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.