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Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Saga, #1)Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is the first time I've listened to Shards of Honor rather than reading it, and it may have made the experience even better. (Or at least easier to fit into a busy summer!)

Shards is the opening volume of Bujold's Vorkosigan saga. Without spoiling any of the plot for first-time readers, suffice it to say that it offers a remarkable, character-driven space opera read, with a central (but never intrusive) romance between two actual grown-ups. It also has some of the loveliest ending lines of any SF novel around.

Lois McMaster Bujold just won a Best Series Hugo Award for these books. It was richly deserved.






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The 2017 Rhysling Anthology: The Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Poetry of 2016 Selected by the Science Fiction Poetry AssociationThe 2017 Rhysling Anthology: The Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Poetry of 2016 Selected by the Science Fiction Poetry Association by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This year's Rhysling Anthology offers an excellent snapshot -- make that a whole photo album, or rather a 200 page perfect-bound trade paperback -- of the current state of speculative poetry.

Trends I noticed this year include a swing away from formal poems (though there were a few), a more mainstream tone, and an increased use of mythology outside the traditional Greek/Roman /Norse pantheons. Strongly narrative verse continues to be favored, and pure science fiction (as opposed to fantasy, dark /weird, or "other") seems to be making a comeback.

The overall quality of the poems this time around is impressive. So is the variety, which means most readers are unlikely to enjoy each and every one -- but will assuredly have their horizons expanded.





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Tor.Com http://www.tor.com/ is celebrating Space Opera Week (yes!). Author Judith Tarr has contributed an article of particular interest to those of us intrigued by women's literature:


"From Dark to Dark: Yes, Women Have Always Written Space Opera"


http://tinyurl.com/mfhyeus


This one's worth every minute of reading time, but be warned. It is loaded with useful, fascinating, & time-eating links on female writers of space opera, gender inequalities in the field, & even the Smurfette Principle (of which I was totally ignorant until today).



http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheSmurfettePrinciple
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I don't usually post about crowdfunding projects, but I've recently backed one (also rare for me!) that I'm pretty excited about.

Tony C. Smith of the District of Wonders podcasts is doing a Kickstarter for a new SF/F anthology.  It's entitled Everyone: Worlds Without Walls.  Its stated goal is to:

explore and celebrate how we are greater together – and, conversely, the need to tear down walls of ignorance, prejudice, and injustice.

The TOC for this one is international, diverse, & impressive -- and will expand as stretch goals are met.   Dr. Amy H. Sturgis[livejournal.com profile] eldritchhobbit will be writing the introduction. At this point, there are 21 writers involved!

With 10 days to go,  the project's original goal and one stretch goal have been met.  Pledge levels range from the extremely reasonable -- which gets you a e-copy of the anthology -- to more generous amounts for additional rewards.

All details, including that expanding TOC, can be found here.

(Full disclosure: I am backing this, but I am not one of the writers or otherwise involved with the project.)
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Issue #22 of Eye to the Telescope, the SFPA's online journal of speculative poetry, has gone live!

In keeping with the season, this is the "Ghosts" issue. Edited by Shannon Connor Winward, it offers 27 spectral poems ranging from Gothic horror to folktale to spooky SF. There's a range of forms as well, though this issue runs pretty heavily toward free verse.

And, yes, Yours Truly does have something here: the terza rima sonnet "New World Haunting."
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If you're a Sinclair Lewis fan, a dystopian devotee, and/or a political junkie of any stripe, StarShipSofa's most recent segment of Looking Back on Genre History is a must listen.

In Episode # 451, Dr. Amy H. Sturgis[livejournal.com profile] eldritchhobbit offers an entertaining -- if chilling -- discussion of Lewis's 1935 dystopian novel It Can't Happen Here. Lots of fascinating background on the book's origins, with (I think) a minimal number of spoilers. I haven't read this one yet myself, but it's just gone to the top of my Kindle's virtual Read Soon pile.

Find the episode here, or on iTunes.
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I'm a day late for her birthday, it seems -- but there is no bad day to post about James Tiptree, Jr., & I only stumbled across this very informative article on Tor.com today.

What James Tiptree, Jr. Can Teach Us About the Power of the SF Community

If you aren't (yet) familiar with Tiptree's groundbreaking work -- most of it short fiction -- Tor.com also has a link for that!

Where to Start with the Works of James Tiptree, Jr.

Either way, happy belated birthday to one of the most unique voices in women's SF.

Or SF, period.
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The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was a reread for me, though I originally read it so long ago that little had stayed with me beyond a good dystopian chill. It still has that, of course – and, if anything, that chill has settled deeper.

What it also has, however, is marvelously lyrical prose. Atwood is also a poet, and most of the book’s descriptive passages reflect this. It’s a bit odd to find yourself stopping in the middle of a truly bleak novel to admire the beauty of the writing, but I did this time and again.

Rereading this after at least a couple of decades also gave me an entirely different view of the main character. In a society obsessed with fertility, older women have few options and little worth aside from their husbands. Younger women have a different, if equally limited, set of options. Which side of the age divide the reader is on matters a lot! To be fair, there’s an age divide for the male characters in this novel, as well. Atwood may not draw it as clearly, but it is no less real – and I suspect male readers will experience it more fully than I did.

A recommended reread (as well as a first read) for fans of literary dystopias, or still-edgy feminist spec fiction.




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I’ve been traveling, so this announcement of the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s 2016 Rhysling Awards is more than a little belated . . .

But is there ever a bad time for good news?

Check out the complete results here. (Maybe check the results for Long Form first.)

And, if you feel so inclined, you can still order your own copy – print or PDF -- of the 2016 Rhysling Anthology here. 176 pp. of nicely produced spec poetry goodness!

(Profound apologies for the fizziness – but whenever a formal Lovecraftian sonnet sequence can get this sort of recognition, it’s time for a Grateful Happy Dance.)
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Earth Day
the archived hologram
flickers


-- Ann K. Schwader
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Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (Vorkosigan Saga, #16)Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


It’s almost impossible to review this one without spoilers. Suffice it to say that this is what fans of the Vorkosigan universe have been waiting for since the ending of Cryoburn.

Set three years after those events, this is a lovely, strange, and mature romantic comedy with science-fiction packaging – some of that quite thought-provoking. It is also a Secret History of the Aral / Cordelia marriage, an advanced course in Betan vs. Barrayaran thinking, and a number of other delightful things, all delivered with style and wit.

What is isn’t is the sort of space opera Bujold does very well. It took me a few chapters to realize this wasn’t forthcoming, and I was slightly confused until I did. I also suspect that this book may resonate more with readers who are parents than with those of us who aren’t. However, it’s a must for all fans of this series – and very likely to result in frantic rereading of the earlier books.




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The Left Hand of DarknessThe Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


First published in 1969, Le Guin’s classic novel of gender, diplomacy, friendship, adventure, and heartbreaking choices on an Ice Age planet is as fresh as ever. SF readers who prefer a “full immersion” experience -- or anyone who appreciates hard questions combined with jaw-droppingly lovely prose – should not miss it.

This was my second reading. I suspect it would reward several more.




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Staff blogger Diane Severson’s[livejournal.com profile] divadiane1 latest post is up at the Amazing Stories site, & this time she’s offering a themed November 2015 Round Up.

Entitled Women Destroy Hard SF Poetry!!! ( title permission granted by John Joseph Adams), this comprehensive look at women writing verse on the harder end of the SF spectrum includes links to work by 22 poets. Five are featured, and one of those five is Yours Truly. Here’s the full list:

Lisa Timpf
Roxanne Barbour
Landon Godfrey
Wendy Van Camp
Sarah Blake
Margaret Rhee
Ruth Berman
Ann K. Schwader, featured
Marianne Dyson, featured
F.J. Bergmann, featured
Christina Sng, featured
Liz Bennefeld, featured
Deborah Guzzi
Renee M. Schell
Lark Bertran
Deborah P. Kolodji
Marge Simon
Stephanie Wytovich
Snigdha Chaya Saikia
Ada Hoffmann
A.E. Ash
Bronwyn Lovell


Though I don’t generally consider myself a hard SF writer, I do enjoy taking inspiration from the sciences (astronomy is a favorite), and I’m delighted to be part of this distinguished sisterhood. There’s lots to read – and think about – here!

ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I love SF. I love Mars, and the whole idea of going to Mars.

But somehow I just couldn’t quite love The Martian.

I suspect this is due to my own limited tolerance for very hard SF, or the level of geekery required to rescue Mark Watney after he gets stranded. Certainly Andy Weir does his best to make Mark likeable and quotable, on subjects ranging from duct tape to Martian agriculture. I had no trouble believing that the science was at least feasible. And I did enjoy experiencing (as closely as anyone would probably want to) life in the Hab.

Unfortunately, every exciting turn of events seemed to be followed by several pages of technical detail. I skimmed what I could, understood not much of it, and felt a bit frustrated by the time the problem was solved and the plot continued. Though I cared enough about all the characters to want them to succeed, it was a relief in more ways than one when they finally did.





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I haven’t posted about this poetry project before, because I wasn’t at all sure when it would be available . . . but I’ve finally been told that it’s coming out for Lovecraft’s 125th birthday.

Which is August 20th!

Dark Energies is my first collection of poems since 2011 -- and my first collection ever published in Australia, from P’rea Press. It’s a little over 100 pages of Lovecraftian, cosmic, archaeological, historical, & just plain weird darkness, including a brand-new sonnet sequence for Keziah Mason. The cover and elegantly creepy black & white illustrations are by David Schembri, with preface and afterword by S.T. Joshi and Robert M. Price, respectively. There’s also a short interview with me, done by editor Charles Lovecraft.

Dark Energies will be available in both paperback & hardcover editions (another first for Yours Truly), with an ebook format to follow later on.

If you’re attending NecronomiCon Providence 2015, Dark Energies will be available at the Ulthar Press table in the Vendors’ Hall. Otherwise, just check here for all the details – including how to preorder. (The current link is for the hardcover edition, but there are ordering options for both editions.)





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Whom the Gods Would DestroyWhom the Gods Would Destroy by Brian Hodge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This well-crafted bit of cosmic horror is a fine example of why the novella is an ideal length for the dark stuff. There’s no flab here to get in the way of Brian Hodge’s storytelling, though there is – and needs to be – a considerable amount of scientific information and theoretical speculation. (Have you ever heard of a von Neumann probe? I hadn’t, either.)

Although I wouldn’t call this story strictly Lovecraftian (it names no Names, & certainly doesn’t commit pastiche), I caught echoes of several of HPL’s more famous tales. An unwanted, uncanny heritage? Check. A creepy mother in league with something Not of This World? Check. Hypotheses that would make Fox Mulder roll his eyes turning out to be hideously true? Check . . .

All the same, there’s nothing warmed-over about the plot here. It’s an investigative thriller, a decent piece of SF, & an increasingly chilling horror tale all in one, with an ending I honestly don’t think I’ve seen before. Lovecraftians might enjoy this a little more than other horror readers, but it’s a solid two hours of entertainment either way – and the prose, though not flashy, never detracts. Recommended.




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I’m falling behind on my podcast listening this summer, so this notice is a week-plus late – but I wouldn’t want any Lovecraftians who read this LJ to miss StarShipSofa 390.

The whole episode is excellent, with dark SF by Allen M. Steele & an extensive interview with leading horror editor Ellen Datlow. However, the draw for devotees of the Bard of Providence is this month’s Looking Back in Genre History segment. Dr. Amy H. Sturgis[livejournal.com profile] eldritchhobbit discusses the history lurking behind Lovecraft’s “The Shunned House,” with glimpses into New England’s own brand of vampire mythology. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about HPL, but I learned a lot from this segment.

Find the episode here. As always, you can download it from the web site, listen online, or find it on iTunes. However you choose to listen, I wouldn’t miss this one.
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The 2015 Rhysling AnthologyThe 2015 Rhysling Anthology by Rich Ristow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



[Full disclosure: I have a poem in this anthology. I won’t be discussing it here.]

This year’s Rhysling Anthology (which serves as an awards voting tool for members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association) seems particularly strong. Offering nearly 160 pp. of speculative poetry in short (under 50 lines) and long (50 lines & over) form categories, it represents a good sampling of current styles, themes, and trends in this genre.

I found less emphasis on fairy tales and myths this year, and more concern with various sciences. A fair percentage of the poems read close to mainstream, though favorite SF tropes (starflight, extee colonies, aliens, etc.) are still going strong. Horror and dark fantasy – some of it Lovecraftian – also made a showing. I was interested to notice that several long-form poems this year were formal, either rhymed or in blank verse. There seemed to be an unusual number of poems inspired by other poems or authors, as well.

The anthology itself is a very nicely produced trade paperback, with full-color cover and generally good layout, though I did notice a few broken stanzas. All in all, it makes an excellent “yearbook” for lovers of spec poetry.




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Preorders are now being taken for Cthulhu Fhtagn! (ed. Ross E. Lockhart) , due out in August from Word Horde, & available from both independent booksellers & online retailers.

Signed copies can be preordered direct from Word Horde, here.

[Truth in LJing: why, yes, I do have a story in this one. “Dead Canyons” is a tale of Mars, the Mythos, & a slight nod to “At the Mountains of Madness” . . . all set in Boulder, CO.]

cthulhu_cov_sm-267x400.jpg
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teacher points
on the star chart
Earth Day


                           -- Ann K. Schwader

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