I totally suck at blogging regularly, I know. And probably the last thing someone who sucks at blogging regularly should do is start some kind of blog series, but since this is mostly links and I'm only going to do it once a month then maybe it's not that onerous a task. So, without further bloviating, here are a couple of short stories that I really enjoyed reading this month, and maybe you will too! (P.S. Not all of these were published in November 2012 and I'm not going to only commit myself to posting about current stories. These are stories that I read in November.)
First up, "Robot" by Helena Bell. I'd fallen behind on reading Clarkesworld Magazine and for that I have no excuse because it's one of the best short fiction rags out there. And this is one of the best stories I've read in Clarkesworld for quite some time. I'm not sure if the nod to Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl" was intentional but I'd like to think it is. Just like the list of dos and don'ts in the Kincaid piece paint a vivid picture of the titular girl's world, the list in "Robot" gives an indirect view of the world that the "robot" (which is not actually what the creature is at all... or is it?) inhabits and of the changes being wrought to humanity due to contact with the creatures. Just a really awesome piece of work.
On the homage front, just today I read "A Game of Rats and Dragon" by Tobias Buckell on Lightspeed and found it an awesome update of the classic Cordwainer Smith story. I got into Smith last fall after a mention of him on another blog. I'd never heard of him, but within that morning I'd read everything of his available online for free, and ordered the best-of collection. Then, the complete collection soon after. If you'd have told me that some of the most whacked-out, mind-bending, truly alien SF ever had been produced by a fucking Golden Age writer, I'd have never believed it. Smith was born too early, and died too young. And Buckell's story puts a modern twist on one of the best of Smith's tales, placing it within the milieu of virtual LARPing. Read it, then read the original, or maybe do that backwards. (For bonus lolz, check out the comments. A few people are quite upset with this story for... not being written by Cordwainer Smith, I suppose.)
"Beneath Impossible Circumstances" by Andrea Kneeland (Strange Horizons), much like Bell's story above, tells you more by what it's not telling you than by what it is. At its core, this is the story of a break-up, but also a break-down, of either society or the natural order or both. I really dig these kind of dystopic stories where you aren't exactly told what precipitated the downfall, just left with the result: a world where the "unreal" is overtaking the "real," and of course all the questions about whether that matters and if so, why? And Kneeland's prose is fantastic: "The sun is a whitehaired girl, fever sleeping and swaddled in a blue blanket." Spec-fic needs more poets, I think.
That's it! Hopefully, check in next month for the best short stories I read in December that I was moved to write about before becoming sick of blogging. And if you have any recommendations, feel free to leave them in the comments.