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[personal profile] bookgazing
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“Petra,” I said. “Hey. Hey from Spain.”

“Happy Apocalypse,” she said. “Hope you don’t mind me calling. It’s kind of a tradition now, you and me and the end of the world.”

“I’m coming home,” I blurted.

“Yeah?” Her voice lifted happily. Behind it, there was music, something choral and ancient–sounding.

“Yeah,” I said, and I pressed my free hand to my eyes to keep them dry in the chilly Spanish wind.


I found Claire Humphrey's "Four Steps to the Perfect Smoky Eye" smart and layered, so when I saw that someone had added another story of hers to our Hugo (2014-2015) spreadsheet I jumped right on it. "The End of the World in Five Dates" is rather different in form to "Four Steps to the Perfect Smoky Eye" - like "Four Steps to the Perfect Smoky Eye" it's built around linked episodes and follows one set of characters, but "The End of the World in Five Dates" skips through time quite quickly and requires the reader to follow some sharp story jumps.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Stories are transformative and powerful. What stories brought us to the place we're at in the world? What stories changed us, challenged us, and made us dream? What stories are waiting to become our new favorites? Where will those stories take us in the future? Maps & Legends brings a wide array of different people together to talk about stories in all their myriad forms and to share stories they loved so others can find their way to them, and perhaps, find the same enjoyment in them, too.


For the first iteration of Maps & Legends, we wanted to throw the field wide open. We love recommending stories we've liked to people, especially when there are no specific requirements. We wanted to know what books people would enthusiastically recommend to others if there were no limits. What books are on your auto-recommend list?, we asked this time around. This is what everyone graciously shared with us. :) — Renay Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Sidetracks is a collaborative project featuring various essays, videos, reviews, or other Internet content that we want to share with each other. All past and current links for the Sidetracks project can be found in our Sidetracks tag.


Read more... )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
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Everyone thinks my brother is nice. He set up a rescue centre for birds, after the terraforming accident poisoned the lake. That's always the image of him, holding a bird covered in sludge. The birds are never the same after they're cleaned, but the gossips never talk about that.


Polenth Blake's "Never the Same" is a strange, dark story that shows the importance of shaking up well used SFF narratives and introducing radically new fictional voices. It's also a story that left me wondering if I could trust anything that I'd read, and yet still weirdly satisfied by what I'd read.

A little like "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" it's difficult to analyse "Never the Same" without giving away all the story's secrets, so consider this your spoiler warning.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Clare & Renay's Adventures in: Xena


In a time without a Black Widow movie on the horizon, two fans in turmoil cried out for a heroine. She was Xena, a mighty female protagonist forged in the fires of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The action, the camp, the queer subtext. Her adventures will rock their worlds.


Xena: Episode 102, "Chariots of War"


Clare: Because "Chariots of War" doesn't have any worldbuilding or character introduction to do, there's a little less territory to cover here. Xena discretely deposits Gabrielle in an inn before wandering off to do… something? Because of the camp nature of the show, I tend to riff when I watch the episodes, so riff!Xena clearly abandoned Gabrielle. But I'm not sure what actual Xena was up to before she wandered across the peaceful village.

The episode's character development reaffirms the basic Xena and Gabrielle dynamic: Xena is hard and closed off, Gabrielle is soft and open. But they both get love interests this episode to prove these things. Darius is a father and a committed pacifist, representing the domestic sphere that Xena wants but can't allow herself to have just yet. The best way to represent these conflicting emotions, of course, is for Xena to put on his dead wife's dress in soft lighting and bad weather. (Also, dressing a woman in your dead wife's clothes is not going to convince anyone that you're not sleeping together.)Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Fanwork is awesome and sharing fanwork is even more awesome. Join us as we keymash and squee over our favorite fanwork, from fic (both written and podfic) to art to vids and meta and back again.


Recommendations included:
  • Jurassic World — art (1)
  • Merlin — gifset (2)

On to the recs! )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
I had a lot of time so I read the newspaper. I read all of the latest news about the killer. He was supposed to be a young white man, blond, blue-eyed, hazel-eyed. He was supposed to drive a silver car, a beige car, a white car. He had been hunting here for months, years. He was likely to have no criminal record.

He caught another girl. Her school picture was on the front page. She had the same long hair as the others, bangs hairsprayed into a neat puff, braces on her teeth, a uniform sweater-vest. She'd been on her way to a music lesson, and they found her violin case, empty, tossed into the ravine. No fingerprints.

Dad said, "You'd better be thankful you aren't out there, walking the streets."

Blue, white and red Short Business logo


The town in Claire Humphrey's "Four Steps to the Perfect Smoky Eye" is plagued by a serial killer who targets young women, so Beck's dad buys a safekeeper; a protective device that clamps into a vein on the wearer's arm. The safekeeper shoots electricity at attackers and reports any physical violence against its wearer to pre-programmed numbers. Getting Becks fitted with the device looks like a protective act of parental love and concern on the part of her father, but the reader can see immediately that this 'protection' is at best misguided as Becks is worried and feels pain as the safekeeper attaches itself:

"Oh. I thought it was going to be one of those tennis bracelets," I said, trying not to freak. But by the time I got the words out my dad had my wrist wrapped in his big solid hand, and he snapped the safekeeper on and it was too late.
The safekeeper bit like a viper, the teeth on the skin side finding my vein and latching there. The seal was good enough that no blood ran out, but it hurt like a bitch.


Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Today, Memory - the lady that comics built - explains the mysteries of the Hugo's Best Graphic Story category, and reveals ten award eligible comics she loves.

My name is Memory and I'm a vocal comics-lover.

This being the case, Jodie invited me to come by this week and talk to y’all about the Best Graphic Story category at the Hugo Awards. I want to say a bit about what qualifies for the award, how you (yes, you!) can nominate your favourite comics, and which 2014 releases I particularly recommend you check out.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
Book cover of Fortune's Pawn shows Devi's face inside helmet overlaid with LED information screens


This year, Here Be Books is running an SFF Women Book Club. Their January pick was Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach.

As you may remember Renay quite liked this one, and her review convinced me to read Fortune's Pawn at the start of 2014 before the whole trilogy was even published. Getting me to start an in progress series that isn't The Raven Cycle is quite the bookish feat of strength.

I felt like I needed a refresher before reading the rest of the trilogy, and this new book club provided the perfect reason to dive back into Bach's comfort blanket of fun, high action, romantic space adventure. I wasn't able to join the Twitter discussion, but Here Be Books created a set of discussion questions for bloggers so here I am, running late, offloading my (many) feelings about the hard drinking Devi, her overprotective love interest, and the crew of The Glorious Fool.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
I'm engaged in an ongoing battle with Kate Elliott's backlist. Currently, her backlist is winning. I've knocked out the Spiritwalker trilogy, Jaran, Spirit Gate, and now part of The Very Best of Kate Elliott for a total of 5 (and a half). Only 17 more to go (19 if we count the upcoming Court of Fives and The Black Wolves). Is there anyone out there who has finished everything? Did they ever return from their quest? I feel like everyone who does should get a celebratory ribbon or certificate of some kind. I may print myself one when I finish. She's written nineteen fucking books not to mention ancillary content and short fiction. Why is she not a guest of honor at every single convention in the United States? Get it together, SF convention culture, geez. Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Sidetracks is a collaborative project featuring various essays, videos, reviews, or other Internet content that we want to share with each other. All past and current links for the Sidetracks project can be found in our Sidetracks tag.


Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Still waiting for an invite to the short fiction party? Well let us dispense with the formalities, sweep you inside and get you the beverage of your choice!

Today, Short Business features blogger and short fiction enthusiast forestofglory who's keen to tell you all about her favourite short fiction of 2014. Whether you're planning to nominate short work for the Hugo Awards or just looking for a great story to read, let this post guide you through a variety of excellent options.


Red, white and blue short business logo


One of the best things about my participation in the Hugo Awards is that it has lead me to realize how much awesome SFF short fiction is being published. As I’ve become more aware of SFF short fiction as the number of authors and online magazines I follow has increased. I am now much more aware of new things that I want to read. This year I’ve read an impressive amount of short fiction. I’ve read about 85 works online and 4 anthologies, plus collections which included original work. Of course I still haven’t read anything like all the of short SFF work published this year. There is just so much!

Anyways, based on what I’ve read here are my favorite short works from 2014. I’ve divided them by length based on Hugo categories. If you have nominating privileges this year I hope you’ll consider nominating some of these stories. And even if you aren’t a World Con member I hope you’ll read and enjoy some of these works.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Starting this year, we've decided to launch a monthly post looking back on all the things we've accomplished after being pleased with how great our 2014 accomplishments. We're big believers in celebrating the work we've finished — content production can be tough, even if it's fun! It's easy to convince ourselves we didn't do enough instead of being proud of the great things we did do. Onward! Looking back over January 2015 )
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[personal profile] helloladies
In a time without a Black Widow movie on the horizon, two fans in turmoil cried out for a heroine. She was Xena, a mighty female protagonist forged in the fires of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The action, the camp, the queer subtext. Her adventures will rock their worlds.


Clare & Renay's Adventures in: Xena


Xena: Episode 101, "Sins of the Past"


Clare: As I've mentioned, I did not watch Xena: The Warrior Princess growing up, what with being raised by Anglophile French wolves. I did give the pilot a shot a few years ago in college, but I found Gabrielle so annoying that I couldn't make it into the second episode. Luckily, that changed this time around!

Renay: The most I knew about this show is that two of my friends were in love with it and wrote lots of self-insert fic about it, and later, I would discover, lots of Xena/Gabrielle fic that was SUPER GAY but they were always like "no! they're just friends!" even though by that time I was already pretty deep into slash fic and going "wow, this is SO GAY, guys!" I never watched the show because a) I didn't have the right channels and b) I was really bad at serialized shows. I'm better now because of DVD boxsets and Netflix/other streaming, because as all the shows I'm watching now are proving, I'm still REALLY BAD at serialized shows. Waiting is THE WORST. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
I first heard of Station Eleven via Ana's recap of a book event she went to, where the subject of the the importance of art after dramatic and catastrophic events were discussed in the context of the novel. This book has a lot to say about art, popular culture, and the stories that will persist after a worldwide disaster, and I thought the discussion Ana summarized was excellent. I decided to pick the book up to see if the contents held up to the ideas Ana shared in her post.

cover of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. (source)


I've heard this book called a optimistic version of The Road, which means very little to me since I didn't read The Road. I do agree with the charge of optimism post-reading. Maybe if you've read The Road that's a good indicator of enjoyment, but if you haven't, well, there's a movie version and Viggo Mortensen looks dirty and worried in all the pictures and clips I've seen, which may help clarify the subject matter at hand. Or maybe you only like dirty Viggo Mortensen, in which case, godspeed to your streaming service of choice, my friend. Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Fanwork is awesome and sharing fanwork is even more awesome. Join us as we keymash and squee over our favorite fanwork, from fic (both written and podfic) to art to vids and meta and back again.


Recommendations included:
  • Agent Carter — art (3)
  • Captain America — art (2)
  • Frozen — art (1)
  • Hawkeye — art (2)
  • Robin Hood (Disney) — art (1)
  • Stargate — cosplay (1)
  • Teen Wolf — art (1)


On to the recs! )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
How to tell your fake boyfriend you would like to become a robot:

1. Tell him, "I would like to be a robot." You can also say, "I am really a robot, not a female-bodied biological machine," because that is closer to the truth.

2. Do not tell him anything. If you do, you will also have to admit that you think about ways to hurt yourself so you have an excuse to replace body parts with machine parts.

3. Besides, insurance is unlikely to cover your transition into a robot.


A Merc. Rustard's "How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps" reminded me strongly of last year's Hugo contender "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love". Charming, quirky, artfully secretive, and with a similar melancholic emotional pull to Rachel Swirsky's story, "How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps" is for everyone who enjoys literature, robots, and crying in inappropriate places.

Read more... )

"How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps" is available for free at Sciegentasy magazine.

Other Reviews

Susan Hated Literature
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[personal profile] renay
I've been driving everyone around me up the wall with my complicated reactions to City of Stairs, a fantasy novel that dropped last September. I'm still a little angry about it, but less so now that I have some distance from my immediate reaction of "NO!!!", followed by ugly crying, followed by fuming for hours. When I meet a story that's so wonderful, and I love all the characters, the adventure is fun, the setting is fascinating, and there's a rich sense of history to the world, I want it to be perfect so I can recommend it without reservation. This is another good example of what happens when a book you love just hauls off and socks you in the jaw. Not maliciously, but as we all know, we don't read stories in a vacuum!

City of Stairs is doing so many things right that I'm crushed over the fact that I came away from the book so conflicted. I went through this with God's War by Kameron Hurley, too, where I had to leave the book alone for awhile because I was just so utterly disappointed that everything I loved also existed with one story element that made me so unhappy. Everything we love is problematic, the saying goes, so what's the right balance? What do we do with otherwise excellent books that repeat troubling patterns? Because obviously burning them in a pile while crying bitterly isn't cost effective or a good way to not smell like dead, burned books. Also, you just burned all those other parts you loved. Crap.

cover and blurb )

Shara Thivani, who comes to Bulikov with her secretary, Sigrud, to investigate the murder of historian Efrem Pangyui, is so wonderful. I loved her immediately after her first scene with her Aunt Vinya, a politician of note in Shara's home country of Saypur. She's intelligent and clever, but a little bit arrogant and condescending, too. In a scene very early on she talks about jingoism and is rather holier-than-thou about it, which is fascinating as the story that follows dismantles her self-satisfaction over being better than the people who engage in the sort of overt patriotism versus her own, more shadowy version. She's compassionate and kind, but she has important things to learn about the policies she's been enforcing, and it's a treat to go along with her as she unravels the mystery of what's happening in Bulikov and on the Continent itself. Her companion, Sigrud, is interesting on an interpersonal level because how are these people, of all the people in the world, partners? But he's also delightful — he got some of the best action sequences. There's multiple professional and personal relationships here between women like Mulaghesh and Vinya, as well, which is so wonderful. The top Saypuri leaders we get to know are all women, which was extremely satisfying. If they cut each other down or challenged each other, it wasn't because they were women, it was because they were politicians.

But to me the heart of the novel is about history — both personal and national — and how history can shape so much of what we do and who we are, and what the consequences are if we learn new things about history and misuse that information. What kind of people do we become when we learn new truths or have what we think we knew challenged? We often have a choice, and that choice has far-reaching consequences much longer and more influential than we can see. What's more important: the truth or our egos? People or power?

City of Stairs is lively in its writing, canny with its revelations, and boasts a crunchy critique about colonialism that unfolds until the very end, all wrapped up in an intriguing spy narrative package. Even in dark moments there is hope, friendship, love, and compassion. I enjoyed it so much. A summary:

PEOPLE IN POWER: Shara, don't do it.
SHARA: I did it.

and

SHARA: Vohannes, no.
VOHANNES: Vohannes YES.

and

BAD GUYS: *terrible actions*
SIGRUD: *silent decision to beat some guys down*
SHARA: Oh, not again...

But I have some caveats. Although, when don't I? 10,000 points to the person who can name the last book I didn't have caveats over. Character spoilers beyond this point. )

Special Thanks!


To Sunil ([twitter.com profile] ghostwritingcow) for assuring me I wasn't a jerk, and providing excellent edits. ♥

Other Reviews )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Sidetracks is a collaborative project featuring various essays, videos, reviews, or other Internet content that we want to share with each other. All past and current links for the Sidetracks project can be found in our Sidetracks tag.


Read more... )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
Once, upon a lime, there was a frog.

This frog was the most handsome in all the land, the only frog able to balance his thin green body upon the fat round fruits that fell from Salima Sultan Begum's handsome lime trees. He pressed his candy-yellow toes firmly into the green skins and rolled to and fro and fro and to, all the while chirruping, because the empress also loved the sounds of her garden. This he knew as he was a gentleman frog, and it was important to know the likes and dislikes of one's empress. He, being the only frog, put on a certain show.


Here we are - only the second Short Business post of 2015 - and I've already got to talk about I don't quite get a short story. I've read E. Catherine Tobler's "Once, Upon a Lime" twice now, and I'm still not really clear what it means to give to the reader and what it expects back. Oh well, I suppose there's nothing for it but to forge on and hope someone pops up in the comments with a bit more knowledge than me.

Read more... )

Once, Upon a Lime is available for free at Strange Horizons.

Supplementary Materials
Podcast: "Once, Upon a Lime" read by Anaea Lay

Other Reviews
Tangent Online
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Renay is a long time member of slash fandom and nerdfighteria who stumbled into book blogging by accident and decided she liked arguing with herself at length and in capslock — it was all downhill from there. more? » about.me icon twitter icon pinboard icon tumblr icon

Ana is a reader who’s been blogging about books since early 2007. After several abandoned career paths, she decided to become a librarian and currently works for a large public library system. more? » twitter icon tumblr icon last.fm icon

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