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A few online SF/F recommendations with broad appeal, 2011

I’ve been reading like crazy because it’s award season. I wanted to share some links that I thought people might like.

I feel like it was a really good year for published sf/f. I found lots of stories I’m enthusiastic about, and lots of new authors. Discovering great new fiction and great new authors is one of life’s pleasures, I think, so I’m eager to share!

Flying in the Face of God” by Nina Allen – My favorite novelette of the year; I’m really pleased it’s online. About alienation and the way people change, and how it is that some people go and others stay.

The Life Cycle of Software Objects” by Ted Chiang – This stunning novella considers the invention of artificial intelligence not as something that changes the world, but as something much more mundane–sentience that humans would abuse or ignore, the way we abuse or ignore zoo animals. Intensely detailed, immensely fascinating.

The History within Us” by Matt Kressel – I’m not sure how this one will come across to readers who aren’t steeped in the science fiction tradition. I’d be interested to know whether the themes come across, or whether it’s just confusing. Anyway, I recommend people check it out, it’s weird and strange and wonderful, and of particular interest for the way it deals with genocide and memory. I reprinted this in the anthology of the decade’s best science fiction and fantasy that Sean Wallace and I edited this year.

On the Banks of the River Lex” by N. K. Jemisin – Death wanders an empty New York.

Ponies” by Kij Johnson – Short, intense burst of surrealism.

Hwang’s Billion Brilliant Daughters” by Alice Sola Kim – Funny, interesting, unusual. Time travel shown through a series of broken images.

The Ghosts of New York” by Jennifer Pelland – Contemplating how views of 9/11 have changed and are changing.

Surrogates” by Cat Rambo – A science fictional look at alienation in marriage.

Standard Loneliness Package” by Charles Yu – Science fiction tropes applied, via metafiction, to outsourcing. Very smart fiction, intricately layered characterization.

Of course, Locus Magazine has its own list, and I found this one from Jason Sanford interesting.

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About Rachel Swirsky

Hi, I'm Rachel! I write science fiction and fantasy short stories. I've won the Nebula Award twice, and been nominated for the Hugo Award, the World Fantasy Award, and some other things. My seventy or so short stories are available around the internet as well as in print, and many of them are in my latest collection, How the World Became Quiet. I have a masters degree in fiction from the University of Iowa. I have five cats. I like my cats, but strongly suggest one stops at three. Or two. Excuse me, I have to go take care of cats.
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5 thoughts on “A few online SF/F recommendations with broad appeal, 2011

  1. Thanks. Of these, I have only read Ted Chiang so far, but will make sure to check the others.

    The Life Cycle of Software Objects is a great story, with many thought-provoking ideas. I don’t think it’s so much about AI being mundane as about any instance of it (a *being*, really) has to develop from an infant state just like human babies do, and not just appearing all powerful from scratch as normally imagined. The book too is well designed. I like how all illustrations but one use two colors: black for the artificial and maroon for the human.

    But on the emotional level, The Life Cycle is flat. Even when the author describes a digient’s torture, it’s done very distantly. Even the illustration on the next page, showing that scene, is much more emotionally eloquent than the text.

    That is why I much prefer another AI-related story published the same year: Pink Noise by Leo Korogodski. It’s an eye-opener idea-wise, and its emotional range is staggering.

    http://www.pinknoise.net/pdf/PinkNoise-ePDF.pdf

  2. I didn’t find the Chiang to be emotionally static, but I look forward to reading the Kogodski. Thanks for the link!

    1. No, not entirely static. But I find the emotion to be more of a “quietly reflecting” kind, if you know what I mean. The characters do feel many things indeed, but we more learn it than feel it ourselves (at least, that’s my impression). Not under-your-skin, up close and personal.

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