Birthday Q&A

This week’s video is me answering the weird and wonderful questions that everyone sent in over the last week. As ever there’s a (condensed) written version below the video if you don’t want to watch it.

There were lots of SFF themed things in there and lots of people interested to know where to start with my favourite genre so in addition to the video text I’ve also included a selection of links to some older videos where I recommend different things.

1. What’s your favourite Hugo award winning novel and why?
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (last year’s winner) because I’m still obsessed with it. But other than that it’s probably The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin because her writing is just so very good.

2. In the intro to his The Great Divorce, CS Lewis gives credit to an unknown scifi author for idea(s) Lewis then uses in his book. Who was this author & what book of hers or his did this idea/these ideas come from?
Charles F. Hall – The Man Who Lived Backwards published in Tales of Wonder 1938.

3. Are you into steampunk?
I’ve been known to enjoy it from time to time!

4. What did you want to be when you were growing up and what do you want to be now?
I was pretty appalling at thinking about careers as a kid. I once told my mother that I was going to be a vampire when I grew up. Possibly not such a valid choice this days. Now I am a grown up I still have no idea. 😀

5. What is your favourite episode of any Star Trek and why?
Time’s Arrow parts 1 & 2 (end of season 5, start of season 6). Because time travel and dressing up.

6. Who is your favourite Star Trek character?
Picard. Always and forever.

7. What was the first thing (tv show, movie, book) that got you into the genre to begin with?
It was books. Either THE SPACE MERCHANTS by Pohl & Kornbluth, or FOUNDATION by Isaac Asimov. I can’t remember which was first but they were both amazing. They were some of my dad’s books that I picked up as a kid and I just fell in love with the ideas.

8. From my mum – Dad says do you know what his favourite sci-fi books is?
No, I don’t. Which is weird. What is it?!

9. From my mum – What’s the only science fiction film I like?
Got to be Blade Runner.

10. Bearing in mind the Arthur C.Clarke quote “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”, how do you distinguish a science-fiction book from a fantasy one?
Okay, so there’s a pretty traditional explanation here which is that fantasy is something that could never be possible ever and science fiction could be maybe sort of possible one day (if you squint a bit and ignore some basic physics). To be honest, I think the genre lines are completely blurry and you can put them wherever you want.

11. Will you be reading the Hugo Award nominees again this year?
Yes, all of them.

12. Which science fiction books would you recommend for people who mostly read YA?
I’ve got a whole video on YA Science Fiction if you want to watch that. But also I’d recommend trying some bestsellers that just happen to be SF – READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline or THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir. Also classics like FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley and BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley.

13. What’s a food you can’t live without?
Gin. It totally counts.

14. What science fiction technology would be super beneficial to your life right now?
Some kind of super advanced robot to feed me and clean my house because I’m up to the eyeballs in coursework. But other than that some kind of super advanced medical technology to get rid of asthma would be lovely!

15. William Shatner or Patrick Stewart?
Is that even a question? Patrick Stewart.

16. To make a really good science fiction story does the science have to be accurate or will you forgive a fantastical story if the characters and plot are good?
I’ll totally forgive anything if the book is good. Science fiction should be fiction first. If I want to read pure science I’ll read a textbook.

17. Who is your favourite fictional character?
Helen Vaughn from THE GREAT GOD PAN by Arthur Machen because she’s badass.

18. What/why am I studying at the grand old age of 30?
As well as working in higher education, I’m doing a masters degree and it’s just super. I’m not at all stressed and overwhelmed and I find the topics scintillating. Hah. My thesis is about the impact of open access publishing on research funding in UK Higher Education. Can you imagine the lolz I have researching this? Can you?! :/

19. Least favourite book?

20. What do you envision your personal library looking like in the future?
A lot like it does now but moved around a bit. I tend to acquire and give away books on a regular basis so I don’t see myself having an ever-growing giant collection of doom or anything like that.

21. What’s your favourite space opera (book)?
THE EXPANSE series by James S.A. Corey. Though I do have a soft spot for FOUNDATION by Asimov.

22. Why science fiction?
Well there’s a hell of a question! And there are many possible answers. I spoke about one of them at the end of my science fiction history series when I said that it’s about looking into the maybes, the possible futures, the dreams of humanity. But also, I had this conversation once, about how Star Trek is basically the atheists vision of heaven because we don’t imagine anything for our own future. But for the future of somebody, of the world, it’s nice to see that it might possibly, maybe, go somewhere good.

23. What’s a good book for someone looking to get started in SF?
You can check out some of my old recommendations videos or just tell me the sort of things you like and I’m sure I can recommend something!
YA Science Fiction Recommendations
Fantasy recommendations
Science fiction and fantasy recommendations (very old!)
SFF without spaceships – recommendations

24. Who is your favourite villain and why?
Satan in PARADISE LOST by John Milton for having all the best lines.

25. Which villain would you most like to be?
One that didn’t get vanquished horribly!

26. If you could have a dinner party with four famous or notable people, dead or alive, who would they be?
Neal Stephenson, Kathleen Hanna, Ada Lovelace, Hedy Lamarr.

27. What was the first adult-themed (as in not teenagey, as opposed to sexy times) SF book that you really connected to?
Probably something like NEUROMANCER or IDORU by William Gibson. Science fiction but gritty and grownup and weird.

28. What are your favourite TV Shows?
Orange is the New Black, Deadwood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, King of the Hill.

29. If you could have any device/vehicle/shelter and any sidekick from and SFF novels what would they be and why?
A time machine from one of many time travel books. And Molly from NEUROMANCER because I think you’d probably need a badass ninja bodyguard when time travelling.

30. Favourite non-SFF book or genre?
Probably The Saint books by Leslie Charteris. But I’ve also got a whole video of my Non-SFF favourites if you want to see more.

31. Only physical books?
Nope, I’m happy with books in all formats.

32. Do you ever write SFF?
Nope, not a writer.

33. If you could meet your favourite alien character would you advise them to keep the ketchup in the fridge or the cupboard?
Mine is in the cupboard but I have no strong feelings either way.

34. Most view-changing book you’ve ever read?
NEUROMANCER because it was the first book I’d read that was so very unreal.

35. Which political climate that you’ve read about could mostly closely compare to the current day?
THE DIAMOND AGE by Neal Stephenson for it’s relevance to internet cultures.

36. What would you do if you sprouted a five foot long tail every time you laughed and it only disappeared when you stopped laughing?
Laugh a lot!

37. Character you wish you could give a piece of your mind to?
Dumbledore. Someone need to have words with that man.

38. What was the most awkward conversation you’ve ever had in a bookstore?
I had a very awkward conversation in a library trying to explain that it wasn’t a bookstore!

39. Favourite bands and musicians?
Varied things. I really enjoy stoner, doom, metal stuff like Sleep, Big Business, Black Sabbath. Also things like Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, FKA Twigs. And Russian choral music is another soft spot.

40. What’s a book you didn’t think you would like but really, really did?
AMONG OTHERS by Jo Walton.

Holy hell, that was a lot of questions.


Little facts about SF | Sorry time

This week’s video is a selection of odd facts about science fiction. If you’ve watched all my videos in the past you may recognise some of them from different places and if you’re interested by the weird SF history facts then definitely try watching my Science Fiction History series. But along with facts I also take you along to see a random day in my life. So yeah. But if you just want the facts (and no happy fun times – you misery!) then they’re all here underneath the video.

Also huge apologies for basically abandoning my blog this week. I’m trying to adjust to the terrifying course-load that is going on this semester and it’s hardcore. But hopefully I will get the hang of working without a break and never sleeping at some point soon and then it’ll be a-okay. (If you can sense the exhausted manic sarcasm in that sentence then here’s this one telling you that it was sarcastic and I’m dyinnnnnnnnnng.) But whatever.

Also, I’m (very slowly) reading The Female Factory  by Lisa L. Hannett & Angela Slatter and it’s SO VERY GOOD.

But, right, it was fact-time. Let’s do that:

1. Works by Isaac Asimov can be found in 9 of the 10 Dewey Decimal sections.

2. The World Science Fiction Conventions (WorldCons) have been held every year since 1939 with a couple of exceptions during World War II.

3. The Hugo Awards have been given out at the WorldCons every year since 1953. With the exception of 1954 because they weren’t expected to become an annual event.

4. The first book to win a Hugo Award was Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man (which is excellent).

5. Connie Willis is the author with the most awards for fiction (11).

6. But Robert Heinlein has the most awards for Best Novel (4 + 1 retro-Hugo).

7. David Langford is probably the person with the most Hugo Awards in total with 28 for various fan categories.

8. L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology was also a science fiction author and some parts of their beliefs are based on his works.

9. Another author who gained a serious following was Edward Bellamy in the 1880s. He wrote a book called Looking Backward 200-1880 which was a fictional history written from the point of view of utopian socialist future. People were so inspired by it that they founded hundreds of ‘Bellamy clubs’ that worked towards the vision he’d outlined.

10. In the 1940s the offices of Astounding Science Fiction were raided by the FBI after one of the published stories came a little to close to reality. (Deadline & The Cleve Cartmill affair.)

11. The word robot was coined in a Czech play called Rossum’s Universal Robots or RUR.

12. The first mentions of space travel in fiction are from the 2nd century AD in Lucian’s True History.

13. Time travel has been a thing in fiction for centuries but time machines didn’t feature in fiction until the mid-19th century.

14. The first mention of anything resembling a computer in fiction is generally given to Gulliver’s Travels by Joanathan Swift from 1726 (but it’s dubious).

15. Babbage’s Difference Engine, one of the forerunners of recognisable modern computing, was mentioned in fiction as early as the 1870s in a story called The Able-est Man in the World. It features a computer ‘better than the Difference engine’ that has been implanted into a man’s brain and turned him into a genius.

16. The term science fiction wasn’t used until the early 20th century.

17. The movie 2001: A Space Odyssey wasn’t based on the book of the same name, they were both written at the same time by Arthur C. Clarke (and are loosely based on his short fiction piece ‘The Sentinel’.

18. Jules Verne is credited as a writer on IMDB 185 times.

19. The highest grossing film ever is a science fiction film – Avatar. Though adjusted for inflation Avatar does drop to number 2 in the list (behind Gone with the Wind) but is joined in the top 10 by E.T. and Star Wars.

Many new books

Over on YouTube I’ve been talking about all the books I’ve acquired recently. As ever if you prefer not to watch the video (you not like my shiny face?) then you can read all about the books here. But I’m not putting in any pictures because if you wanted pictures you could have watched the moving ones in the video. Hah. That told you.

We’ll start with the little trip to the second hand bookshop.

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski is one of those giant books that looms on your reading horizon for long time. I’m not planning on reading it any time soon but wanted to have it there just in case. It’s about a guy who finds a notebook in a dead man’s house that tells the story of a very famous and well known family. Except nobody he knows has ever heard of it. It’s weirdness inside mysteries inside strangeness.

Then I got a copy of The Great God Pan and other stories by Arthur Machen. Machen is considered to be one of the grandaddies of weird fiction. He was a key inspiration for Lovecraft and Arthur Conan Doyle and Stephen King are among his fans. The Great God Pan is probably his best known work. At just 76 pages it’s an odd victorian tale of woman who is the child of human and Pan the god of nature and mischief and base instinct. Not things known to go down well in Victorian society. I’ve read it many time before and thoroughly recommend it.

Then still secondhand I got a couple of Gollancz SF Masterworks. RUR & War with the Newts by Karel Capek is actually one play and one novel bound up together. RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots) is regarded as the most important play in SF history. This is where the word robot comes from and began the concept of robots that we still know today.

Floating Worlds by Cecelia Holland is set a few thousand years into the future where humans are a space going anarchist culture and at war with the Styth an alien race who live on the solar system’s outer planets. We follow Paula Mendoza a young musician who must learn about the problems of power and the possibilities of different modes of culture as she seeks to broker a truce. It sounds utterly weird but is filled with explorations of some really big politically crunchy sort of questions.

Moving on I also got a couple books sent to me for free by Twelfth Planet Press. I’ve talked about some of their books before these 12 Planets series this one The Female Factory by Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter is the newest. I’ve really enjoyed all the other books from this publisher but this one sounds most up my alley with a selection of short stories all about reproduction and genetics. Very Frankenstein indeed.
They also sent Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti which has five interlinked shorts about power and its abuse. So superheroes, lawyers, police and so on. It sounds sinister and amazing.

Onwards to library books. I got God’s War by Kameron Hurley because I loved her book The Mirror Empire last year. This one is from an earlier series and tells the story of Nyx, an ex-assassin turned executioner who lives in a war-torn world that seems a mixture of science fiction, fantasy, and the grimmest darkest thriller you can imagine. It opens with the line Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, one the edge of the desert. And that’s just so weird and grim and odd that I had to pick it up.

Then there’s Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey. This is the fourth book in the Expanse series so I can’t really give you any kind of plot description except to say that the first three books were freaking amazing. A cross between Battlestar Galactica and Firefly and Game of Thrones.

And the final library book was An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay who most of you I’m sure will have heard of from her book Bad feminist. This is a novel about a rich young woman in Haiti who is kidnapped and held captive for a long time when her father decides to resist the kidnappers demands. It’s all about privilegdge in the face of poverty, about the destructive anger that appears in the face of corrupt governments and maybe about redemption.

And finally moving on the brand shiny new things.

First there’s a single ebook – The Life in Papers of Sofie K. by Octavia Cade. I read and reviewed Trading Rosemary by Cade last year and loved it so this was a no-brainer. It’s about a little girl raised on stories of monsters. But when she grows up and the monsters turn out to be real she if forced to ask some tough questions about what she herself might be.

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor tells the tale of three very different people who are walking along a beach in Lagos when a meteorite hits. Suddenly they are thrown together along with a visitor from beyond the stars to try and save the city. It’s part science fiction, part fairytale, and part realism that sounds wondrous.

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord is about an alien society some of whom have come to a distant planet populated by human-ish sort of people who may be evolved from a common ancestor. While there they hear that their home planet has been destroyed. Now these clashing societies have to work together to both preserve the alien ways of life and also adapt to their new planet. There’s a lot going on there.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel (there are cute Four Weddings and a Funeral clips in the video at this point and you’re missing them) is about a travelling shakespearean theatre in a post apocalyptic society and well that’s such a good premise and just about every book tuber I’ve watched has raved about it so here it is.

Penultimate book is Blackout by Connie Willis. Willis if you’ve never heard of her before is a bit of an SFF legend. She’s won 11 hugos and 7 nebulas – more than anyone else, she’s a SFWA Grand Master and in the SF hall of fame. So yeah big deal. This book won the 2010 hugo and it starts in the time travel labs at Oxford University in 2060 with academics going back to various points in time to study what’s going on. But the labs are in chaos, two historians going back to the second world war find themselves thoroughly unprepared for the reality of the situation, and the long held belief that time travel cannot alter the course of history is suddenly called into question. DUM DUM DUM. Oh my god.

And finally there’s Haruki Murakami’s cutest new little book – The Strange Library. It’s a fantastical illustrated weird wonderland of a story about a boy imprisoned in a nightmarish library. The tagline just says ‘All I did was go to the library to borrow some books’. Well we all know how well that sort of phrase ends.

Ancillary Justice – a mixtape

Fanmix ImageI’m a huge fan of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice (and Ancillary Sword). Like a, read it twice, love it beyond measure, mention it way to often, fangirl. Those of you who’ve read the book will know that singing plays a major part in the stories and ever since reading it I’ve found myself picking out odd songs and thinking ‘this would be perfect for that moment in Ancillary Justice when..’. And so I’ve finally gathered them together into one mixtape.

Each song is set out below with a chapter, line or scene that, to me at least, seemed to match.

The first thing you’re going to notice about this is that the songs are (with a few purposeful exceptions) entirely vocal. My reasoning for this is that for the majority of the time One Esk/Breq is either doing soldier things or on the move. Not environments conducive for instrumentation. And she’s largely just singing to herself, or with herself. The exceptions are explained below. Secondly, it’s a really mixed bag. With several thousand years travelling around the universe I’m assuming the songs One Esk/Breq knows are going to be as varied as any I can imagine!

Play it over on Spotify. [I know, I know, Spotify is a pain. But I couldn’t get everything on any other site. I’ll try and get it onto additional sites eventually.]

Warning: GIANT SPOILERS for Ancillary Justice.

Opening: a figure in the snow 

s’Rothe Zäuerli by Öse Schuppel
I always saw this moment as like the opening of a movie as we close in on a bloody figure in the snow and weirdly incongrous music. Eerie as shit. (ch.1)

Singing around the city
Kullama Nadayta Yu Ha by Aa’shiq Al-rasul
I wanted a song that was just something that One Esk might sing on any given day around Ors. (ch.2)

My heart is a fish
A Song for the Different Lappish Communities by Inga Susanne Haetta
A child’s song strikes a chord. (ch.2)

The Lonesome Coffin Blues by Mark Binder
Because Seivarden is such a sulky bunny in the early parts of the book she gets this as her theme. (ch.1-19)

Bombed by Mark Lanegan
At Strigan’s house on Nilt Breq frequently plays with a stringed instrument so here it features in a song. This one I saw as her singing a familiar Radch song that even Seivarden, deep in her Kef withdrawal week, might recognise and unconsciously join in. (ch.3, 5)

I want the gun
Landlady by Walter Gurguson Gavitt
Another song with the stringed instrument. I read Breq as someone who is far from humourless, and I love the idea of her singing this, when she knows Strigan is listening, as part of her campaign to annoy her into giving up the gun. (ch.3, 5, 7, 9)

Arrival of Anaander Mianaai | An order given in the temple
Star in the East by The Rose Ensemble
All seeing, all knowing, terrible, formidable, many faced. Gods have wielded less power. (ch.6) 

The day after
Misere by Allegri
(ch. 10)

If you’re going to do something that crazy, save it for when it’ll make a difference
Missa Charles Darwin: Alleluia by Gregory Brown & New York Polyphony
Sometimes small thoughts can change the world. (ch.10)

This is music?
Heroin by David Lang
At the Nilt bar watching someone’s cousin singing. This one with a bowed sting instrument because that was also mentioned. And I like the theme of this one because it encompasses both Breq watching the music and Seivarden making bad decisions. And good ones. (ch.13)

Rest, Lieutenant
Lullaby of Itsuki
The care that One Esk shows for Lieutenant Awn when they return to Justice of Toren, sheltering her from stress and giving her peaceful moments was one of the moments that made my heart dip at the realisation of One Esk’s emotional involvement. (ch.12)

A new segment
Sugubaya Ekstenija by St Peter & St Paul Cathedral Choir of Minsk
One of the most traumatic scenes of the book; One Esk gets a replacement body. (ch.12)

Death will overtake us
God’s Gonna Set the World on Fire by Florida Alabama Progressive Seven Shape Note Singing Convention
Breq remembering the Valskaay who rebelled against Anaander Mianaai and learning to lie. (ch.14)

I fired | I fell apart | One Esk Nineteen |
Gemalde eines Erschlagenen by Ariana Hölszky

Too soon, alone
Myfanwy by The Morriston Orpheus Choir
Breq, alone in the shuttle, sees the flash too soon… That last half page of chapter sixteen made me cry and this song makes me cry. If you’re from Wales it probably makes you cry too.

The station
My Bonnie Lass She Smileth by The Morriston Orpheus Choir
The busy station is a return to the familiar for Breq. A brief joyful relaxation as she is finally at home with the customs and language.(ch. 17)

A pin for a friend who died
Small Chinese Cabbage by China Orchestra Chorus

Temple offerings and tea
Dobra vecer me kucamo by Klapa Komin

The chase
Svatba by Bulgarian State Television Female Choir

No Strings (Calypso Acapella) by Bobby Nio
As we leave Breq to walk her own path, wherever it goes. “Choose my aim, take one step and then the next. It had never been anything else.” (ch.23)

Things I Like Thursday (on Friday)

Joyful salutations and happy things. Things I Like Thursdays is a new semi-regular feature where I can point out things that have caught my eye over the past week or two and I invite you to tell me other fun things that you’ve been loving. These might be new or upcoming books, interesting articles from around the web, videos from other booktubers, what-the fuck-ever.

The fact that the very first one of these is coming out on a Friday should illustrate the current state of organisation in my life.

Anyway, let’s get loving. [That sounded way dodgier than intended!]

Ammonite by Nicola Griffith

AmmoniteYou can actually blame this book (I am) for this post not going up yesterday. I sat down to read it for ten minutes and then eight chapters later it was time for bed! It stole my whole evening and I can’t even be mad because it’s so good!

I wrote about it the other week for Friday reads.


Queers Destroy Science Fiction essays

All our rockets are powered by sparkly gay feels.

All our rockets are powered by sparkly gay feels.

I backed this amazing Kickstarter campaign for a special edition of Lightspeed magazine dedicated to queer SFF without a second of hesitation. What I hadn’t noticed in my rush to the ‘take my money and give me all the queer goodies’ button was that they’re already publishing a series of essays to support this campaign by a whole host of Queer authors, editors, creators and bloggers.

Every single one has been making me smile and/or cry and that can only say good things about how amazing the actual anthology is going to be. A new one is being added as an update to the kickstarter every few days. There are only 10 days left in the campaign and I totally suggest backing it, reading all the essays, and getting very excited for the release date in June.

 Marvel’s Announcement of an All-Female The Avengers

Holy crap you guys. For this I really will start reading comics. I’ve watched almost all the Marvel movies and enjoyed them (though I’m still waiting impatiently for a fucking Black Widow movie, I mean seriously). And every so often I wonder if I should try reading some of the comics. I never actually picked them up though.

Me and graphic novels don’t get on very easily as I have trouble paying sufficient attention to the images without totally pulling myself out of the words but we try and get along from time to time. But for this I will damn well learn how to do it.

My bae Ronnie and the uncanny world of digitisation

Ron Lit is the best book channel and person on YouTube. She is a queen who can take academic critical theory and make it more fun than kitties and rainbows. Most of her content focuses on the classics, particularly 18th century badasses, but her most recent vid goes straight into the realms of science fiction: What happens when books go digital? 

I’m lucky enough to call Ron a friend and we talked last year about the ideas behind digitisation that I’m more familiar with from my escapades in SFF and my time working in libraries so I feel like I’ve got a little stake in this video. ❤

 Many Ancillary Justice related things

It’s official. I’m totally obsessed with all things Ancillary Justice (and Sword, and Mercy). I’ve already read Ancillary Justice twice and I’m contemplating another go so I can then re-read Ancillary Sword because I am looking at the calendar and realising quite how long it is until Ancillary Mercy comes out and I need more Breq in my life before October.

So to fend off the worst of my Ancillary-related cravings I’ve been enjoying the fruits of the fandom. Including:

This gif explanation of Seivarden:

Every other character discussing Seivarden: “Her speech is so old-fashioned and elegant! They just don’t speak like that anymore, todays youth ought to follow her example!”


It's just so lyrical.

It’s just so lyrical.

This amazing piece of fan art.

Seivarden and Breq

Seivarden and Breq by isozyme. Click the image to go to their blog and see the full size wonderment.

The cover of the Subterranean Press printing of AJ.

It was very limited edition and is already totally sold-out. Not that I don’t adore the original covers but this is so close to my mental image of Breq and Seivarden. ❤

Ancillary Justice Cover


This tiny little ficlet set in the world of Ancillary Sword

Without Means by tanyant [493 words]. I just love how it’s a minuscule glance back into the world of Breq and it certainly feels like it could almost be part of it. Teeny tiny not-really even a proper spoiler warning for book two (just in case you’re one of those people who likes to know nothing before they read the book).


So my lovely humans, tell me, what have you been loving this week? And what should I be checking out over the weekend?


Sparkly rocket love

(because I just found this clipart and it’s too cute)


Rainbow Rocket

Review – Clarkesworld #100

Issue 100

Issue 100

Late last year I backed the Clarkesworld Chinese Science Fiction Translation Project and my reward was to get a bunch of issues. The first of those, the bumper-sized Issue 100, arrived on 1st January and it was filled with some tasty SFF goodness!

Clarkesworld is pretty well established as a damn good place to get good short fiction and this issue didn’t disappoint. You can read (and listen) to all the stories and non-fiction pieces in this issue for free over on the Clarkesworld website or get an ebook subscription for a small fee.

Overall this issue gets a 4.5 stars from me. Some truly excellent stories from a few of my favourites but a couple of odd ones too. Individual stories (but not the non-fiction) are rated below.

Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight by Aliette de Bodard
One of de Bodard’s Mindships stories – a loose collection of works that all take place within the same universe but each stand alone. This is a beautiful tale of death, grief and mourning but also of life continuing along and thriving. It captures that essence of grieving – that moment when something so dear to us is ripped away that we feel that the entire world should have stopped in recognition. Bu it doesn’t. It never does. Because no one person, no matter how important or vital they may be to us or to a community, is vital. Life goes on. de Bodard has a light touch is this tale and I’m left tantalised and wanting to spend more time in this unique world. 4.5 stars

A Universal Elegy by Tang Fei
I don’t really know what to say about this one. It’s so very damn weird and that it left me kind of creeped out and I couldn’t say that I enjoyed it but it was clever and it was intriguingly written. Letters sent to a dear brother tell the story of a hopeless romantic who constantly falls for abusive men suddenly whisked away by a handsome alien to a world where creeping plants might be in charge and memory is held in the body. Strange, strange, strange. 2.5 stars

Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer
What if the reason there’s so many cat pictures online is because Google likes them? And I mean Google as in the search-engine become sentient, obviously. That’s the premise of this wonderfully funny little story told from the computer’s perspective. Given that it knows pretty much all about our lives but can only help us through search results and adverts, how will it choose to help those who give it the best cat pictures? Cuteness embodied. 4 stars

The Apartment Dweller’s Bestiary by Kij Johnson
An A-Z of fantastical creatures that dwell in the modern-day apartment rather than the dungeons and forests of yore. Through the descriptions of the creatures’ habits and the story-tellers experiences with them we learn about life, love, and loneliness in the big city. An intriguing concept that was touching in places but felt a little too long by the time we got to the end of the alphabet. 3 stars

Ether by Zhang Ran
In a world where everything is just, well, kind of boring and normal, one man begins to question if maybe things didn’t used to be this way. Didn’t people used to argue about things on the internet? And weren’t protests held about things other than polite suggestions for lawn maintenance? So he starts to look, and question, and wonder. And then the shit doth hitteth the fan…eth. This was good thriller/sf combination that managed to combine fast action, a fun ‘scientific’ premise, and some interesting thoughts about protest and freedom of communication. 3.5 stars

The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild by Catherynne M. Valente
A stunning, wonderous rainbow of a story that is nigh on impossible to describe because it’s all about the language and the descriptions and the pacing. Masterfully written, it tells us about the life of Violet who lives in the land of purple (everything’s purple, just go with it) that also happens to be the wild west (it makes total sense when she tells it, I promise). There are also family tensions, pictures that give advice, a unicorn of grief, and the intriguing lands of blue and red beckoning on the horizon. 5 Perfect, magical, shiny rainbow stars. 

An Exile of the Heart by Jay Lake
Like Romeo and Juliet except on a space station. And with lesbians. And they don’t kill themselves like nitwits. Actually not really like Romeo and Juliet at all then. Except, you know, an epic love story across two houses. Whatever. It’s pretty damn cool. 4 stars

The Wind Blowing, and This Tide by Damien Broderick
An alien spacecraft has been discovered on one of Saturn’s moons, preserved behind a forcefield, covered in a blanket of flowers. It’s quite the image to start with and sets a thoughtful solemn tone for what could otherwise be at time slightly funny. Set in a science fictional future with space bases across the solar system, this future also has psychics and a theory that dinosaurs were intelligent space-faring beings. It sounds funny but somehow it’s carried perfectly seriously and you’re entirely focused on the far more human tale of the narrator’s history and emotions. A reminder that no matter the grandeur and weirdness of SFF we only ever see it on our own human scale. 4 stars

Laika’s Ghost by Karl Schroeder
This felt like a cross between classic science fiction and one of those old cold war spy novels. A UN weapons inspector must help to escort a American political refugee to a hiding place in Europe and investigate reports of worrying activities on former Soviet nuclear test sites. The two obviosuly turn out to be connected and then there’s bad men from Google and the government and a die-hard USSR splinter group and chases and mysteries and FUN. A really well paced and enjoyable story with characters who managed to feel very real despite the short word count and plot that felt straight out of the golden age. 4 stars

I’m not reviewing the non-fiction but I wasn’t overly enamoured with any of it in this issue though #PurpleSF by Cat Rambo was a nice inspiring piece.

Don’t forget you can read all the stories for free on the Clarkesworld website or subscribe to the ebook versions for a small fee.