Posted in Female Author, Male Author, Short Story

Short Story Round-Up, 3/26/23


Deal Me In, wk 10
10♠️ “Call Center Blues” by Carrie Cuinn – Between the recent news and my own writings, my world has been full on AIs and androids. And here a story from 2014 adds a little fuel to those fires. From Cuinn’s Women and Other Constructs.

Deal Me In, wk 11
11♦️ “Left Foot, Right” by Nalo Hopkinson – I feel like this story might be relying on bit of folklore that I’m not familiar with. I spent half of “Left Foot, Right” rather confused; I stuck with it because it’s a short story and the pay-off was . . . fine. From Monstrous Affections, ed. by Gavin J. Grant, Kelly Link

Other Stories

“Viral” by Chelsea Pumpkins – A story that unfolds in the manner you probably expect. Stomach-churningly.

“Mishpokhe and Ash” by Sydney Rossman-Reich – Golem? Robot? Potato. Potato. Speculative fiction set against the backdrop of anti-Jewish laws in Poland during WWII.

You must be good, Golem. There is so little good left in the world.

“Silicon Hearts” by Adrian Tchaikovsky – In real life, short fiction markets are getting slammed by spammy AI-generated submissions. In “Silicon Hearts,” the markets have definitely changed.

Posted in Female Author, Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Reading Notes, 3/2/23

Cover: Mockingbird by Walter Tevis
Cover: The Varieties of Scientific Experience by Carl Sagan
Cover: The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Vol. 1

Reading Adjacent

From the Tor blog: You Don’t Have to Finish Every Book You Start

I probably saw this post when it was originally published in 2021 and passed it by. At the time, someone literary had made some pronouncement about reading every book you start, and I already had my philosophy about this nailed down: It’s okay to DNF. (DNF is for Did Not Finish. Grammatically, it would be more correct to say “It’s okay to shelf as DNF” since the abbreviation comes as a result of creating a “did not finish” shelf at Goodreads.) I had realized years ago that I wasn’t going to live long enough to get through the list of books I want to read.

But the question is: How many books will I end up reading in my remaining time on this earth? Turns out, Emily Temple has sought to answer this question. If I go by her calculations: 1775 books. I’m rounding up to 50 years old (I’m closer to 50 than 45) and counting myself in the “voracious” category (50 books a year).

I’m considering 1775 books as a long-term challenge and possibly dedicating a journal to the cause. Will this change the number of times I reread Moby-Dick and The Last Unicorn going forward? (Probably not.) Should I count short stories at some . . . amount?

(Actually, using the Social Security tool and doing the math myself, my number is 1860. I don’t want to short-change my reading life.)

Short Stories

Deal Me In, week 8: 8♠️
“Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance” by Carrie Cuinn – After a rocky first story from Carrie Cuinn’s Women and Other Constructs, I was relieved by this macabre and rather sweet moral tale.

“Not to be rude, sir, but aren’t you meant to be dead?”

“Hank in the South Dakota Sun” by Stephanie Kraner – What happens when your AI colleague and friend gets a software update? Although I’m not entirely sure why a train needs an AI, I have a tender place in my heart for railroads.

Every job is a journey to Mecca when you’re manufactured for a specific purpose and then given coded awareness of it.

February Wrap-Up

Books Finished/Read:

  • The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard
  • How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis
  • The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

I enjoyed all three of these books, honestly.

Also, 13 short stories. “Bad Doors” by John Wiswell and “Hank in the South Dakota Sun” were my two favorites.

Reading

  • Mockingbird by Walter Tevis – Going apace.
  • The Varieties of Scientific Experience by Carl Sagan – My morning reading, at least for the next few days. (Then I’m starting Shakespeare’s sonnets.)
  • The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume 1 – An ARC.

Challenge Updates

My Challenges

  • Read 20 books that I owned before 1/1/23: 2/20
  • Get my Library Thing “to-read” down to 500: 519⬆️
  • Read 18 books from my Classics Club list: 1/18

Shelf Maintenance

I’m really bad at not buying books, but hear me out: Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths by Nancy Marie Brown has been on my TBR list for ages. It went on sale at Amazon *and* I had a Kindle credit, so . . .

Posted in Female Author, Novel

Reading Notes, 2/23/23

Cover: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
Cover: Mockingbird by Walter Tevis
Cover: The Varieties of Scientific Experience

Read

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

Through my reading of gothic literature, I had kind of come up with the elements that I thought were the most important aspects of the genre. The gothics I’d first read were primarily one location (usually an older building) with knowledge of past (often provided by older servants) being necessary to the plot. With those notions in mind, I never quite understood how Frankenstein or Dracula actually fit in the genre. They seemed too loose, with too much travel. I also didn’t quite understand how Jane Austen fit into any of this despite Northanger Abbey. My problem: I was working with an incomplete framework. I hadn’t read The Mysteries of Udolpho.

I read a lot of pre-19th century literature in college and I can’t think of any that was as much fun as Udolpho. Perhaps, though, some of my enjoyment came from how I can see this book in so many others that have come after it. The travelogues of Dracula? The musings about nature in Frankenstein? The reversals of perceived reputation in Jane Austens’ novels? All of the above, plus poetry and songs riddling the narrative of The Lord of the Rings? All of these things are in The Mysteries of Udolpho. I’m sure other novels of the time had some of these elements too and Radcliffe is probably not the only inspiration for these later authors, but the same fingerprints are all over literature.

And, if the weak hand, that has recorded this tale, by its scenes, beguiled the mourner of one hour of sorrows, or, by its moral taught him to sustain it—the effort, however humble, has not been in vain, nor is the writer unrewarded.

Since I possibly would never have gotten around to reading The Mysteries of Udolpho without putting it on my Classics Club list, this is definitely a win for the challenge.

Short Stories

Deal Me In, week 6:
6❤️ “The Mystery of Dr. Thorvald Sigerson” by Linda Robertson, from Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Years. This story proposes that Holmes, in the guise of Thorvald Sigerson, spent some time as an Arctic explorer and while there proved the innocence of an indigenous woman accused of murdering her abusive husband.

Deal Me In, week 7:
7♠️ “Mitch’s Girl” by Carrie Cuinn, from Cuinn’s collection Women and Other Constructs. This is the first pick from this collection, but not the first of Cuinn’s stories that I’ve read. And that’s a good thing because I really didn’t care for this story. It’s not much of a story, really, which was probably my biggest problem with it. Hoping this is the weak tale of the collection.

Reading

  • Mockingbird by Walter Tevis
  • The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God by Carl Sagan

Challenge Updates

My Challenges

Progress!

  • Read 20 books that I owned before 1/1/23: 2/20
  • Get my Library Thing “to-read” down to 500: Uh, no movement because I added a book last week.
  • Read 18 books from my Classics Club list: 1/18

Shelf Maintenance

It’s been 7 days since I last acquired a book.

Posted in Female Author, Nonfiction

Reading Notes, 2/16/23

Read

How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis

I’m not a good housekeeper.

That might come as a surprise to my mother who probably thinks she taught me better and the numerous employers who have paid me for housekeeping work throughout the years. Fact of the matter is, I never took to keeping my own apartment like my mother (and grandmother) kept house. Mix in a couple other factors and I’m at a point where I’m so behind in a few areas that motivation can’t overcome shame. I keep thinking, maybe if I find the right system, I can autopilot it, but, no. No amount of flying, unfucking, or tidying has really worked.

KC Davis doesn’t offer a system. There are a few hacks and things that have helped her, but really this book is about a change in philosophy: care tasks (like cleaning) are morally neutral. You’re not a bad person if your house isn’t clean. Instead, care tasks should be functional. Do dishes to have clean dishes. Shine your sink only if it gives you a zing of satisfaction. Don’t sweat the “proper” way of doing things; do what works. Of course, if care tasks are morally neutral, then feeling shame over tasks being undone is useless and even counterproductive.

No one ever shamed themselves into better mental health.

How to Keep House While Drowning is aimed at people who are struggling, whether from physical limitations, quirks of brain structure, or the feelings of anxiety and depression that are fairly ubiquitous right now, but I think anyone can benefit. A perfect house doesn’t make you a perfect person and a dusty bookshelf doesn’t mean you’re a failure.

Short Stories

Dang, I’m behind on my short stories.

Reading

  • The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe – I pushed my reading schedule ahead a little, but I should still finish it by the end of the month.
  • Mockingbird by Walter Tevis – Older sci-fi is weird.

Challenge Updates

My Challenges

  • Read 20 books that I owned before 1/1/23: 1/20
  • Get my Library Thing “to-read” down to 500: 518
  • Read 18 books from my Classics Club list: 0/18

Shelf Maintenance

It has been 0 days since I acquired a book. Downloaded a book called Tales of the Marvelous Machine: 35 Stories of Computing.

Posted in Female Author, Readathons-Challenges-Memes, Short Story

Reading Notes, 2/2/23

Cover: The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard

Read

Short Stories

4♦️ “10 Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (the Successful Kind)” by Holly Black – Finally drew a card that wasn’t a heart! And finally dipped into a different anthology. “10 Rules . . .” is from Monstrous Affections, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant. This was an ARC prize from Armchair BEA 2014. 😬 This whole anthology is stories playing with the concept of monsters. In “10 Rules . . .,” Tera, our young protagonist has stowed away on her uncles ship when he leaves Mars. She ends up having to deal with space pirates and a (rumored) blood-thirsty alien.

If monsters can make tea, then nothing’s safe.

Other short stories read this week:

January Wrap-Up

I didn’t finish reading many books in January, but I still had a decent month.

Books: Only finished We Are Sitting in a Room by Glen Hirshberg.

Short stories: Read 14 short stories/long articles, most of them have been mentioned on the blog. My favorite would have to be “Grits, Goblins, and Good Times” by WC Dunlap.

Reading

  • The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
  • The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard

Challenge Updates

My Challenges

No movement:

  • Read 20 books that I owned before 1/1/23: 1/20
  • Get my Library Thing “to-read” down to 500: 518
  • Read 18 books from my Classics Club list: 0/18

Shelf Maintenance

It’s been 17 days since I acquired a book.

Posted in Female Author, Male Author, Novella, Readathons-Challenges-Memes, TBRs

Reading Notes, 1/19/23

Cover: We Are Sitting in a Room by Glen Hirshberg

Read

We Are Sitting in a Room

We Are Sitting in a Room is a novella by Glen Hirshberg. It’s part of a non-speculative fiction series he’s been writing, but this story’s setting still contains that askew feeling that I really appreciate from Hirshberg. I was initially a little put off by the second person POV, but that’s only part of the story wrap-around.

The meat of the tale is told by Rae about her association with Teddy and his(?) strange experimental music record store.

Do you think it’s possible that all the experiences that matter most to us—by definition, precisely because they matter to us—are ours alone? Even if there’s someone else experiencing them with you?

The feeling of this story as well as its connection to music reminded me of “His Only Audience” from Hirshberg’s Infinity Dreams. I was surprised, but shouldn’t have been, that the experimental music piece that gives this story its title, “I Am Sitting in a Room,” is actually a thing.

Short Stories

“Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” by Sarah Pinsker – Is there a name for using a non-narrative format like a recipe or, in this case, a crowd-sourced infopedia entry to tell a story? I’m still not sure what I think of these sorts of things. On one hand, they are entertaining, but I wonder if my enjoyment is from the novelty and not the quality of the work. In any case, “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” is very entertaining and seemingly well done.

Deal Me In: 8❤️
“The Bughouse Caper” by Bill Pronzini – My second selection from Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Years. In this story, Holmes is officially still dead, but alive and well and not really hiding in San Francisco. The main character of this mystery is John Quincannon, which is the detective in a series by Pronzini. While the details of San Francisco were vivid, there wasn’t much Holmes and I don’t think it presented Quincannon in a good light either.

Reading

Cover: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
Cover: The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard
Cover: Mockingbird by Walter Tevis

  • Still reading The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe as my morning book. This book deserves an internet-wide reading in the style of Dracula Daily. My friend Emily is really in it now!
  • Found out that The Pale Blue Eye, a currently Poe-adjacent Netflix movie, is based on a book by Louis Bayard.
  • Which means that Mockingbird by Walter Tevis has been knocked down my list a ways.

Challenge Updates

My Challenges

  • Read 20 books that I owned before 1/1/23: 1/20
    We Are Sitting in a Room counts!
  • Get my Library Thing “to-read” down to 500: currently 518
  • Read 18 books from my Classics Club list: 0/18

Shelf Maintenance

It has been 3 days since I last acquired a book. I purchased K J Kabza’s new anthology Through Spaces.

Posted in Female Author, Novel

Classics Club Spin #32 – Northanger Abbey


So, there is this novel called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It’s written by Mark Haddon, came out in 2003, and was quite popular. While the author says he didn’t write that main character as particularly being on the autism spectrum, Christopher is read that way by most readers. My biggest problem with The Curious Incident . . . is that, as a reader, I could see how shabbily Christopher is being treated by others while he is very much unaware of the fact. That makes me very uncomfortable, probably because I’m somewhere on the spectrum and often too oblivious to be appropriately anxious about social situations.

Northanger Abbey made me feel uncomfortable in the same way, except that’s all I was getting from this novel. There was no cozy mystery or quirky autistic kid to occasionally make me feel better. I put Northanger Abbey down after 30%. All I wanted was for Catherine to go back to the country and be happily herself because everyone in Bath is horrible. I’m including Tilney; all he seems to do is make fun of her. Maybe that’s my autism coming out and not seeing some subtlety to his actions.

Some novels are not for some people. I’ve come to appreciate Jane Austen more than I had after encountering her in college, but Northanger Abbey just isn’t for me.