Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Thing About Ghost Stories, by Naomi Kritzer

Uncanny Magazine, November 2018

The thing about ghost stories, our narrator tells us, is that they aren't really stories. There's no beginning, middle, end; there's just a weird event that happens, perhaps one, perhaps repeatedly, and then it either stops, or the person who experienced it leaves that place.

Our narrator is a folklorist, and she's researching ghost stories. Not ghosts. The stories we tell about them, the different kinds of stories, the roles those stories play for people.

At first, her mother, a retired romance editor, acts as proofreader and editor as she works on her thesis. Then, her mother descends into Alzheimer's. When her mother dies, and she resumes traveling for her research, occasionally mediums approach her, and tell her she has a ghost with her.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Time and Again (History Mystery #1), by Deborah Heal (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Write Brain Books, June 2014

Abby Thomas is in a small town in southern Illinois for the summer, tutoring a very resistant preteen named Merrideth, as part of her teaching degree program. Merrideth is defiant, her mother makes no real attempt at discipline, and the house, once beautiful, is now old, rickety, and has few modern conveniences.

But there's John Roberts, a handsome and really nice local guy, a spiffy new computer from Merrideth's absent, divorced, possibly drug-dealing father, and a computer program called Beautiful Houses that turns out to have some really interesting features.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

STET, by Sarah Gailey

Fireside Quarterly, February 2018

STET is in the form of a scientific paper interspersed with editorial suggestions from the journal editor, to remove or modify content they consider inappropriate. To each of these, the author responds, "STET," i.e., leave it as is.

It's about the reliability and trustworthiness of Artificial Intelligence as drivers of self-driving cars. When a crash can't be avoided, which lives are to be valued more highly? Who lives and who dies?

Over the course of the story, we learn the background of this research for the author of the paper, and it builds to a heart-wrenching climax.

Recommended.

I received this story as part of the 2019 Hugo Voters Packet.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Nine Last Days on Planet Earth, by Daryl Gregory

Tor Books, ISBN 9781250209450, September 2018

LT is ten the day the meteor shower hits. It's a very odd meteor shower, and the meteorites that hit ground are very, very odd.

They pop open, and the seeds of new life come out.

Earth has been invaded by a wide variety of alien plants. Not intelligent plants; just plants.

In succeeding episodes, we see LT growing to a man, becoming a scientist, finding love, and raising a family.

We see the plants mostly out-competing Earth plants, while LT and others work to understand them and find ways to control or use them. It's a struggle to save the planet and our species.

Except that something even more interesting may be going on, that humans haven't noticed yet.

Recommended.

I received this novelette as part of the 2019 Hugo Voters Packet.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society, by T. Kingfisher

Uncanny Magazine, November 2018

A group of faerie males, a pookah, and a selkie, are sitting around a fire, drinking and talking.

They're talking about a human woman, Rose MacGregor.

The faerie folk are accustomed to seducing human maidens, and then leaving the maidens to pine away from them. Rose does not play that game.

Not that she avoids the the faerie folk. Not at all. Instead, she seeks them out. It's just that things don't go the way the faerie expect.

This isn't a very substantial story, but it's light, fun, funny. I really enjoyed it.

I received this story as part of the 2019 Hugo Voters Packet.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat, by Brooke Bolander

Uncanny Magazine, July 2018

Three beautiful raptor sisters live in a lovely wood near excellent hunting grounds, and are happy and content. Then a very foolish prince rides into their woods, and is so oblivious to the fact that he's being stalked by the youngest sister, even after she eats his horse, that they conclude it must be a trick. The villagers must be fed up, and have sent out poisoned bait.

They need to find out what else the humans may be planning. They need to investigate. One of them needs to go to where the human pack leaders nest...

The youngest raptor sister offers herself to the prince as a replacement steed, and his ego is sufficiently large, and his wits sufficiently lacking, that he takes it as his due rather than a cause for concern.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Go, by Kazuki Kaneshiro (author), Takami Nieda (translator), Brian Nishii (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, May 2018, (original publication January 2000)

Sugihara is a student in a Japanese high school, but he's not Japanese. Born, raised, and educated in Japan, he is still Korean, a citizen of South Korea, and legally a resident alien. This places some legal restrictions on him; it also makes him a target of bullying and prejudice.

He has had to become a fighter, while keeping his eyes on the prize of passing the entrance exams for a Japanese university. When he meets and falls in love with a Japanese girl named Sakurai, they bond over classical music and foreign films.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander

Tom Doherty Associates, January 2018

This is a grim story, but in its own way a beautiful one. Now, those who know me know I don't do grim. At all. Except on the rare occasions that I do.

You may know the story of the Radium Girls. In the early part of the 20th century, young women were employed painting glowing numbers on watch faces, using radium paint. Yes, radium. Yes, it's radioactive, enough to be really dangerous, especially if you work with it constantly or accidentally ingest it.

Who would be so careless as to ingest it, you ask? Well, see, the women weren't told it was dangerous; they were told it was perfectly safe. And of course the best way to get a good point on your paintbrush to paint those fine, exact numbers, was to put it briefly in your mouth every so often.

They all got very sick and there was a big lawsuit, and they died. There are books about the Radium Girls

This is an alternate history, in which after the employment of young women painting radium onto watch faces ends in that lawsuit, the company didn't give up.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Court Magician, by Sarah Pinsker

Lightspeed Magazine, January 2018

A young boy surviving on the streets becomes interested in mastering the tricks of street magicians and performers, and in the process catches the eye of watchers from the regent's palace. As he is groomed, initially from a distance, to be the potential next Court Magician, he repeatedly demonstrates his determination to learn more and more, and to master real magic, not just "tricks."

It's only as he is finally taken into the palace that he starts to learn there will be a cost. Is it worth it? How long will he be willing to pay that price?

It's an interesting look at power, ambition, compassion, and choices.

I received this story as part of the 2019 Hugo Voters Packet.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington, by Phenderson Djèlí Clark

Fireside Quarterly, February 2018

George Washington, hero of the Revolution, our first President and one of our greatest, a major reason we became a democratic republic rather than a monarchy because he refused to become king, was also a slaveowner.

Like many of his time, he lost teeth over the course of his adult life, and being a wealthy man, he was able to have dentures. The replacement teeth in those dentures were not, as I was taught as a child, wooden teeth, but real human teeth from the mouths of slaves.

This is a story of the lives of the slaves whose teeth those were--in an alternate history where magic, including sorcerers, witches, and demons are real.