That’s a paraphrase of the opening line of M.T. Andersen’s Feed, a young adult novel about an eerily familiar future in which everyone is connected to a neural feed, which transmits information, messages, and lots of advertising directly into your brain 24-7. The story mainly follows a group of teenagers as they hang out, date, and consume. The novel is one of the best I’ve read in recent memory, and has pretty much everything you want in a science fiction novel: great characters, an interesting and well-thought-out future, a brilliant voice, a good dose of humor, and some thought-provoking ideas about the world we live in. Possibly the most powerful thing about the novel is what’s mostly unspoken in the background: things have gotten pretty bad in this future, and meanwhile these American teenagers are just obliviously hanging out at the mall. The fact that most of them have developed unexplicable lesions bothers them at first, until lesions become the latest fashion trend, of course.
It’s hard to say much more, other than that this book meg rocks. Put it at the top of your reading list and you won’t be disappointed.
I caught the debut of Matt Smith (the new Doctor on Doctor Who) on On Demand yesterday. (I love On Demand, BTW. I do wonder, though, why every On Demand program I’ve used has an outright user-hostile interface, but I imagine within a few years some entrepeneurial lass or lad will correct that and do quite well for themselves. In the meantime I puzzle over mysteries such as why some Doctor Who episodes show up under “Primetime on Demand” and others under “BBC America On Demand.”)
But I digress. The eleventh Doctor. I think I’m quite fond of him. More importantly, I’m quite fond of Doctor Who under Steven Moffat’s leadership. After only one episode, I already feel more confidence in the writing. It has that slightly hokey feel that Doctor Who should have, but manages to never cross into severe eye-rolling territory, as Russell T. Davies was known to do now and again. The regeneration was well-done, and there was a lovely dash of Moffat horror thrown in throughout. It also seems like Moffat is going to play around more with the time-travelling complexities, which strikes me as a fun way to explore the character. “Oh, I said 5 minutes and it turned out to be 12 years? Oops!” Vintage Doctor.
As for young Mr. Smith, I enjoyed his performance quite a lot, which is impressive considering my recently developed but still emotionally significant secret crush on David Tennant. Smith is drawing a bit on Tennant but he’s doing his own thing, too. He has just the right mix of cockiness, world-weary wisdom, adventurousness, and just-barely-beneath-the-surface timelord-y angst. And I believed he was the Doctor pretty much from his first moment on screen, which, as Moffat said, is ultimately the only test that counts. There were a few moments now and then where his youth came through in a way that felt like it was due more to Smith’s own youthful uncertainty than to the Doctor’s timeless exuberance, but they really were only a few moments, and I’m sure Smith is only going to get better as he grows into the role. Also, love the outfit. Bowties and suspenders are definitely due for a comeback.
And Amy Pond seems promising as a new companion. Proactive and sharp and a bit different from the ones we’ve seen before. Looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season has in store for us…
… are among the stuff of the stories of LCRW 25, which will be coming out in April-May-ish. This issue includes my story, “This is Not Concrete,” as well as “Music of the Spheres” by my Clarion-mate Daniel Braum. I’m very psyched to be sharing a table of contents with Mr. Braum for the first time. I’m also very psyched to appear in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, a wonderfully infamous zine that’s published some of the best interstitial, slipstream, just-plain-weird fiction of the modern epoch. Through the magic of hyperlinks you can subscribe by clicking here.
Today is my 33rd birthday, and I’m celebrating by taking a mini-cation from work to write and see close friends – two of my favorite activities. I was thinking of having a big party for myself but that sounded an awful lot like the event-organizing I’ve been doing for work lately, so I decided to postpone the party to a less busy time. I’m thinking I may have a party some time in the summer to celebrate hitting a third of a century.
There are many other illustrious figures born on March 18, including at least two others born in 1977, the year that Star Wars was released and Harvey Milk was elected. A very special happy birthday to Peter Ball, my birthday-brother from Australia, a fellow writer who defies categorization, writing in every genre from magic realism to pulp noir, and possibly inventing some new sub-genres along the way. For a free online taste, I recommend this short story at Strange Horizons about merfolk, Copenhagen, love, and loss.
And happy birthday to all the other fabulous March 18ers, including Jordan, a new friend who was born only a half-hour apart from me, and Fernando, an old friend who was born a bit further apart from me than that. 🙂
In other news, SF Signal recently asked this year’s Nebula award nominees for recommendations of other worthy stories. I was honored and flattered to see that “Tio Gilberto and the Twenty-Seven Ghosts” was mentioned by several of the nominees. Many thanks to Chris Barzak, Richard Bowes, Will McIntosh, and Rachel Swirsky for the shout-outs. It’s especially nice to get kudos from those four writers, all of whom much deserved their nominations and routinely write some of the best stuff out there these days.
Polyphony is a wonderful anthology series that’s published some of the best speculative fiction out there in recent years – with a specialization in the weird and interstitial. Volume 7 is now available for pre-order at Wheatland Press, and it features a great line-up of writers like Howard Waldrop, Mikal Trimm, and Bruce Holland Rogers. Unfortunately, in the current challenging economic climate, it looks like they won’t be able to publish the book unless they get enough pre-orders. So why not just order your copy now? You get a great book plus you get to feel good about supporting a great small press…
Finishing up my series of posts on recommended speculative fiction from 2009, these are the books published in 2009 that stood out for me. Technically, these span across several categories for both the Nebula and Hugo awards, but I’m covering them all in one foul swoop – so this list includes novels, young adult books, anthologies, and novellas.
The Love We Share without Knowing, by Christopher Barzak: Mosaic novel set in Japan, centered around a group of friends who form a “suicide club,” an action whose ripple effects we see among friends, family members, and lovers, all brilliantly drawn in Barzak’s prose. These are powerful and haunting tales of loneliness and alienation, with some lovely moments of real connection amidst the loss. The shelving gods have proclaimed Barzak to be “literature,” but the book has several ghosts and enchantments and other touches of magic realism. (Technically, I think this one was published in late 2008, but it’s still eligible for the Nebula under this year’s rules.)
Finchby Jeff VanderMeer: Detective Finch must solve an unsolvable murder amidst the backdrop of Ambergris, a steampunk city of human beings occupied by the gray caps, their inhuman fungal overlords. VanderMeer delivers every reader cookie you could possibly desire: brilliant world-building, brilliant noir mystery, brilliant prose, and brilliant characterization. One of the most original books I’ve read in recent memory.
Liarby Justine Larbalestier: Moving to Young Adult territory, this is one of the most sophisticated YA novels I’ve read in a while. From the first sentence, Micah (our beloved hero) tells us that she’s a liar, beginning the ultimate unreliable-narrator tale. Larbalestier masterfully interweaves a tragic romance, the mystery of her sort-of boyfriend’s murder, some fantastic elements that may or may not be real, and the omnipresent uncertainty of everything Micah is telling us. Hard to say more without getting spoiler-y, so just go out and read this book.
Hornby Peter M. Ball: I only read a handful of novellas this year, but this is the one that stands out. I’ve already gushed about it elsewhere, so I’ll try not to go on too much here. Unicorn noir mystery, featuring a bad-ass lesbian PI who will come back from the dead if that’s what it takes to crack the case.
Interfictions 2, edited by Christopher Barzak and Delia Sherman: Excellent anthology of “interstitial” stories – stories that blur the boundaries between genres. These stories wonderfully defy expectations, and many of them were among the best stories to come out in 2009. This series is fast-becoming the heir apparent to Polyphony as the hot place to find stories of the interstitial/New Weird/slipstream/gonzo variety.
Other great books from 2009 included Nicholas Kaufmann’s extremely entertaining pulp fiction adventure, Hunt at World’s End; Joe Abercrombie’s sometimes disturbing dark fantasy revenge novel, Best Served Cold; Walter Jon Williams’ near-future thriller of gamers plunged into real-life mystery and intrigue, This is Not a Game; and Booklife, Jeff VanderMeer’s highly useful guide to writing in the 21st century by conquering the internet instead of allowing the internet to conquer you. Top of my remaining to-read list from 2009 include Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker, Sarah Langan’s Audrey’s Door, Catherynne M. Valente’s Palimpsest, and Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, all of which I’ve heard are excellent.
The Tangled Bank: Love, Wonder, & Evolution is out now! This anthology of tales of evolution celebrates Darwin’s 200th birthday and includes my story, “On the Entropy of Species,” not to mention great fiction and poetry from Carlos Hernandez, Christopher Green, Brian Stableford, Patricia Russo, Anil Menon, and a slew of other writers from around the globe. It’s edited by Chris Lynch, my Clarion South-mate and co-author of our collaborative story, “This is My Blood.” Chris is fast proving that he’s as skilled as an editor as he is as a writer. The book is not only packed with great fiction, but is also visually stunning, framed by images like this one and by a series of haikus from Sean Williams, each inspired by a different chapter of Darwin’s Origin of Species.
You can download your copy here for only $4.99 (U.S.). Or, if you want a free taste, check out “Darwin’s Daughter” by Christopher Green here.