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Jed Hartman
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A new entry in my almost-weekly-again Strange Horizons retrospective:

  “The Red Bride” (http://www.strangehorizons.com/2010/20100705/bride-f.shtml), by Samantha Henderson

  A bedtime story told to a human child by an alien slave. (Published in 2010.) (1,800 words.)

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The story of the Red Bride is a slave's tale in slave speech, which I do not generally hold in my head around humans lest my face betray me, so I must shift words around from one meaning to another like stones on a reckoning-board, each stone taking meaning from a square where another stone was a moment before.
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(See also the full list of Flashback stories (http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/pages/strange_horizons_flashbacks.html).)

(I'm still behind on posting Flashback stories, but if all goes well, I'll catch up next week.)


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I love the gradual revelation in this, as we come to understand step by step what's going on. (And I feel like gradual revelation is particularly hard to do well in such a short story.) And I love the small ways that the protagonist's character is gradually unveiled as well. I can imagine a story with this story's general form and plot that would consist simply of the protagonist telling a story and then at the end saying “Oh, and by the way, that story was an analogy and now we're going to kill you all”; but I think this story does a much better job than that hypothetical one, by providing a great deal of nuance, subtlety, and even pathos in a compact space.

I'm also intrigued by this story's use of analogy, suggesting human analogies as a way to make alien concepts accessible for both the human-child listener in the story and the real-world reader. Something about the flavor of those analogies reminds me of “The House Beyond Your Sky” (http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2016/04/20/15251.html).

(This entry originally appeared at http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2016/05/27/15279.html)
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A new entry in my nearly-weekly Strange Horizons retrospective:

“The Fountain and the Shoe Store” (http://www.strangehorizons.com/2011/20110905/fountain-f.shtml), by Paul Steven Marino

A hilarious and heartbreaking story about grief, loss, art, responsibility, atonement, and fantastical architecture. (Published in 2011.) (5,200 words.)

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“This place can take away any disease out there for an hour at a time,” I said. “People are going to keep coming, press conference or no press conference.”

“I don't know,” he said. “There's a county fair over in Moretown right now that's got a seven-headed cow.”

“Can their seven-headed cow bring back the dead?” I asked.

“No,” he said, “but can your archway moo all the parts of the Ninth Symphony?”
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(See also the full list of Flashback stories (http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/pages/strange_horizons_flashbacks.html).)

(I'm still behind on posting Flashback stories, but if all goes well, I'll catch up next week.)



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Possibly this is only because I've been reading Lafferty recently, but this story is feeling kind of Laffertyesque to me at the moment. Something about the deadpan matter-of-fact tone combined with the fantastical aspects, and the refusal to explain any of the fantastical parts.

Anyway, this is another story that makes me both laugh out loud and cry. And I love that matter-of-fact narrative voice. And I like that the protagonist is, in his own way, trying to atone for what he did, but that Mary doesn't forgive him, and he doesn't try to push her to do so. And I like that (as with the previous Flashback story (http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2016/05/03/15262.html)) the protagonist has a penchant for doing things in perhaps unnecessarily complicated ways.

But the thing I love most about this story is the way that it's constructed, particularly the bits that don't look like they're a big deal until they pay off devastatingly later. Like the bit where the protagonist doesn't tell us the name he originally wanted for the Fountain, even suggests he doesn't remember what he said, and we get this line in response:

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And from the far wings of the room, somebody else asked, “Who the hell is Jack?”
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Which just looks like a throwaway mildly puzzling line, until we find out later that Jack is the dead kid, and then we find out that the name the protagonist had originally wanted was Jack's Door, and that throws the whole story up to that point into a different light. And then the same thing happens with the shoe store—the apparently inconsequential silly thing at the beginning that turns out to be at the emotional heart of the story at the end. Good stuff.

(This entry originally appeared at http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2016/05/06/15263.html)
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A new entry in my somewhat-weekly Strange Horizons retrospective:


“L'Aquilone du Estrellas (The Kite of Stars)” (http://www.strangehorizons.com/2003/20030106/estrellas.shtml), by Dean Francis Alfar

A young woman sets out on a quest to find all of the impossible materials needed to build a kite that can carry her. A story about unrequited love, making very complicated plans, taking on impossible challenges, “the truth about quests,” and the magical world of Hinirang. (Published in 2003.) (3,500 words.)

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Maria Isabella said, “What I need is a kite large enough to strap me onto. Then I must fly high enough to be among the stars themselves, so that anyone looking at the stars will see me among them.”

“What you need,” Melchor Antevadez replied with a smile, “is a balloon. Or someone else to love.”
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(See also the full list of Flashback stories (http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/pages/strange_horizons_flashbacks.html).)

(I'm still behind on posting Flashback stories. Working on catching up.)



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I've always been tempted to call this story magical realism, but I don't think it really fits that label. The setting, although we didn't know this when we published the story and knowing it isn't necessary for enjoyment, is a shared world; Dean described it thusly in an interview (http://charles-tan.blogspot.com/2009/03/interview-dean-francis-alfar.html):

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Hinirang is a reaimagined Philippines set during the time when the country was a colony of Spain. “Hinirang” comes from the Tagalog phrase “lupang hinirang” (“land longed for”) from the Philippine national anthem. It was created as a shared setting among friends, envisioned to be populated by a diverse cast whose stories were told by short stories and comics.
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For more about Hinirang, see also a 2003 interview (http://deanalfar.blogspot.com/2003/03/part-of-our-world-heres-hinirang.html) and a 2011 article (http://armchairgamer.blogspot.com/2011/03/inspirations-stories-from-hinirang.html).

And Hinirang is one of the things I loved about this story. I didn't know enough about the history of the Philippines to get everything that Dean was doing here, but I didn't feel like I needed to; I loved the flavor of the world, the evocative tiny descriptions of places and people in passing, and most especially the language—both the fact of the smooth mix of languages, and the poetic phrases in English.

(This story was an early example of our not italicizing “foreign” words in stories; I don't remember whether I gave any conscious thought to that, but I'm glad we went with Dean's non-italics. See also Jackie and Mary Anne's 2014 discussion of italics (http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2014/03/18/14863.html).)

I also liked Maria Isabella's kind of Rube Goldbergian approach to problem-solving. How to save an astronomer's life? Step on a dog's tail. How to get his attention? Go on a sixty-year quest. I think the opening sequence nicely establishes both her character and the tone of the story in that regard.

Btw, this is another story that's licensed under a Creative Commons license, so you can copy it (but not the art) for noncommercial purposes as long as you give attribution.

One more thing I want to mention here: in addition to writing fiction, Dean and his wife Nikki Alfar edited the Philippine Speculative Fiction series of anthologies, which appear to now all be available for Kindle; here, for example, is volume 1 (http://www.amazon.com/Philippine-Speculative-Fiction-Francis-Alfar-ebook/dp/B007T8JF2A/).

Oh, and among Dean's books is a short-story collection titled The Kite of Stars and Other Stories (http://www.amazon.com/Kite-Stars-Other-Stories-ebook/dp/B00ARFNCMG), which is also available for Kindle.

(This entry originally appeared at http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2016/05/03/15262.html)
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A new entry in my quasi-weekly Strange Horizons retrospective:

  “The Book of Things Which Must Not Be Remembered” (http://www.strangehorizons.com/2003/20030505/book_of_things.shtml), by C. Scavella Burrell

  About a girl in Ancient Egypt learning to be a scribe; about writing, and remembrance, and whose stories get preserved. (Published in 2003.) (5,700 words.)

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I told Neb, “All our family are scribes.”

“It's man's work,” Neb answered sharply.

I shrugged. “I'm not doing man's work. There are things men don't write about.”
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(See also the full list of Flashback stories (http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/pages/strange_horizons_flashbacks.html).)

(I'm still behind on posting Flashback stories. Working on catching up.)


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This story involves some tropes and themes that I almost always love in stories:


  * The power of writing and words.
  * Girls doing things that their culture considers to be reserved for boys.
  * Hidden stories and secret histories.
  * The pain of seeing data and stories destroyed or erased.

And more. I also love the sense of time and place—the author was well-versed in the relevant history, and I learned a fair bit from discussion while editing. And there's some lovely prose here. And lines I love, like this:

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This, Greatgrandfather explained, was a story of things which did not happen. It was as inconsequential as all the other stories he told me about the years of the invaders, those things that are not to be remembered.
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But what I love most about this story is the final scene: the discovery of the ink and paper in the shrine of the god of (among other things) writing; the use of those materials to record the secret history that the authorities have forbidden, written by someone in the margins of society, someone who isn't allowed to write; the hope that her daughters' daughters will also one day be scribes; the dream that writing might one day lead to magic.

(This entry originally appeared at http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2016/04/29/15260.html)
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A new (still belated) entry in my nominally weekly Strange Horizons retrospective:

  “Algorithms for Love” (http://www.strangehorizons.com/2004/20040712/algorithms.shtml), by Ken Liu

  An exploration of artificial intelligence, free will, and predictability, focused on a woman in the near future who programs interactive AI dolls. Arguably kind of a horror story, I suppose. (And potentially triggery in various ways.) (Published in 2004.) (5,600 words.)

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Every interview followed the same pattern. The moment when Clever Laura™ first turned to the interviewer and answered a question, there was always some awkwardness and unease. Seeing an inanimate object display intelligent behavior had that effect on people. Then I would explain how Laura worked and everyone would be delighted. I memorized the non-technical, warm-and-fuzzy answers to all the questions until I could recite them even without my morning coffee. I got so good at it that I sometimes coasted through entire interviews on autopilot, not even paying attention to the questions and letting the same words I heard over and over again spark off my responses.
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(See also the full list of Flashback stories (http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/pages/strange_horizons_flashbacks.html).)

(I'm still behind on posting Flashback stories. Working on catching up.)


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This is not, of course, the first story to suggest that humans might be in some way robotic and/or deterministic, but I like the way this one handles its themes.

I also like that it's a computational linguistics story (that was one of my majors in college), and that its computer stuff is firmly grounded in reality. The description of Clever Laura's speech algorithm, for example, sounds very plausible to me, and the Chinese Room gedankenexperiment is nicely summarized and nicely relevant. (Perhaps that kind of thing isn't as pleasing or impressive to everyone, but I saw a lot of submissions that included computer stuff but that appeared to have been written by people unfamiliar with real-world computers.) There are a couple of less-plausible bits—the line about understanding the neural nets is kind of unlikely, for example (though that can be read as an indication that Elena is misperceiving the situation), and robotics hasn't advanced as fast as the story speculates—but even so, I read this with confidence that the author knows what he's talking about with regard to the computer aspects. Of course, the story isn't really about plausible tech extrapolation; I just like having plausible tech as part of the infrastructure of a story that's about ideas or characters.

I guess I don't have a lot else to say about the content of this story. So instead I'll add a few metanotes:

  * This was one of the few stories we published that the author gave a Creative Commons license to. You can freely copy the story, as long as you give attribution and don't use it for commercial purposes without permission.

  * If I'm interpreting Ken's bibliography (http://kenliu.name/stories/short-fiction-bibliography/) correctly, this was his third published story. (...On a side note, he sure is prolific: over 75 stories published in a three-year period. He also has a list, on his short stories page (http://kenliu.name/stories/), of his stories that he particularly likes but that didn't get much attention.)

  * Here are a couple of reviews/discussions that I think engage interestingly with what the story's doing:
      * Patrick Samphire's review (http://www.journalscape.com/sfreviews/2004-07-23-14:13).
      * Nancy Fulda's review (http://nancyfulda.livejournal.com/2390.html).

(This entry originally appeared at http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2016/04/26/15255.html)
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A new (belated) entry in my allegedly weekly Strange Horizons retrospective:


  “The House Beyond Your Sky” (http://www.strangehorizons.com/2006/20060904/house-f.shtml), by Benjamin Rosenbaum

  In the far future, as the universe is winding down, a creator of simulated worlds is creating a truly new universe; but a visitor's arrival changes things. (Trigger warning for abuse.) (Published in 2006.) (3,900 words.)

  You can listen to this story in audio format (http://escapepod.org/2007/05/17/ep106-the-house-beyond-your-sky/) from Escape Pod, though I'm not sure this is a great read-aloud story. (And the well-meaning (unrelated to this story) editorial comments about diversity-in-sf at the beginning of the podcast strike a couple of unfortunate notes.)

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Now our universe is old. That breath of the void, quintessence, which once was but a whisper nudging us apart, has grown into a monstrous gale. Space billows outward, faster than light can cross it. Each of our houses is alone, now, in an empty night.

And we grow colder to survive. Our thinking slows, whereby we may in theory spin our pulses of thought at infinite regress. Yet bandwidth withers; our society grows spare. We dwindle.

We watch Matthias, our priest, in his tiny house beyond our universe. Matthias, whom we built long ago, when there were stars.
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(See also the full list of Flashback stories (http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/pages/strange_horizons_flashbacks.html).)

(I'm still way behind on posting Flashback stories. Still hoping to catch up soon.)

 

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A lot of these Flashback stories are stories that I felt didn't get the attention they deserved at the time. This one did; it was the first SH story nominated for a Hugo award. I was very pleased by that, though disappointed that it didn't win. (It lost to a Tim Pratt story that we had previously rejected before Tim sold it to Asimov's. So yay Tim!)

I often enjoy stories with posthuman settings, full of lines like “megaparsecs of exuberantly wise matter, every gram of it teeming with societies of self” and ”My template will be stored in spurious harmonics in the shadow-spheres and replicated across the strandspace, until the formation of subwavelets at 10 to the -30 seconds” and phrases like “mimetic engines” and “ontotropes”; but sometimes such stories can be hard to find a human connection with, so I like Ben's use of metaphor (and the explicit reminders that this is only a metaphor) in this story to help build that connection for non-posthuman readers.

But I think that what really builds that connection, at least for me, is the thread about Sophie. Matthias is a plenty interesting character, but I think Sophie (small though her presence in the story is) keeps both Matthias and the reader grounded in humanity.

This is the sort of story that expects readers to already know a lot. The part about simulations and compression, for example (“Scientists teaching baboons to sort blocks may notice that all other baboons become instantly better at block-sorting, revealing a high-level caching mechanism. Or engineers building their own virtual worlds may find they cannot use certain tricks of optimization and compression—for Matthias has already used them”), is a shorthand summary of an idea that's part of the discussion of whether our universe is a simulation; for people familiar with that argument, it's evocative, but people unfamiliar with it may have no idea what it's talking about. But one thing I like about this story is that I think that even if you don't follow all the tech stuff in detail, the gist of the story is followable, partly because of the metaphors.

Still, looking at the Escape Pod reader comments, it's clearly not to everyone's taste; it worked really well for some people and not at all for others.

One thing I was worried about during the editing process was giving readers sufficient clues at the beginning to help them figure out what kind of story it is, to establish reading protocols. In Ben's original version of the story, there was more posthumany stuff in the opening section; I worried that that would be offputting to readers, wouldn't let them ease into the story, so Ben ended up cutting that material, but the result may be a story that advertises itself as one thing in the opening section (which could read like a fantasy story) but then turns out to be something else. I still like the current opening, but I think it was an interesting exercise in setting reader expectations.

Another thing I like about this story is the echoes of religion. The metaphors of priest and pilgrim; Matthias's biblical “be not afraid” and his disclaimer that he isn't God despite being the creator of Sophie's universe; Matthias's prayers to his own God; the line “Take the keys from me”; and more. Especially when the posthuman and plot and religious threads combine, in the line “Endpoints in time are established for a million souls. Their knotted timelines, from birth to death, hang now in n-space: complete, forgiven.”

But I think what I love most in this story is the ending, the last couple of sections. Especially this part:

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"Are you sad, too, teddy bear?" she whispers.

"Yes," says her teddy bear.

"Are you afraid?"

"Yes," it says.

She hugs it tight. "We'll make it," she says. "We'll make it. Don't worry, teddy bear. I'll do anything for you."
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One last thought from me: Gender is interesting in this story. Matthias is explicitly described as “neuter,” but the story uses male pronouns and a gendered name to describe him. Ben and I discussed this at the time; I think if I were editing this story now, I might push a little harder on the gender stuff, suggest going further with it. (As Ben has subsequently done in his as-yet-unpublished but amazing novel.) I found it interesting recently to run the story through Regender to swap the genders (http://regender.com/swap/http://www.strangehorizons.com/2006/20060904/house-f.shtml).

For some further discussion of the story, see also some comments (http://www.benjaminrosenbaum.com/cgi-bin/mt/hobnobbery.cgi?entry_id=441) on Ben's blog.

And speaking of Ben's blog, while I'm here I'll include a link to his latest blog entry (http://www.benjaminrosenbaum.com/blog/archives/2016_04.html), which provides an “Anti-Extropianist Toolbox.”

(This entry originally appeared at  http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2016/04/20/15251.html)
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(Last night's blog post.)

Was feeling a little unwell at work today; came home in the early afternoon, figuring I would rest a little and then do some time-sensitive work from home, but almost immediately fell asleep on the couch, and slept for about three hours, and woke up irritable and groggy (though no longer feeling sick as such). Have spent most of the evening following the New York primary (http://fivethirtyeight.com/live-blog/new-york-primary-presidential-election-2016/) on fivethirtyeight.com and elsewhere, and reading a little, but am still about half asleep.

Which is too bad because in addition to the time-sensitive work stuff, I had a bunch of stuff I wanted to get done at home tonight. Too groggy and irritable to do most of it. Will try to finish up work stuff and then go get some sleep.

My pattern for most of the past few days has been to stay up well past the time when I can barely keep my eyes open, so I'm not much use during the late-night period, and then wake up too late to get stuff done in the morning. Maybe if I can get to bed really early tonight, I can shift that. We'll see.

(The previous entry, about cheerfulness, was kind of poorly timed; I scheduled it a couple days ago to post today, so I think it ended up posting while I was asleep.)

(This entry originally appeared at http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2016/04/19/15254.html)
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A new (belated) entry in my weekly Strange Horizons retrospective:

  “Somadeva: A Sky River Sutra” (http://www.strangehorizons.com/2010/20100329/somadeva-f.shtml), by Vandana Singh

  A lovely multilayered story about the power of storytelling; about what stories mean; about narrators; about things breaking apart and about fragments coming together to form a whole. (Published in 2010.) (5,400 words.)

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In all this, I have drawn on ancient Indic tradition, in which the author is a compiler, an embellisher, an arranger of stories, some written, some told. He fragments his consciousness into the various fictional narrators in order to be a conduit for their tales.

In most ancient works, the author goes a step further: he walks himself whole into the story, like an actor onto the stage.

This is one way I have broken from tradition. I am not, myself, a participant in the stories of the Kathāsaritsāgara. And Isha wants to know why.
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(See also the full list of Flashback stories (http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/pages/strange_horizons_flashbacks.html).)

(I meant this to be the Flashback story for two weeks ago, but time got away from me. I hope to catch up soon.)

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I've always loved self-reference, and stories that describe themselves, and stories about Story and about storytelling, and narrators who insert themselves into stories, and I think this story does an unusually good job with all of those things. (For example, I was waiting for, and was very pleased by, Vandana's brief insertion of herself or at least her own name into the story.)

I'm also always pleased by stories that point out that, as this one puts it, “These old stories have as many meanings as there are stars in the sky. To assign one single interpretation to them is to miss the point.” And I think this story as a whole also intentionally resists a single interpretation; not only in the uncertainty about which of the narrative strands is “real” to the narrator and which is fiction, but also in the ways that the various fragments of the story can be interpreted in various ways—as physics-based descriptions of reality, as folktales, as reflections of a theme about pieces of things forming larger entities and breaking apart and re-forming, as discussions of relationships among people and the ways that people form connections. I particularly liked this line in that regard:

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And so when light falls on water, or a man shoots an arrow at another man, or a mother picks up a child, That Which Was Once Nameless answers a very small part of the question: Who Am I?
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So, yes, in the end “[p]erhaps the Kiha are right: stories make the world.”

(This entry originally appeared at http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2016/04/06/15250.html)
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I feel like there are dozens of things I want to post here, but I have a lot of time-sensitive day-job work to do today, and several time-sensitive non-day-job tasks, so a summary will have to do.

* Am making progress on my reading-unread-books project, but over the weekend I went to BookBuyers (http://bookbuyers.com) because they're having a big sale (up to 50% off on all books) because they're either closing or moving soon, and I ended up buying about 35 books, most of which I haven't read before. Counterproductive! Oh, well.
* Making progress on old-family-photo-digitizing-and-organizing project, but very slowly.
* Acquired new Space Black Milanese Loop band for my Apple Watch. So pretty! And sparkly in the sunshine!
* Three days from now, Tesla will start taking pre-orders for the Model 3. I expect to spend most of my morning in line.
* For once, I'm not feeling particularly in need of doing anything birthdayish. Am planning to stay home tonight, maybe watch a movie, maybe just try to make progress on various projects.
* Saw Kam over the weekend, played cards with my brother and sister-in-law and her family on Saturday, met a couple of super-cool new folks on Friday, will be playing boardgames with Lori et al tomorrow night.
* Watched Mockingjay parts 1 and 2 with Kam. Am reading The Difference Engine. Have started watching The Wire.
* Have ordered a USB/Bluetooth typewriter (http://www.usbtypewriter.com/); should arrive in a couple weeks, I think. Am hoping to soon order a couple of new bookcases, including one for display of typewriters and other tchotchkes.
* Haven't even started working on taxes yet.
* Haven't even started working on Hugo nomination ballot yet.
* Haven't even started working on filling out WisCon programming form yet.
* Failed to post last week's Strange Horizons Flashback (http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/pages/strange_horizons_flashbacks.html) story, and not sure when I'll get a chance to post that or this week's. Maybe will work on that tonight.
* As of Friday, I had found homes for about 150 of my 400 giveaway books, after a couple weeks of posting lists of books; then I posted to the free-stuff mailing list at work and got a deluge of requests, resulting in another 150 or so being taken in a couple hours. I still have about 100 left to give away (mass-market paperbacks (http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2016/03/22/15241.html) and trade paperbacks and hardcovers (http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2016/03/23/15243.html)); those may go to a library book sale, or, if I can convince my neighborhood HOA, into a Little Free Library. We'll see.
* Am not making any progress on fiction, alas.
* Design for a Constellation Press logo is in progress; I really love the latest mockups. After the logo is done, maybe I'll even make some progress on other plans for the press. We'll see.
* Have been helping Mary Anne get her new site (http://www.maryannemohanraj.com/) up and running; in particular, wrote code to export 9,000 journal entries (plus comments) from her old journal, and imported them into WordPress using the CSV Importer Improved (https://wordpress.org/plugins/csv-importer-improved/) plugin. I'm a little sad to see the end of the homebrew blogging system I wrote for her long and long ago; but WordPress is a whole lot more robust and featureful. I was particularly pleased to discover that the old comments imported into WP now automatically show pictures in the case of commenters who have Gravatar avatars. Nifty.
* Had a run of five or six very social weekends in a row, and more to come soon; may spend next weekend alone at home to recharge.

Many of those items deserve full posts, but I'm out of time. Thanks for all the birthday wishes, everyone! And happy birthday to my co-birthdayites Jess, David, Theo, and Wendy.

(This entry originally appeared at http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2016/03/28/15246.html)
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A new entry in my weekly Strange Horizons retrospective:

“Rapture” (http://www.strangehorizons.com/2004/20040315/rapture.shtml), by Sally Gwylan

A slow-building story of idealist leftist anarchists in Chicago in the 1890s, and of what can happen when preachers and other leaders have too compelling a message. (Published in 2004.) (7,800 words.)

A small man whose gestures & intonation burned with fevered zeal, Owings exhorted his audience to Pray! Pray for the Holy Spirit to lead them into the ways of righteousness! As he shouted, the air inside the hall began to sparkle, golden motes drifting down. I doubted my eyes, but others were seeing it too, looking up, gaping.

(See also the full list of Flashback stories (http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/pages/strange_horizons_flashbacks.html).)


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The first thing that grabbed me about this story was the epigraph quoting Bakunin (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Bakunin), one of the founders of socialist anarchism. It's rare that I encounter an sf story so overtly and directly connected to socialism and/or anarchism, and this one follows through on the promise of that epigraph.

I also love the setting and the characters here, and especially the protagonist, Anna; I love her voice & her ideals & her struggle to uphold those ideals.

I think it's neat that this story starts out looking kinda like historical fiction, like a secret history, but that the ending transforms it into alternate history.

And most of all, I love that ending; it takes my breath away. The temptation of that oh-so-easy solution to humanity's problems; the kind and empathic and revolutionary protagonist being given the ability and means to transform the world into a better world, and yet also a world in which the people are arguably no more free than they were before. And she sees the problem, and she hesitates, and the story ends. And then I remember the ominous heading at the beginning of the story:

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Excerpts from the journal of Anna Kenney, leader of the Great Scouring; mother to Josefa Kenney Djemek, called Jos the Apostate
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which tantalizingly implies so much about what happens after the end of the story, but nonetheless leaves things unresolved.

Good stuff.

...Sally went on to write the (unrelated-to-this-story) novel A Wind out of Canaan, sf featuring homeless kids during the Great Depression; I quite liked that, too, and am sad that volume 2 of that series has not yet appeared.

(This entry originally appeared at http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2016/03/18/15240.html)
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