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N.K. Jemisin - The City Born GreatN.K. Jemisin is an award-winning (including the Hugo an unprecedented three times in a row) author of speculative fiction short stories and novels who lives and writes in New York. Besides writing, she also is a counseling psychologist and educator, and a political/feminist/anti-racist blogger. She used to write a science fiction column for the New York Times Book Review, and still writes occasional long-form reviews for the NYT.

The City Born Great is a story of her hometown, New York, telling how it develops to the point where it is being 'born' after growing for a long time, and the challenges that exist for cities what reach this stage of maturity.
Neither the idea of cities as entities, living things, separate beings nor the notion of beings, things, groups going through transcending stages and steps are new in themselves. Uncharitably I could describe the short story at hand as Childhood's End for Cities; more charitably I would describe it as fascinating, breathless, headlong, and absorbing in its detail and drive towards (re)birth, and reminiscent of the magic Charlie Human can evoke when he's not too focused on action.
And if I feel that some parts of the climactic scene do not live up the the initial setting and build-up then that's my opinion, and yours might well differ. Have a look yourself, it's worth doing so!

The story is hosted on Tor.com, and so is the picture by Richie Pope that goes with it.

Links: N.K. Jemisin - The City Born Great - Tor.com - Richie Pope

 

As it's come up on one of my feeds, here I have an absolute classic for you:

Fredric Brown's 1954 short story Solipsist

Whilst he wrote novels, too, I always consider Fredric as one of the grand masters of the short - sometimes very short - story, frequently with an surprising twist to it that can turn an entire story on its head and forces the reader to start again. This is not one of those, but the twist is a classic.

For those not familiar with the term, Wikipedia provides the following definition for Solipsism:


 from Latin solus, meaning 'alone', and ipse, meaning 'self', is the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside the mind. As a metaphysical position, solipsism goes further to the conclusion that the world and other minds do not exist.

 

S. P. Somtow - The Comet that Cried for its MotherHere's a blast from a past, and a great hope for the future, all in one package!

S. P. Somtow (or Somtow Sucharitkul, which he originally published under), the Thai/American polymath famous for both his writing and as a composer, has re-released The Comet that Cried for its Mother, an Inquestor originally published in Amazing Stories and later, in adapted form, included in Utopia Hunters on Wattpad.

So, firstly, go forth and read, and enjoy - I always appreciated the Inquestor stories for their fantastic Space Opera setting, mixed with a High Values/High Honour culture which could just as well be from a classic Fantasy setting, for its inspirational and evocative language and storytelling.

But, also - this is, as he states, part of the path toward a 5th novel in the series; which he plans to publish in Novella-length instalments as a Zine, with ancillary materials, original stories, and hopefully artwork. And me, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on new (or even previously unseen) material set in this universe.

Links - S. P. Somtow - Somtow Sucharitkul - Wattpad - The Comet that Cried for its Mother

 

Aliette de Bodard - Children of Thorns, Children of WaterHere's a story set in Aliette de Bodard's 'Dominion of the Fallen' universe:

Children of Thorns, Children of Water is set between two novels - The House of Shattered Wings and The House of Binding Thorns. It was a preorder reward for The House of Binding Thorns, and was then made available for free online in issue 17 of the Uncanny Magazine.

It has now, deservedly in my opinion, been shortlisted for the 2018 Hugo Award.

To whet your appetite for the story, which I strongly recommend you read, I shamelessly nick Aliette's own description of her story:

Dragons, creepy magic, cooking (!).

In a Paris that never was, a city of magicians, alchemists and Fallen angels struggling to recover from a devastating magical war…

Once each year, the House of Hawthorn tests the Houseless: for those chosen, success means the difference between a safe life and the devastation of the streets. However, for Thuan and his friend Kim Cuc, — dragons in human shapes and envoys from the dying underwater kingdom of the Seine — the stakes are entirely different. Charged with infiltrating a House that keeps encroaching on the Seine, if they are caught, they face a painful death.

Worse, mysterious children of thorns stalk the candidates through Hawthorn’s corridors. Will Thuan and Kim Cuc survive and succeed?

Links: Aliette de Bodard - Children of Thorns, Children of Water - Uncanny Magazine - Hugo Award Shortlist

 

Debbie Urbanski - An Incomplete Timeline of What We Tried

Here is a short - story? - fitting for a slightly depressing, dry, blue January. Debbie Urbanski talks in her story An Incomplete Timeline of What We Tried on Vice Motherboard about the End of Humanity. 

The story is subtitled 'Working Back from Human Extinction', and does exactly that - provide a list of events and interventions, in reverse chronological order, of the run-up to human extinction. You will not be surprised that it begins in the today, or maybe even the yesterday, with 'Turn off the lights when you are no longer in the room.'

But if the path to hell is paved with good intention, then the path to human extinction is paved with decisions made with the best intentions. At least some of them, the rest of course were made due to greed, other interests than humanity overall, or simply stupidity...

But read for yourself...

Links: Debbie Urbanski - An Incomplete Timeline of What We Tried - Vice - Motherboard

 

 

Doris Lessing – The Sirian Experiments

 

Charles Stross - The Atrocity Archives

 

Aliette de Bodard – In the Vanishers’ Palace

 

Ken MacLeod - Cosmonaut Keep

 

Somtow Sucharitul – Starship & Haiku

 

Liz Williams - Empire of Bones

 

Thomas Pynchon – Gravity’s Rainbow

 

Sydney Padua - The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

 

Doris Lessing - Shikasta

 

Tricia Sullivan – Occupy Me

 

Lavie Tidhar - Central Station

 

Peter Watts - Blindsight

 

Somtow Sucharitkul - The Throne of Madness

 

Thomas Pynchon - Slow Learner

 

Ian Sales – Adrift on the Sea of Rains

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