters’ Deity” by Walter Dinjos
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

I enjoyed the Nigerian voice of this story. It starts off with a great sense of humor, and then follows a fairy-tale style story about brothers cast out of the city. I couldn’t predict where it would go, though I had a few guesses. Nduka’s overcoming was powerful, even though it was quiet, showing he truly desired the greater good, instead of just the ability to wreak vengeance.


“The Dragon Killer’s Daughter” by Todd McCaffrey
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

This story was cute, about a girl, and her father, and the dragon that used to live in the valley. The ending was predictable, yet satisfying that the dragon killer atoned for his murder.


“Useless Magic” by Andrew Peery
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

I wasn’t pulled into this story. There was plenty of magic, and some of the effects of it were interesting. I just didn’t care for the main character. Yes, he’s in a pitiful situation, but he was so bitter, I didn’t want to be reading about him.


A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power” by Rose Lemberg
a novella published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies

This story had a lot of mythology that I didn’t really care about. I never quite understood the magic of the deepnames, and what kind of power they were supposed to give. I never grew attached to the main character, perhaps because the other points were driving me away, so I didn’t care when there was trouble with her guard, or assassins. The prose was beautiful, and flowed, nice to listen to, but that is not why I listen to stories. So yeah, this story wasn’t for me

Trigger warning: BDSM


“Adramelech” by Sean Hazlett
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

I loved that this story refuted the “I had no choice” excuse with “You could have chosen death.” Seems like authors rely on the “I had no choice” a bit too much. Nice bit of foreshadowing too. I don’t normally care much for horror, which is why this doesn’t get five stars from me, but this was decent.


(5 stars) “The Fox, the Wolf, and the Dove” by Ville Meriläinen
a novelette published in Writers of the Future vol 33

I loved this invented fairy tale. I loved that the spell was chanted in Finnish (according to Bing Translator) instead of Latin. (Fitting, since the author is from Finland) The banter between the three sisters is awesome. The ending was heartbreaking and sweet. Lots of action. Very much enjoyed.