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Book cover of Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Ninefox Gambit is a novel built from numbers. Big numbers. Deep space equations.

If, like me, your last encounter with serious maths was in the 90s then Ninefox Gambit may seem a daunting prospect. Stick with it — all those chains of calculation lead to some exciting places. A fortress of impenetrable ice. A spaceship helmed by an undead General. A world in need of change, revenge and justice. Forget those Statistics textbooks you used to doodle in. This is science fictional maths where there's space travel and explosions for everyone!

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Image of Hannah, Violet, Dee and Betty from The Rat Queens

In 2013, Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch's Rat Queens burst onto the graphic novel scene to a general cry of delight. As the blurb for Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery says, 'Who are the Rat Queens? A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they're in the business of killing all god's creatures for profit.' Basically, they're an awesome-sauce gang of outrageous ladies. With their overwhelming quest for a destructive good time, their battle lust, and their defiant fashion sense, the Rat Queens provided the kind of rowdy, confident female gang many fangirls just couldn't resist.

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When it comes to Kameron Hurley's work I've lost it; I'm a fully fledged fangirl and a fool for her words. I signed up for her newsletter and I actually read it—that's how deep I'm in.

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Birds eye view shot of Reza getting out of a car carrying a gun by Goni Montes

Tonight it’s Shelly.

If I were capable of having feelings since Angie disappeared, I might have some for Shelly. Not because she’s finer than the rest of them—she is fine though, don’t get it twisted—but because at the beginning of the night, when she crawls into the back of my Crown Vic all prettied up and glittery, she always catches my eyes in the rearview mirror and asks me how I’m doing. Not in the concerned way but not in the throw-off way either: She really wants to know.

Anyway, I don’t think she’s into women, especially not middle-aged skinny butch ones with salt-and-pepper hair and angry lines in their faces and the memories of long lost lovers dancing around their subconsciouses.

And anyway, I’m not sixteen anymore, in fact I’m not even forty anymore and I’m not here for the quick thrill of teaching straight girls that what they really want is this, this, and this. Been there, done that. Far too many times.
And anyway: Angie.

Gee I wonder why I'm writing about this story. Ugh, Daniel José Older this was unfair - "Anyway: Angie" triple teamed me and took me down within the first few paragraphs. It pinged my chrome-ass women sensor, threw a dapper lesbian in my face and hit the big red 'emotions' buzzer with the simplest of phrases. 'And anyway: Angie.'; words that express true and strong emotional devotion as easily as a simple shoulder shrug. After I finished this story, I had to restrain myself from sending enigmatic midnight tweets like 'Weeping - this title is perfection'. I just hope Older knows that with great power comes great responsibility.

However, it wouldn't be fair to draw other readers in without handing out some spoilers about this story. Renay, you're going to want these spoilers. Character death spoilers )
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cover of The Mussel Eater shows a woman with blood on her lips craddling a dying man

“You smell like the sea,” says Karitoki.

“What else would I smell like?” she says, and beneath the salt and the brine and the under-tang of shellfish is a faint, sweet odour of rot, of mussels left too long on the beach and under the sun, of the torn fragments left by seabirds, breaking open calcium carbonate and leaving fleshy feet to spoil. When he is done with her hair, he sits back and watches her coat herself with oil.

As part of their quest for world domination, The Book Smugglers opened their new publishing arm Book Smugglers Publishing in 2014. The theme of their debut collection was Subversive Fairy Tales and they published six original riffs on older stories from "Red Riding Hood" to Scheherazade's story in One Thousand and One Nights. So, far I've read two of these stories and I'm impressed by Ana and Thea's selections.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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