Recent reading from Shimmer, Tor.com, and more

Anna steps into the sleep chamber sidelong, eyes peeled, skin prickling, hands half-curled, ready to bolt. It’s a rush, an undeniable addiction. She loves to be about-to-fight.

The alien, frozen in glass.

No legs. Most of its body a long lash of tail, muscular, serpentine, a naga shape jacketed in scales firm and dark as stone arrowheads. Humanoid torso, slim, kinda ripped, arms shading down from sable to silver-white like long elegant gloves. Four fingers. Two opposed thumbs.

(It’s so—)

Where it should have a neck, a head, it flowers into snakes. Eight coiled snakes, bundled up, knotted tight. Sleeping. Anna imagines them at full extension, a committee of swan-necked vipers, a serpent coronet.

‘Anna Saves them All’ by Seth Dickinson (Shimmer, 2014). First contact, monstrosity, and brutally hard choices. It’s difficult to name my favorite story by Seth in any given year and this will have to fight ‘Sekhmet’ and ‘Our Fire’ at the end of the year for that spot, I think. Stunning precise prose, as always; I think this is his second piece this year that touches on monstrosity.

‘Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land’ by Ruthanna Emrys (Tor.com, 2014). This is quiet, pretty, and very charming portal fantasy – brief but full of wonder, and such a comforting joy to read.

‘Little Faces’ by Vonda N. McIntyre (Strange Horizons) is a reprint – the story was originally published in 2005. I think I asked for stories with sentient spaceships, and I got one! This is a universe of far-future posthumans where everyone has a spaceship of their own, sentient but not very talkative spaceships which converse with humans in limited binary language – true or false – though they have other ways of communication. I find this story interesting in the sense that its image of what far-future society is so different from my own; there’s a community but there’s no longer any sense of… cultural identity? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of them, so everyone knows everyone else and meets periodically for parties. I find the take on memory and inheritance interesting, and how it ties into reproduction and love.

‘Moths of the New World’ by Audrey Niffenegger. Yay! Books! Anthropomorphic books! Delightful, adorable humor. This is the most charming thing I’ve read anywhere.

Moths of the New World smiled. “What’s your title?”

He gave her an apologetic grimace. “Workers, Arise! I’m a pamphlet for union organisers to leave with the folks they’re trying to organise. I’ve got pretty snazzy artwork, though. Lots of red and black.”

The idea of getting to write things like ‘Workers, Arise! shook his head’ delights me very much.

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