1. Since I have read only two Delany novels and would place neither on my favorite list, I could humbly remove myself from making further comment.
2. I could consider my relative lack of first hand experience of Delany’s work as a plus when it comes to considering the stories anthologized here strictly on their own merits.
Obviously I am going to go with the second option, but I need to say something more about the first.
I read Nova and The Einstein Intersection about four years ago. Nova I didn’t particularly like for reasons I no longer clearly remember. Einstein entertained and intrigued me, although I remember not quite “getting” the end. Looking at other reader reviews, I saw that I was not alone in that response. Looking recently at a range of reader reviews I see that Delany can be a polarizing author. Encomia are balanced out by disparaging comments from those who find the work opaque or over-written. This is especially true when it comes to Delany’s big books, Dahlgren and Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. In one of his letters, Philip K. Dick, an author I think very highly of, reports throwing his copy of Dahlgren across the room before he was a hundred pages into it. In some cases, readers are put off by Delany’s content. These negative, sometimes angry responses, combined with what I’ve read in this new book, have actually renewed my interest in going back to Delany.
I have also read a third Delany novel. When I was in the book business, a small gay publishing house needed to remainder a few hundred copies of Hogg, one of Delany’s forays into pornography. I bought them and sold them for between $10 and $50 as their number decreased. I also read it. I can’t take the time to be shocked, but it is a variety of violent, transgressive pornography that leaves me puzzled about both its purpose and its audience. But a recent edition of the Los Angeles Review of Books ran an article on Hogg, “Uses of Displeasure: Literary Value and Affective Disgust,” by Liz Janssen. Again, the jury is split.
Stories for Chip is not a collection of pastiches. The writers have apparently been chosen because they work under Delany’s influence and address his themes. I have to say “apparently” because the book comes with essentially no editorial content, and it is badly needed. This situation was worsened by the advance ebook I received from Net Galley. The Table of Contents listed a Contributors page, but it was nowhere to be found. And the transcription was the worst I have ever encountered. Words were run together, sometimesuptotheextentofanentire sentence. A couple of stories with particularly dense or playful language were unreadable.
There is a lot of very good stuff here, and even the absence of the Contributors section worked to my advantage. I knew only a fraction of these writers, and several of those only by name. Most of the stories occasioned a trip to Google, where I found information and links I would not have in the couple of sentences the book itself might have contained.
The contributors are an international, multiethnic roster whose interest in Delany shows in their attention to race and gender and the pleasure they take in language. The book was funded by an Indiegogo campaign, and the publisher’s website had an open call for submissions. Somehow I doubt that Junot Diaz, Nalo Hopksinson, Kit Reed, Michael Swanwick and a few of the others answered an open call. And then there is Thomas Disch, who died in 2008. As I said above, more editorial content is badly needed, but finally that can’t take away from the enjoyment of the 30 stories and four critical essays included.
A few personal favorites, specifically from authors I did not know:
Claude Lalumiere: “Empathy Evolving as a Quantum of Eight-Dimensional Perception.” A misanthropic human time traveler finds himself millions of years in the future. Octopi are the dominant species, and if they don’t eat you they absorb you. This sets off a change of incarnations over the eons, in one of which the cephalopod/human entity may become God.
Anil Menon: “Clarity.” A professor of computer science in India finds himself living inside one of the theoretical models he and his co-workers consider thought experiments.
Geentajali Dighe: “The Last Dying Man.” According to Hinduism, the world destroys and recreates itself in cycles involving millions of years. And yet it has to happen sometime. A man and his daughter in Mumbai find themselves dealing with the day-to-day reality of the transition.
Weslyan University Press keeps in print around 1,500 pages of Delany’s critical and theoretical writing, and he prompts a fair amount of critical writing from others. There are several essays here, but Walida Imarisha’s very personal account of her engagement with both the man and his writing best conveys the significance Delany has had on writers of color. “So long seen as the lone Black voice in commercial science fiction Delany held that space for all the fantastical dreamers of color who came after him.” She goes on to propose that she and other writers become “walking science fiction…living, breathing embodiments of the most daring futures our ancestors were able to imagine.”
She is not asking anyone to sign onto her vision, but reading Stories for Chip you see that vision in action.
We recently added 3 new magazines to our list of 66 genre magazines and since they are new to us we thought perhaps you haven’t heard of them either. Take a look at the new ones below and be sure to peruse the whole list. If you find something you like you should consider subscribing!
A Magazine of Fantasy, Science Fiction & Everything in Between
Betwixt is a quarterly magazine of eclectic speculative fiction published in January, April, July, and October. Betwixt publishes speculative fiction of all sorts—fantasy, science fiction, speculative horror, slipstream, weird fiction, steam/diesel/cyber/etc.punk, you name it. Issues are free to read online and are also available for purchase in electronic and print-on-demand formats.
A Science Fiction Reprint Magazine Edited by Neil Clarke
Forever is a digital-only reprint science fiction magazine published monthly by Wyrm Publishing and edited by Neil Clarke. Each issue will feature a novella, two stories, an editorial, and a short interview with the author of the novella. Subscriptions are available direct from Wyrm and through Amazon and Weightless Books. Individual issues can be purchased from Amazon, Apple, B&N, Weightless Books, and Kobo.
Shoreline of Infinity
A Science Fiction Mmgazine Printed in Scotland for the World.
At Shoreline of Infinity we want stories that explore the uncertain future. We want to play around with the big ideas and the little ones. We want writers to tell us stories to inspire us, give us hope, provide some laughs. Or to scare the stuffing out of us. We want good stories: we want to be entertained, here on the Shoreline.
Not that it matters. Umineko, also informally known as the Saga of the Golden Witch, is just plain good. Which is the important part.
Yen Press has this to say about Volume One:
Each year, the Ushiromiya family gathers at the secluded mansion of its patriarch, the elderly Kinzo. It has been six years since Battler joined his cousins at the annual event, but their happy reunion is overshadowed by worsening weather and an eerie premonition from his youngest cousin-not to mention their parents’ feud over the inheritance. Battler doesn’t hold much stock in dark omens, nor does he believe the tales of the witch rumored to have given his grandfather a fortune in gold…and who walks the halls of the mansion to this day… But when the eighteen family members and servants are trapped on the island by the raging typhoon, the grisly events that follow leave Battler shaken to his core. Is one of his relatives desperate enough to kill for the family fortune? Or is this the work of the Golden Witch?
18 people trapped on an island due to a typhoon. They’ve come to discuss the inheritance, since the elder Kinzo is dying. (He’s had three months to live for over a year.) Some members of the family really don’t get along with each other and some of the members of the family certainly could use their share (or a larger one) of the family fortune right about now.
When I was five years old, previews for I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, The Blob, Attack of the Killer Shrews and their ilk flowed through the boxy, black-and-white television sets in dens and family rooms across the United States. Each of these creations looked potentially more marvelous that the one promoted the week before; and, once my parents made it clear that under no circumstances would I be allowed to attend these films, my fate was sealed. To this day, I will program the DVR to record almost any unfamiliar offering from the SyFy Channel or Chiller Network and watch it just long enough to see whatever ridiculous creature will be wreaking unconvincing CGI’d mayhem for the remainder of the two-hour time slot. Because really what I care about is that moment when the monster is revealed. I want to see the experiment gone wrong that’s kept chained in the cellar; the alien that emerges from the wrecked spacecraft; or, Godzilla’s latest sparring partner. After that first reveal, I have slowly learned over the decades to expect things to go downhill. But my enthusiasm for that first look has never waned.
My monster addiction is a visual thing. I have never cared much for monster stories. Verbal descriptions of the hideous tend to be anti-climactic and take too long. By the time I was twelve I quit expecting any of this stuff to be scary, but I want either an impressive crudeness or elegance to the creature, and I want to take it in at a glance. (And I will forestall some criticism here by saying that Clive Barker writes excellent monsters, China Mielville creates admirably alien aliens, and The Babadook recently scared the bejezzus out of me.)
By titling her new anthology The Monstrous, Ellen Datlow drew me in. She seemed to be promising “essence of the monster” rather than just the doings of the things themselves. And after editing what, something like 800 anthologies, I know that she knows her stuff. These are twenty-one stories that, while they will not duplicate the thrill of witnessing Ray Harryhausen’s Kraken lift its third arm out of the sea, can still satisfy the monster kid in all of us – and I know you are out there.
In her introduction, Datlow says she was looking for unusual monster stories, but she has not avoided such familiar creatures as vampires, serial killers, and ancient evils haunting tombs best left unopened. For the most part, her authors don’t depict creatures that depend on detailed description of their hideousness for effect. Adam-Troy Castro’s “The Totals,” features the widest array of nightmarish creatures, each tailor-made to terrify and inflict painful death on innocent victims. But his story is played for laughs. We meet them in an all-night diner where they gather to collect their weekly bonus pay. The comedy here stands out in three hundred pages of grimmer, sadder, bleaker stuff.
Datlow frontloads the anthology with literary firepower. Jeffrey Ford’s “A Natural History of Autumn” incorporates Japanese folklore into the high-stakes, globalized corporate world. Peter Straub offers a brilliant retelling of “Ashputtle,” the Grimm’s brothers version of the Cinderella story with the prince, the ball, and the happy ending replaced with a contemporary tale of life-long revenge carried out by an obese, homicidal kindergarten teacher. Caitlín Kiernan’s “The Beginning of the Year Without Summer” is a beautifully written, evocative tale, but – and I have had this experience before with Caitlín Kiernan – I am not quite sure what it’s about.
In any group of monster stories, curses will abound. In Gemma Files’ “A Wish from a Bone,” a group of archeologists who are also interested in careers on reality TV, open an ancient tomb to spectacularly dire results. One of the first of the crew to be possessed sprouts wings and spends the rest of the story flapping about overhead with her lungs dangling from her shattered chest cavity. Now that’s a cinematic image worthy of Eli Roth. The philosophical but ruthless vampire in Jack Dann’s and Gordner Dozios’ “Down Among the Dead Men” can be killed but his infection cannot. Stephen Graham Jones turns in a typically visceral tale set on a western-bound wagon train with a creature so foul that even his bleached bones pass on his monstrosity.
I have a couple of favorites: Sofia Samatar’s “How I Met the Ghoul” and John Langan’s “Corpsemouth.” In Samatar’s five-age vignette an understandably nervous reporter interviews an ancient, dangerous creature in an airport coffee shop. Both the reporter and the monster are in their way engaging characters.
Langan’s first person narrative takes a leisurely, novelistic approach and describes a family trip to visit the Scottish relatives of a young man’s recently deceased father. (Anyone who watches movies on the Chiller channel would know this is not a good idea.) The visit is a pleasant round of aunts, uncles, and cousins from several generations, all of whom offer dinners, single malt scotch, and sightseeing. One elderly great-uncle also tells the story of Corpsemouth, a creature from the days of King Arthur. It’s an ancient tale that will prove to have contemporary implications that tie the narrator to familial duties he has never imagined. This is a kind of curse, but on another level it is a monster kid’s dream come true.
(This review is based on an advanced ebook provided by Net Galley.)
The British Fantasy Society has released the shortlists for the 2015 British Fantasy Awards.
2015 August Derleth Award Shortlist (Horror):
- The Last Plague by Rich Hawkins (Crowded Quarantine)
- The Unquiet House by Alison Littlewood (Jo Fletcher)
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf)
- The End by Gary McMahon (NewCon)
- The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (Orbit)
- No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill (Macmillan)
2015 Robert Holdstock Award Shortlist (Fantasy):
- City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (Jo Fletcher)
- The Relic Guild by Edward Cox (Gollancz)
- Breed by K.T. Davies (Fox Spirit)
- Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s)
- A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar (Hodder & Stoughton)
- The Moon King by Neil Williamson (NewCon)
Our congrats to all the nominees. You can see the complete list of nominees in all categories on the official press release.
What do you think of the lineups for these 2 awards? Some of these books are not out in the States yet so you may have to order from across the pond.
Definitely in the realm of fantasy. I was underwhelmed by the last installment but I have high hopes for this new one. Dangerous ground, I know.
This one looks pretty freakin’ good.
- Influx by Daniel Suarez (Dutton)
- A Better World by Marcus Sakey (Thomas & Mercer)
- Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett (Doubleday)
- The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (Tor)
Our congrats to Daniel Suarez and all the noms!
Just in case you haven’t seen it on one of the million other sites that has posted it…
- Annihilation – Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals)
- Bird Box – Josh Malerman (Ecco)
- Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes (Mulholland)
- Confessions – Kanae Minato (Mulholland)
- The Lesser Dead – Christopher Buehlman (Berkley)
- The Unquiet House – Alison Littlewood (Jo Fletcher Books)
Our congrats to Jeff VanderMeer and all the finalists! You can see the complete list of winners in all categories over at Locus Online.
What do you think of this result?