What I read in February

What I read in February

Writing News

Taking Tobin’s course in creative writing has really increased my confidence, and so I decided to try my hand at writing a few short stories (flash fiction, really) and entering them into contests. One of the contests is still ongoing, but I have great news about the other one: I made it on the shortlist of the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest!

The winners won’t be announced for roughly another month, but being a finalist means that I still get a chance to pitch a novel to ChiZine Publications.

Of course, this means that this month, I’ll actually have to start writing a novel worth pitching. No pressure, right? I have a few ideas, but I don’t know if any of them are viable yet.

Reading News

February was a much tougher month than January. That always seems the case, I guess, as the rush of positivity from the new year slows to a trickle. So, I read only about half as much in February than I did the month before. Actually, I only finished that many – I certainly began other books, but my interest flagged; I started on strong with reading the first volume of Malcolm Lyon’s translation of The Arabian Nights (more about that here), but I ended up getting fatigued about a third of the way in.

In fact, apart from Silent Girl, the only other full-length book I finished last month was The Cat by Edeet Ravel. I liked it and sympathized with it immensely (like the main character in that book, I also experienced the pain and shock of losing someone very close to me because of a car crash), but the emotional impact of the novel faded very quickly after I finished it. Also, the cover copy made me feel like it was going to be more of a psychological horror piece where the main character feels constrained by her cat in a Yellow-Wallpaper-ish sort of way, but it turned out to be nothing like that at all.

However, as usual, I still read and listened to an abundance of short stories. I still haven’t caught up on my backlog of issues from Lightspeed (seriously, each issue is about as long as a full-length novel – reading one of them is a major commitment), but I did continue with my usual habits of Apex, Clarkesworld, and several podcasts. Here are a few of the highlights:

Lightspeed: I read the November 2012 issue and finished the July 2012 issue (which for some reason, I started reading several months ago and forgot about). My favourites from both include “Requiem in the Key of Prose” by Jake Kerr, “Ghost River Red” by Aidan Doyle, “Singing of Mount Abora” by Theodora Goss, “Gordon, the Self-Made Cat” by Peter S. Beagle, “Searching for Slave Leia” by Sandra McDonald, “As the Wheel Turns” by Aliette de Bodard, and “A Princess of Spain” by Carrie Vaughn.

Apex: I loved the February issue’s theme of stories reinterpreting or inspired by Shakespeare. In fact, it turned out to be a nice companion volume to Silent Girl, another book of stories inspired by Shakespearean plays. In this issue, I liked Kat Howard’s “The Face of Heaven So Fine.” Patricia C. Wrede’s retelling of the story of Hamlet from Gertrude’s point of view (“Mad Hamlet’s Mother”) was also quite interesting, but I think it would have had more punch if told in first person rather than third.

Clarkesworld: Oddly enough, the February 2013 issue still left me pretty lukewarm, like the January issue. Of the three stories published, my favourite was “The Wanderers” by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, for the audacity of its premise and its success in making such disjointed, ungrammatical sentences work. The other stories were so poignant as to nearly become parodies of Clarkesworld’s particular style (“Gravity” by Erzebet YellowBoy) or were all atmosphere with no substance (“Vacant Spaces” by Greg Kurzawa).

Escape Pod: The best EP story of February was “They Go Bump” by David Barr Kirtley – a great mix of science fiction and horror, with the horror being supplied by the paranoia of the human mind. Other good ones were “The Tamarisk Hunter” by Paulo Bacigalupi and “Punk Voyager” by Shaenon Garrity (technically, a bunch of Excape Pod, Pseudopod and Podcastle stories were podcast January, but what the hell).

Pseudopod: Pseudopod has had a really strong run for the past few months. In particular, I liked “Cry Room” by Ted Kosmatka, “Cell Call” by Marc Laidlaw, “The Persistence of Memory” by William Meikle, and “What Happens When You Wake Up in the Dark” by Michael Marshall Smith – the last one in particular had pitch-perfect narration.

Podcastle: Oddly enough, the two most notable stories by Podcastle that I heard in February were published in January: “Tiger in the BSE” by E.Lily Yu (yes, that E. Lily Yu) and “A Memory of Wind” by Rachel Swirsky. However, I think that I would have enjoyed the latter more if I had read it instead of listening to it – the narration of the story was competent, but not full of rage, and this is a story where rage definitely needs to be present. This is weird because normally, modern exegeses of Classical mythology are my catnip.

Daily Science Fiction: DSF publishes so many stories I’m just going to do a bullet list of my favourites instead.

  • “Substitutes” by Colin P. Davies
  • “The Needs of Hollow Men” by K.A. Rundell
  • “A Hairy Predicament” by Melissa Mead
  • “Maps” by Beth Cato
  • “The Small Print” by Amy McLane

So, that’s what going through February was like! What about you? Do you have any recommendations to make in the comments?