Clavis Aurea #12: Joseph Tomaras, Jo Walton, James Gunn

by on Aug 18, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

The surveillance society dystopia has attracted more mainstream critical attention than the entire rest of genre combined, thanks to a rich array of prescient offering from Orwell’s 1984 to Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother. Yet, now that we arguably live in a surveillance society, these stories have become less cautionary. People in power now know virtually everything they could want to about all of us, and, for the most part, Westerners are happy to be watched. Now the question is not how to avoid Big Brother, but how we live with him. Or, as in the case of Joseph Tomaras’s ‘Bonfires in Anacostia’ (Clarkesworld # 95), how our ignorance...

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Clavis Aurea #11: Sylvia Spruck Wrigley, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, David Cleden, Lou J. Berger

by on Aug 1, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

The best thing about flash fiction is that it is exactly the right length to read on the subway; underground with no WiFi. When Daily Science Fiction recently announced that they would stop running their longer stories on Fridays, I had to admit I was relieved. Dangling from a crossbar with my fellow commuters packed around me, I always thumbed past the longer stories, knowing I wouldn’t make it before my stop. Flash hits that sweet spot. Really good flash will make my whole day (or ruin it, such as when I was almost hit by a car reading Jess Hyslop’s great “How to Love a Necromancer”). Sylvia Spruck Wrigley’s “Space Travel Loses its Allure When You’ve Lost Your Moon...

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Clavis Aurea #10: Virginia M. Mohlere, Lara Elena Donnelly, Rhonda Eikamp

by on Jul 17, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Non-violent strength is one of my holy grails of specfic writing. Can a character be active, engaging, powerful and in control without being militant? Of course they can. It’s just a harder trick to pull off than letting your characters go off the rails and kick all their problems in the face. In “Hold Back the Waters” by Virginia M. Mohlere (Mythic Delirium 1.1, July-Sept. 2014), we meet Annabeth, a young coffee barista who is also solely responsible for making sure Lake Michigan doesn’t rise up and wash away St. Bran’s, Chicago. Unassuming, down to earth, and competent, Annabeth has the quiet power of a goddess or a force of nature. From the solid base of her...

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Clavis Aurea #9: Michael J. Deluca, Su-Yee Lin, Adam Callaway

by on Jul 3, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

I am of the opinion that Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago is the greatest post-apocalyptic novel ever written. It has everything: the collapse of a great empire, a world-spanning war, an apocalyptic winter, a gritty civil war, ruined cities, post-industrial scrounging, wilderness survivalism, and even cannibalism. Genre readers are often surprised when I recommend it because what they remember of Doctor Zhivago is a wistful love story, scenic Russian winters and maybe the appendices full of poetry. That isn’t the end of the world. That is life. It is unquestionably simpler to write a post-apocalypse which fetishizes the scenario – who bombed out who, how what...

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Clavis Aurea #8: Cat Hellisen, Ashley C. Ford, and Heather Clitheroe

by on Jun 19, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

Pentangle’s Cruel Sister was a formative album for me, its title track in particular. It’s an old murder ballad about two sisters vying for the affections of a knight who has come to court the elder, but truly loves the younger. The dark elder sister drowns the golden younger sister, presumably out of jealousy, only to repent of the murder when a traveling musician turns up a year later playing a harp made of the dead girls’ bones. The things we do for love, right? The ballad notably doesn’t dwell much on the role of the suitor, despite the fact that he was two-timing the sisters and presumably bears some responsibility for the ensuing tragedy. Luckily, there are...

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Clavis Aurea #7: K.M. Ferebee, Jack Hollis Marr, E. Catherine Tobler

by on Jun 6, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

“Magical realism” can be a misleading term. There is a nonsensical quality to magical realism in literature; mystifying content which isn’t realistic at all. In high fantasy, magic makes internal sense, like an alternate science. There are plausible magic “systems,” schools of wizardry and races of creatures with particular abilities. With magical realism, the magic is at odds with the real world. It isn’t internally rational. It isn’t a new science: it’s magic. “The Earth and Everything Under” by K.M. Ferebee (Shimmer #19) is a lovely piece of magical realism that perfectly encapsulates that spirit of the unexplainable. In this tale of witchcraft, nature’s laws...

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