logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: maureen-mchugh
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2018-05-25 23:57
Fantasy Flights May Meeting - Nebulas
Six Wakes - Mur Lafferty
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter - Theodora Goss
A Stranger in Olondria - Sofia Samatar
Who Fears Death - Nnedi Okorafor
China Mountain Zhang - Maureen F. McHugh
Lord of Light - Roger Zelazny
All Flesh is Grass - Clifford D. Simak

Every month, I go to a book club that meets at a local taproom. Rather than reading a specific book, each month has a theme. May's theme was the Nebula Awards because, well, they are awarded in May. The Nebulas are one of those awards I've always been vaguely aware of from stickers on books, though I do enjoy Ceridwen's Blogging the Nebulas posts. I was a bit surprised to see how many previous nominees I'd read. I had to cull down to just a handful of recommendations. 

 

Here's what I ended up bringing from this year's ballot:

 

Six Wakes - Mur Lafferty. I wanted to read something on topic for the month, so I compared this year's Nebula and Hugo nominees. The overlap included Six Wakes, which I hadn't read yet, and is published by Orbit. The Hugo voter packet includes whatever publishers provide, and Orbit has traditionally included excerpts of nominees, not full books. Strategery! Turns out, I liked it quite a bit. 

 

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter - Theodora Goss. I read this one last year, and abso-fucking-lutly loved it. Great characters in an interesting concept, and there's a sequel out really soon. I was so happy to see it on an awards ballot. I won an auction for a signed copy that arrived a day before our May meeting.

 

I also decided, like I had when our theme was the Hugos, to bring some of my favorite losers. The awards hadn't been announced when we met, so I didn't even know my first two picks had lost. I would have brought Stone Sky, but I've rec'd to this group before. But here are some real losers:

 

A Stranger in Olondria - Sofia Samatar.  I adored this beautifully written fantasy novel about a book nerd's misadventures. The not-sequel is also amazing. Samatar's prose is just wonderful. My copy of this was signed here in Alabama, at a lecture she was giving MFA students in Tuscaloosa. Because if a master of the genre is going to make an appearance in my state, I can be a little late to work the next morning. Oh, since I'm late posting this, I can link to her recent AMA. This book lost to Ancillary Justice in 2014. But it did win a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, and a Crawford Award. Samatar also won the Campbell Award for best new writer. Her blog has since become private, so I can't link to her post about the WFA, but more on that in the next book.

 

Who Fears Death - Nnedi Okorafor. My copy of this is technically a gift for my niece. I got it signed at Worldcon in Chicago. She's almost old enough to read  it. This is a different indictment/celebration of fantasy than Samatar's, but no less powerful or wonderfully written. It lost to Blackout/All Clear in 2011, and I can't even. It did win a Kindred, and a World Fantasy Award that year, sparking an essay that eventually resulted in a redesign of the award statue 5 years later.

 

China Mountain Zhang - Maureen F. McHugh. I read this so long ago I don't have a review for it. It combines a vast scope with a well done character study. McHugh has done a lot of outstanding work, and this is no exception. This lost to Doomsday Book in 1993, but won a Lambda, Locus, and Tiptree.

 

Lord of Light - Roger Zelazny. This is one of those books that starts off firmly a fantasy, but reveals itself as science fiction, and the author is a poet. One of my favorite books. My current not for load copy is the leather bound Eaton Press edition. In addition to being a piece of goddamned art, this book was the cheesy sci-fi novel used as cover for the Canadian Caper, aka, the CIA operation in Argo. It lost to The Einstein Intersection in 1968, but won a Hugo that year.

 

All Flesh is Grass - Clifford D. Simak. Simak wrote at least three versions of alien invasions that followed roughly the same plot. This is the best one. A small town finds itself cut off from the outside world and some purple flowers are revealed to be extraterrestrials. Creepy and weird, it's worth a read if you're visiting that era of scifi. It lost to Dune in 1966, making it one of the first losers.

 

Next month's theme is Urban Fantasy.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-09-03 18:26
"After The Apocalypse" by Maureen McHugh
After the Apocalypse - Maureen F. McHugh

After The Apocalypse" is a collection of nine short stories that look at events in different near-futures after a disaster of some kind.

 

As you'd expect with Maureen McHugh, the stories tell us as much about the world we live in as the possible future being described.

 

She has a flair for looking at the world through the eyes of the disadvantaged, the marginalized and the at risk and an impressive ability to build future worlds and believable characters using very few words. Almost every story describes a near-future that stimulates, surprises and convinces and populates it with characters that I recognize and care about.

 

If you're not familiar with Maureen McHugh's work, this is a good introduction. If you're already a fan then these stories are a treat not to be missed.

 

I've given short comments on each story below to give you a flavour of the collection. Some of them are available on line if you want to sample them but to get them all, you'll need to buy the book.

 

The Naturalist

This is dark, surprising and not at all your average zombie story. In this tale of a Zombie Preserve being used as a prison compound cum death-by-zombie execution sentence, the walking dead are not the thing you should be afraid of.  I enjoyed the way this story makes the Rational Observer, so beloved of many science fiction stories, into something quite chilling.

 

Special Economics

This near future story is set in a post-plague China, faced with a scarcity of workers for the first time. It describes a brand of Corporate Slavery that was once common in the US and is now rumoured to be used when the US outsources work to less regulated nations.  It appealed to me because it showed how ordinary people will find a way to overcome the economic obstacles in their way.

 

Useless Things

This is one of the simplest and most powerful stories in the book. It is permeated with a sense of threat, of the real possibility of imminent loss. It captures the quiet desperation of living a life on the edge of an unstoppable slide into poverty and homelessness; of wanting to help others but being afraid that they will do you harm; of having little control and less hope; of having enough to lose to cause worry but not enough wealth to buy security. It's the perfect tale for Trump's America.

 

The Lost Boy: A Reporter at Large

This one didn't engage me. It felt like an essay on disassociative states and what they imply about identity. It was interesting but it didn't hook my emotions.

 

The Kingdom of the Blind

This is the most plausible story about the possible emergence of an AI "awareness" that I've read. It's mercifully free of anthropomorphization. There are also so nice points made about women in the coding world that made me think of the recent Google embarrassment.

 

Going to France

This is the shortest story and the most bizarre. I felt its pull but it was just a little too far out for me.

 

Honeymoon

I loved the first line of this:

 

"I was an aggravated bride."

 

It got me straight inside the head of the woman telling the story. She's a forceful working class woman, who's been working in McDonald's plus two other jobs that paid for her wedding. At first, it seems that she's leading a relatively unexplored life but as the story progresses and she faces some abnormal events, it becomes clear that she is making informed, even philosophical choices because that's the kind of person she is.

 

The Effect of Centrifugal Forces

This is told from multiple points of view. Unfortunately, the narrator didn't demonstrate this very well and I got confused from time to time. It's focused on people under pressure who can't hold themselves or their lives together.

 

After the Apocalypse

This is the strongest story in the collection. It showcases Maureen McHugh's ability to help us see the people in the situation and then help us to see the situation differently.

We've been saturated with post-apocalyptic worlds where we revert to something less than we used to be in order to survive. We've been fed tropes about tough survivalists and ruthless raiders and the crumbling remnants of an order that doesn't know it's already extinct. It's like we're practising for something that we expect to happen soon so that we'll know what to expect and what choices to make.

 

We've been saturated with post-apocalyptic worlds where we revert to something less than we used to be in order to survive. We've been fed tropes about tough survivalists and ruthless raiders and the crumbling remnants of an order that doesn't know it's already extinct. It's like we're practising for something that we expect to happen soon so that we'll know what to expect and what choices to make.

 

The achievement of this short story is that it humanises the tropes we've been taught. It shows us that, in other parts of the world, the apocalypse has already arrived and that the flood of refugees we are so used to seeing on the media could one day be us.

 

The story is told from the point of view of a woman on the road with her daughter, heading through an America without electricity or fuel or clean water or food or any of the things that Americans take for granted.

 

As they travel, the woman slowly comes to realise that everything she knew is gone. That even though she's an American, she's now just another refugee. Then she decides what to do about it.

 

Her situation, her reactions and her final choice seemed very real to me. After the apocalypse, we're still there, only the future we assumed we were entitled to is missing. Dealing with that realisation would tell each of us a great deal about who we have always been.

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-06-01 16:51
June TBR: Small Bear Press Month
Tyrannia: and Other Renditions - Alan DeNiro
North American Lake Monsters: Stories - Nathan Ballingrud
The Monkey's Wedding and Other Stories - Lizza Aiken,Joan Aiken
The Liminal People - Ayize Jama-Everett
The Fires Beneath the Sea - Lydia Millet
Fire Logic - Laurie J. Marks
Couch by Benjamin Parzybok (2008-11-01) - Benjamin Parzybok
After the Apocalypse - Maureen F. McHugh
The Child Garden: A Novel - Catriona McPherson
A Stranger in Olondria - Sofia Samatar

Last year I got a Humble Bundle of Small Bear Press books that I archived and never got to, so I'm dedicating June to at least testing out some of them. I read one last year called Stranger Things Happen that a lot of people seem to like but I hated it. A lot of these look good though. They seem really creative so I'm holding out hope. Once I finish Dragondawn, I will tackle this pile and see where it leads.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-03-03 02:21
Reading progress update: I've read 127 out of 201 pages.
After the Apocalypse - Maureen F. McHugh

Very interesting, tense story about AI.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-02-26 13:53
Reading progress update: I've read 85 out of 201 pages.
After the Apocalypse - Maureen F. McHugh

Then he tells me about how lucky it was that Hudson didn’t get picked up to be a bait dog for the people who raise dogs for dogfights.

 

This is weird: a week or so ago I was telling my dad people do this and his response was 'I believe you, I just thought there had to be an easier way to do this kind of thing.'   And we ended up talking about the legalities and the fact that if they went through immoral breeders who sold dogs for dogfights, weren't those guys more likely to get picked up by the police?

 

Just so you all understand: it was in the park, we saw a sign for a missing dog, and someone had told me a while ago she always side eyes those signs now.  Sometimes people who run dogfights, she explained, would put out signs like that, reward the people who found the dogs, and then take them off to either fight or breed for fights.   As soon as that came up, there was an immediate 'dogfights are disgusting.'   On both our sides.   My practicality in thought?   Comes from my dad.   So we can separate from that disgust, and talk about the best way for dogfighters to get dogs, but I think our thinking is if we - not just us two but the police, humanity as a whole, whatever - can understand these kinds of things, we can better put a stop to them.  Of course, we know nothing about dogfighting, including if it even happens around our area.   The talk eventually led to we've never heard about it around here, but of course that doesn't mean it doesn't happen around here.   

 

And then petered off into something else.   Silence?   Maybe him examining a plant?   Some other conversation?   I can't remember.   We had a lot of good talks that day, some of them shorter than the other.   That one just comes to mind now because I read this so soon after. 

 

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?