Fiction

Upcoming

‘Zeraquesh in Absentia’ on PodCastle.

‘And the Burned Moths Remain’ on Tor.com.

‘Synecdoche Oracles’ in Upgraded, edited by Neil Clarke.

‘Comet’s Call’ in Start a Revolution, edited by Michael Matheson (Exile Editions).

‘Chrysalises’ in Dangerous Games, edited by Jonathan Oliver (Solaris Books).

‘Ningyo’ in Phantasm Japan, edited by Nick Mamatas (Haikasoru).

‘The Governess and We’ in Steampunk World, edited by Sarah Hans.

‘When We Harvested the Nacre-Rice’ in Solaris Rising 3, edited by Ian Whates (Solaris Books).

‘Five Hundred and Ninety-Nine’ in The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures, edited by Sean Wallace.

2014

Scale-Bright, a novella from Immersion Press.

‘Paya-Nak’ on PodCastle (audio), read by Nina Shaharrudin. Love after death and snake women. Originally in Scigentasy.

‘Sixty Years in the Women’s Province’ in GigaNotoSaurus. Sixty years in the life of a girl born into the women’s country and the demon who drifts in and out of her life. Family, old age, mortality, and the compromises we make toward the end. 9,200 words.

‘Elision’ in La Femme, edited by Ian Whates (NewCon Press). A private detective is engaged to investigate mysterious footage where a woman dies again and again. 3,800 words.

‘Golden Daughter, Stone Wife’ in Beneath Ceaseless Skies (April 2014). An immigrant sorcerer, her lost golem, and a compromise of winter. Podcast read by Folly Blaine. 7,500 words. Subscriptions.

‘Autodidact’ in Clarkesworld Magazine (April 2014). A sentient starship, a psychologist, a soldier and the battlefield they make of one another. Podcast read by Kate Baker. 5,800 words. Subscriptions | Patreon.

‘Zeraquesh in Absentia’ in The Dark (Feb 2014). Weightless Books. A police officer and a private eye seek a missing person in the haunted city. 2,800 words.

2013

Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade in Clarkesworld Magazine (Dec 2013). Amazon | Weightless Books. A general is brought back from the dead to conquer the world of her birth. 5,200 words. Podcast read by Kate Baker.

  • Reprinted in Space Opera edited by Rich Horton (Prime Books).
  • Honorable mention in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois.
  • Translated to Serbian as ‘Tihi Most, Blijedi Slapovi’ in Sirius B #16.

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Scale-Bright! Reviews, availableness, eee

Scale-Bright (1)The limited hardback of Scale-Bright (Immersion Press) is now available through Book Depository, Amazon (UK | ES) and B&N. It’s very handsome *and* reasonably priced. If you are like me and prefer physical objects to have and to hold, this is also the only way to get the novella in paper.

The ebook can be preordered on Amazon (UK | ES), iBooks, Nook and Smashwords. Here’s a Goodreads listing and you can read the first chapter here.

I’ve been humbled by the community support, with special thanks for Mihai Dark Wolf’s Reviews, The Speculative Scotsman, The Book Smugglers, Aliette de Bodard, Maria Dahvana Headley and Cecily Kane. I remain deeply thankful to Ann Leckie for publishing ‘Woman of the Sun, Woman of the Moon’ on GigaNotoSaurus back in 2012, one of my very first stories written and later the seed for the novella.

‘Julienne’s bravest decisions aren’t made to prove herself worthy or her aunts, or to prove her love for Olivia, but to prove her worth to herself. Scale-Bright is a fabulous story and it’s only confirmed Benjanun Sriduangkaew as an author to watch.’ – Mieneke, A Fantastical Librarian

‘It’s going to be difficult to contain my excitement over this novella and in any case, why should I? It has everything going for it—prose that beautifully encapsulates both the fantastic and the mundane; deft storytelling that folds and combines three different stories into one; and a strong focus on relationships between lovers, friends and families. In addition: ladies kissing and fighting and finding themselves.’ – Ana Grilo, Kirkus Reviews

‘It’s clear, in any case, that Sriduangkaew’s craft translates to longer form fiction without losing any of its impact. Scale-Bright’s wonderful world boasts delicately drawn characters and an affecting narrative, bolstered on the sentence level by exquisite exposition and deft description. “A laptop tossed into the fountain [...] lies parted and silver, an oyster of silicon and circuitry,” and later, relatedly:

Houyi stands on the first letter of HSBC, ancient myth-feet resting on logo black on red, under which throbs a mad rush of numbers and commerce and machines: trades riding cellular waves and fiber optic, fortunes made and shattered in minutes. She does not shade her eyes.

Nor does the author.’ – Niall Alexander, Tor.com

‘La historia ante la que nos encontramos es una modernización de un mito chino desconocido para mí, con lo que el punto de la originalidad ya lo había conseguido. ¿Conseguiría mantener el interés en un formato menos condensado? La respuesta, afortunadamente, es sí.’ – Leticia Lara, Fantastica Ficcion

These delight me so much, not just because they are incandescently generous but also because they tell me I was able to communicate what I wanted. This is super happy-making! Writing is about communication and sometimes it’s hard to tell if I’m being clear, or if what I’ve to say is worthwhile rather than frivolous; the discovery that I have been able to get things across makes me giddy, and to find that there are readers who value and want to hear what I’ve got to say is joy beyond words.

What to expect

(That worked well, to my alarmed joy. I sparkled. ✧✲゚*。*☆ Was it the warrior god auntie?)

If you purchase the hardback, I’ll try to make sure you can have the ebook for free: no need to choose between the two! This can happen via Amazon Matchbook if you purchased your hardback through Amazon. Otherwise, get in touch with me with proof of purchase (in receipt or Tweet me a snap of the hard copy) and I’ll get you the digital copy, in any format you prefer!

The ebook edition has additional content: 3 short stories related to Scale-Bright, which I also collected in this (free!) sampler, The Archer Who Shot Down Suns. Please enjoy! Niall Alexander reviewed ‘The Crows Her Dragon’s Gate’ on Tor.com. Cecily Kane reviewed ‘Woman of the Sun, Woman of the Moon’. Dan Libris reviewed the same a while back, as part of their Queering the Genre project.

Why I hope you’ll give Scale-Bright a try

  1. To support Immersion Press (by getting the hardback). They’re a small, specialized press that produces lovely unusual things, most notably Aliette’s On a Red Station, Drifting.
  2. If my SF doesn’t work for you, Scale-Bright (or related stories) might! The novella doesn’t have even one stoic military commander. It does have cooking, lots of pretty visual details, and it’s my love letter to the magic of cities.
  3. Because Julienne, the lead of the novella, is a young woman with mood disorders and I wanted to write stories where people like her can have adventures and be happy too. All without becoming a prophesied savior or developing superpowers!
  4. Because I drew some inspiration from Spirited Away. Except with interstitial urban fantasy, family, and more grown-up troubles.

I’ll be guest posting here and there over the coming weeks about (but not limited to) the following topics – interconnected short stories, the weight of beauty in fictional women, gender norms in contemporary versus far future settings. If anyone would like a guest post from me or an interview, I’m always available!

Early August reading and other bits

‘The Tallest Doll in New York City’ by Maria Dahvana Headley (Tor.com, 2014). Magic realism where buildings unmoor and flirt at Valentine’s. This is fantastic – it’s stylistic, smart, and sweet.

‘The Saint of the Sidewalks’ by Kat Howard (Clarkesworld, 2014). This is a lot of urban fantasy fun, where wishes make saints and Chanel lipsticks become holy relics.

‘Chopin’s Eyes’ by Lara Elena Donnelly (Strange Horizons, 2014). The cultural context of this is rather unfamiliar to me, but it’s always so fascinating and educational to get a glimpse of foreign history! The story itself is very sensual, tempestuous.

‘That Tear Problem’ by Natalia Theodoridou (Kasma SF, 2014). Atmospheric, and involves unreliable memory, which is always relevant to my interests.

Not a story, but this piece on How to be Polite pleased me very much. It’s quirky and sweet and positive and makes wonderful lovely points.

Most people don’t notice I’m polite, which is sort of the point. I don’t look polite. I am big and droopy and need a haircut. No soul would associate me with watercress sandwiches. Still, every year or so someone takes me aside and says, you actually are weirdly polite, aren’t you? And I always thrill. They noticed.

Sofia took home the Campbell, most deservedly! Ramez Naam wrote why he’s optimistic about the future of SF. I feel I couldn’t have asked for a more excellent, thoughtful, and loveable Campbell class.

Giant huge enormous bursting clouds of yayness that some of my absolute favorite folks won – Kameron twice (!) for best fan writer and and best related work, Ann for Ancillary Justice (yes!), John Chu for ‘The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere’ and Mary Robinette Kowal for ‘The Lady Astronaut of Mars’. The awards ceremony sounded wonderful, with many nominees wearing rainbow ties (eeee) and fabulous dresses (Ana’s and Thea’s!) and things. I’m not sure why there was, errm, odd zooming in of foreheads though. Altogether, however, this is a sparkly, giddily delightsome time to be around!

On the novella front, Scale-Bright is now available for preorder! The hardback can be had through Amazon (UK | ES) and B&N, while the ebook – releasing 31 August – can be preordered on Amazon (UK | ES) and iBooks. I’ll blog in more detail about this in a few days. On Twitter I said, ‘It has kissing, demon ladies, and warrior gods trying to be aunties’. This has been surprisingly well received! ☆*・٩(^ᴗ^)۶*✲゚* (If you follow me on Twitter, I promise I’ll absolutely keep Tweets related to that to a minimum! Self-promotion mortifies me deeply).

An excerpt from Scale-Bright

Scale-Bright (1)Julienne’s aunts are the archer who shot down the suns and the woman who lives on the moon. They teach her that there’s more to the city of her birth than meets the eye – that beneath the modern chrome and glass of Hong Kong there are demons, gods, and the seethe of ancient feuds. As a mortal Julienne is to give them wide berth, for unlike her divine aunts she is painfully vulnerable, and choice prey for any demon.

Until one day, she comes across a wounded, bleeding woman no one else can see, and is drawn into an old, old story of love, snake women, and the deathless monk who hunts them.

Scale-Bright is a contemporary fantasy novella published by Immersion Press and introduced by Aliette de Bodard. Due out July 2014 in limited edition hardback, it blends Chinese myth, interstitial cities, and the difficulties of being mortal and ordinary when everyone around you has stepped out of legends.

Ebook edition is or will be available through Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Gumroad, and Kobo.


Julienne is in a crowded train when a man whose skin gleams smooth as stone appears to inquire after her heart’s desire.

He wears white paper creased into sleeves and robe, and on his head black paper folded into a cap. His faceted eyes are amber glass on an ivory face. But it is when the rush hour parts around him that his inhumanity becomes beyond dispute.

Smiling he bares blunt shoeshine teeth and again asks, “What is it that you long for best, that clenches teeth and claws over the ventricles of your heart?”

She ignores him, gazing out the window where the tunnel blurs by in a gray-black haze. Overhead, the indicator blinks green between one station marker and the next. Fortress Hill, Tin Hau. The man disappears before her stop. The crowd flows back into the space he left behind without ever acknowledging he was there.

Afterward she does not remember what the man looks like and his words fade. This is the first strange thing she encounters that day.

(Julienne does not count her aunts as strange. It would be rude, and they are the best relatives one could hope to have.)

In the afternoon, having spent her half-day off in pursuit of a low-calorie lunch, Julienne goes to work. Sunlight around her neck noose-tight, she encounters the second strange thing: a woman bleeding under the clock tower. She wears a vivid shade of good emeralds from eyeshadow to stiletto heels, marred by that one slash of red. The woman bears this coldly, eyes straight ahead, only now and then caught by a spasm that tautens her lips over her teeth. Her gaze catches Julienne’s and holds fast. Some ten meters separate them.

Julienne looks away, hurries into the Ocean Terminal where conditioned air loosens the heat’s chokehold and lets oxygen pass into her lungs again. There is a woman in so extraordinary a color; there is a woman who bleeds–and no one has noticed. So there must be no woman, or there is no blood.

Her aunts have taught her that Hong Kong is not quite the city she knows. Not half so safe; not half so dull.

She works, finishes, and has an indifferent dinner with coworkers in the food court. She buys pastel notepads and browses books at Page One, heavy hardcovers on architecture and interior design that take up far too much space to justify their purchase. The requirements of normalcy having been fulfilled, she makes her way out assured in her expertise of ordinariness. In the face of the peculiar it’s best to shore herself up in an ecstasy of the mundane.

At an hour bordering on too-late, she goes back to the harbor with its familiar smells of sea and fast food, with its crowds clustering around taxi and bus stops, salt-sweat of an evening. For the length of a hesitation, she pauses before the turnstile to the Star Ferry. She goes past.

The woman remains at the precise same spot, bathed in yellow light. Blood has stained her shoes and pavement an uncertain black. She remains upright, but she has become so pale her eyes look immense, tinted as though with expensive jades ground down to dust.

When the distance between them has shortened to nothing Julienne purses her mouth, licking off her lipstick, cloying mango-scent. “Do you need help?”

The woman blinks rapidly, shaking herself out of lassitude, setting herself on the correct side of consciousness. “I thought I’d bleed out my life before you overcame your cowardice.”

Julienne stares. “What?”

“You see a woman bleeding to death and don’t think to give her succor until the hours have passed, the sun has set, and she could well be lifeless carcass come the night? What barbarian are you? Did your mother and father teach you no courtesy?”

She inhales slowly. “Are you going to let me–“

“Yes,” the woman says, imperious, and falls into Julienne’s arms: a weight of green like emeralds, a smell of butchery thick as velvet.

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Real Techniques Silicone Liner Brush and Complexion Sponge

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This thing, ahhh! *_* I’m a little distraught nobody ever told me this exists or that this is a thing. Erm, in fairness, Real Techniques has only become recently convenient for me to purchase (thank you Luxola!), and so I’d mostly pined from afar for the wonder of easy to clean, non-shedding synthetic brushes that are very good to use and like kittens on the eye rather than sandpaper. This one though isn’t a conventional brush – there are no bristles. It’s a tapered silicone thing, in the same shape as conventional eyeliner brushes like the MAC 209. But silicone rather than bristles, that is.

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I can’t overemphasize how wonderful this is. It is genius. Life-changing. o(*゚▽゚*)o With no bristles, it doesn’t splay and cream or gel products don’t get stuck in it. No splaying means… the most perfect tightline with gel liners ever. The most perfect wings! (I also use it for precise cream eyeshadow application; would say it’s not good for smudging cream though, I would still use my finger for that… having said that, MAC Fluidline dries and sets so fast smudging seems futile).

Cleaning it is the easiest thing in the world, I swirl it in baby shampoo and water like most brushes, and everything comes off; spot cleaning can be done dry. And… I can just blot it dry with a kitchen towel! I don’t have to leave it out to dry, like normal brushes. It’s flexible enough to bend but firm enough to make super-precise line work super-easy. I don’t know about its durability (and I worry that if I wipe it too hard with a tissue it might come off?), but I imagine as long as I clean it gently it should last me a long while. The handle is relatively short though – I didn’t measure it, but compared to my MAC brushes, Real Techniques eye brushes tend to be about half an inch less. This makes them more travel-friendly, but storage can get annoying.

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My next Real Techniques purchase was the Complexion Sponge, also known as ‘the dupe for Beauty Blender except less than half the price’. It’s a different shape, though! While the Beauty Blender is a teardrop, this one is more… a teardrop with one side of the bottom cut off? It feels less firm than the BB and seems to bend more easily, though this doesn’t impede application. Like the BB, you soak it in water before use. I tend to daub foundation or BB cream on my face then use this to blend and spread, as pumping foundation on the sponge directly would just make it absorb most product. The finish I get is perfect, and even with thick foundation it doesn’t catch on dry patches.

Cleaning it is a little tricky – I’m inclined to invest in a solid Beauty Blender cleanser, though I hear it’s just normal soap? Sponges *always* absorb a lot of product by definition, though right now rubbing it against a bar soap then rinsing in warm water does the trick.

End of July reading

- Are we at Zhongshan Road yet?

- Not yet.

- Are we at Red Pavilion yet?

- We already passed it.

- Are we home yet?

- Guess.

A crisp and joyful braking sound.

‘The Mao Ghost’ by Chen Qiufan (Lightspeed, 2014). This is a bit of SFnal premise, a bit of magic realism, and all touching. I imagine part of it is authorial style, but Ken Liu as usual does such a fantastic job with the translation.

‘Loving Armageddon’ by Amanda C. Davis (Crossed Genres, 2014). A flash on a man with a grenade for a heart, and the woman who loves him. Short and poignant, and human.

After you leave the shrike and the remains of your brother behind, you lift your phone as you have many times before, to listen again to the last message your brother left you, on the day he decided to join. The words are as hollow as you felt when you first heard them. You thought a suicide note might be less painful, but you did not know what you could do, you never raised your voice against him, and now you walk away.

“How else do you see the stars, but to join the war?” he asks, distant and thin through the speakers. “I don’t know if you’ll understand,” a pause for breath, and you stop the message. You know how it ends.

‘Hymn of Ordeal, No. 23′ by Rhiannon Rasmussen (Lightspeed, 2014). Unsurprisingly, very much my kind of thing, second person and all! Brief but effective, absolutely vivid.

‘Perfect’ by Yukimi Ogawa (The Dark, 2014). I think this may be one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever read. It starts off with the really striking image of a magnolia dress (made literally of magnolias!). Unexpected love, body horror.

I’m otherwise reading Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone, having skipped ahead a little – I was in the middle of Two Serpents Rise, but the new one is newer and shiny, and has characters I wanted to see more of – so this takes priority! (Sorry, Max, I’ll get back to reading Caleb later).

I’m also making my way through my copy of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Vol. 8 (ed. Jonathan Strahan). Pictured here – yay contributor copies! (I have two. They’re huge! The size, roughly, of phonebooks if you’re old enough to have seen those, hee). I’m particularly looking forward to Ramez Naam’s story ‘Water’, Karin Tidbeck’s ‘Sing’ and M. Bennardo’s ‘The Herons of Mer de L’Ouest’ to name just a few.

The advantage of being so new to it all is that a lot of the writers here are new to me too, so this will be quite yay!

I also had a podcast reprint (my first!) go up this month – ‘Paya-Nak’ on PodCastle, read by Nina Shaharrudin. This is the story that was in Scigentasy last year, the text of which can be found here.

Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi

“Why did your sister hate ships so much?”

I shrugged. “It’s not ships she hates. She’s pretty indifferent to them, same way I’m indifferent to my toothbrush. It serves its purpose. What she hates is the idea that her own sister lacked talent for spiritual guidance. Even worse, I had no interest in trying to expand what little innate ability I had, to become metaphysically useful beyond repairing ships. Just not in my blood to be a spirit guide, I guess. She never understood why I’d choose to be an engineer when there’s a whole world of subtlety and magic to tinker with.”

One of the things that really make this book for me is the strength of the sibling relationship – there’s not-inconsiderable focus on it, and it’s just wonderfully complicated. There’s a huge gap in what they want out of life, from the world, the lifestyles they prefer. Nova has ‘been out here in the Big Quiet for over six years now, trading in magic. There wasn’t a spirit guide enthusiast in the system who didn’t know her name. Meanwhile, I woke up every day and struggled just to find work'; as the elder sister she is proud of her work as a spirit guide, to the point of self-absorbed, and unlike Alana she is sophisticated, rich, touching up Alana’s shop with markers of the luxurious life she wishes Alana could have partaken of without acknowledging that Alana *doesn’t* want to be like Nova at all: ‘the albacite tile Nova had installed when she bought the place. An unfortunate reminder that she’d gentrify the whole fringe if she could’.  Marre’s condition is well-done weird: ‘There could be no mistaking the patch of translucence that rippled across her left cheek, shivered down her neck. Muscle, tooth, tendon, and bone: a shimmer of anatomy beneath the invisible sheath of her skin.’ She fades in and out of reality, in pieces, and this condition will eventually kill her.

Broadly, though, I don’t feel I could really get along with Alana’s voice? This is down to personal preferences; I tend to prefer characters who are less loudly emotive, I think. Mileage will vary! The plot as a whole is rather compelling, and the impetus behind it – and the characters’ motivations – suitably urgent, even if I felt the plot twist didn’t have enough set-up beforehand. Still, there’s a lot in this book that I can appreciate!

(To my surprise, a few reviews noted the lack of technical details like spaceship speed and planetary population spread, which I don’t really think are prerequisites for something to be SF, or speculative; again, varying mileage, but I’d like to think that isn’t a majority view or I – and many authors I love – would be in trouble!)

‘Sixty Years in the Women’s Province’ up at GigaNotoSaurus; recent reads

New story online (at last)! ‘Sixty Years in the Women’s Province’ is up at GigaNotoSaurus. It’s a novelette, clocking in at around 9,200 words, making this the longest story I have written since the days I wrote things that went way over 10,000. I’m especially happy about this one since it’s markedly different from my usual: it’s fantasy (with a touch of portal?) and is a domestic slice of life, meaning this may be the closest I’ve ever come to writing literary fiction! The ‘sixty years’ is very literal – the story covers sixty years of a woman’s life with her family, a demon who goes in and out of her life, from youth to old age to mortality. No cheating this time, because the human characters are all ordinary, not augmented far-future soldiers, so sixty years is actually long, and by the end of it they’re actually old, pushing eighty. Beekeeping! Sherbets! A women’s country where they get pregnant by drinking water from a special river, and only girls are born. You may recognize this place. It’s a specific one, and doesn’t have much to do with the tradition of Russ or other older SF in women-only worlds.

(It’s from Journey to the West).

Leaning into Yingzhi’s shoulder she murmurs nonsense into her wife’s neck, and when they’ve found the place Yingzhi wanted her to see they spread out a blanket. They unbutton each other eager as newlyweds, and Xiaoli forgets what it is to feel forty-four, what it is to wake up to aching joints and a stiff back. She looks up at Yingzhi framed by grass and catkins, the hard strength of her delineated by greened sunlight, and knows herself to be the most fortunate woman born in the worlds that are and the worlds yet not.

Because I was strict about the timeline, this was a story where I had to keep careful track of the count of years, the ages of characters, and on. Some of them still might not add up, though. Erm. That’ll teach me to not do *that* again.

Speaking of novelettes, ‘Courtship in the Country of Machine-Gods’ other than making an appearance in World SF 3 has also been reprinted in the July 2014 issue of Apex – all 11,200 words of it! Meantime, Vajra let me know that some of my 2013 stories made the honorable mentions in Dozois’s year’s best; so I went to check. Proof that I didn’t hallucinate! (Or did I?)

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Which is most of my SF from last year! Yay! Some of my favorite people also included in the list: Vajra Chandrasekera for ‘Pockets Full of Stones’, Seth J. Dickinson for ‘Never Dreaming (In Four Burns)’, Karin Tidbeck for ‘Sing’ and ‘A Fine Show on the Abyssal Plain’, Kameron Hurley for ‘Enyo-Enyo’, Aliette de Bodard for ‘The Angel at the Heart of the Rain’ and ‘The Weight of a Blessing’, E. Catherine Tobler for ‘Grandmother of Ghosts’ and lots more. (I’m being a bit lazy, but I think I also spotted Rahul Kanakia, Indrapamit Das, and Priya Sharma too). I’m also pleased that there were kind nods for Clarkesworld, Clockwork Phoenix 4 (and many CP4 stories also made honorables!), and We See a Different Frontier.

Some recent reading, to start July off!

‘The Sewell Home for the Temporally Displaced’ by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed, 2014). Quiet and gently wrenching flash. I’m terrible at writing quiet stories, so I’m very glad when other people do it so I can enjoy them! *selfish* I joked about this with Sarah, which turned into this tweet.

That then got retweeted lots, to my confusion.

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‘Communion’ by Mary Anne Mohanraj (Clarkesworld, 2014). A quiet story, but we all need more quiet SF, I think – specifically this has to do with the aftermath of violence, crossing a cultural gulf, and the all-important question of genetic modification for the next generation. I wish the matchmaker concept could have been explored more, though, but it’s altogether a very interesting story.

‘The Madwoman of Igbobi Hospital’ by Tade Thompson (Interfictions, 2014). A ghost story, of sorts! I was going to say it’s a list story, but it’s not, I don’t think? More that it’s told in short sections. There are little turns of phrase I really liked, like ‘a congregation of coughs’.