An Alphabet of Embers: An Anthology of Unclassifiables – Rose Lemberg (editor)

Alphabet of Embers CoverFirst Published: 6th July, 2016
Genre: Speculative Fiction / Short Story Anthology
Authors: Emily Stoddard; JY Yang; Sara Norja; Nin Harris; Greer Gilman; Kari Sperring; Mari Ness; Nisi Shawl; Zen Cho; Yoon Ha Lee; M. David Blake; Celeste Rita Baker; Alvaro Zinos-Amaro; Nolan Liebert; Mina Li; Shweta Narayan; Ian Muneshwar; Sheree Renée Thomas; Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali; Tlotlo Tsamaase; Sonya Taaffe; Emily Jiang; Ching-In Chen; Arkady Martine; Vajra Chandrasekera; Amal El-Mohtar; M Sereno
Available: | Amazon UK | Gumroad

This anthology focuses on short work with a poetic feel to the writing. A few of my favourite short pieces were included as reprints. There are interior illustrations by M Sereno, which are a good match for the feel of the language, with intricate patterns and flowing lines.

The first of my reprint favourites was “Absinthe Fish” (M. David Blake), about fish who swim in absinthe and dream. It’s as surreal as that premise sounds. “Single Entry” (Celeste Rita Baker) is more of a traditional narrative, as it follows someone with a unique carnival costume. “The Binding of Ming-tian” (Emily Jiang) is a rather chilling piece that deals with foot binding. All three have unusual imagery and went to places I hadn’t quite expected, but in a way that is accessible for me.

In the new stories, I did particularly like “The City Beneath the Sea” (Sara Norja). It combined the mysteries of the sea with folklore passed down through generations.

Generally though, I struggled with the stories. I can’t say what happened in all of them. The ones with very long paragraphs were hard for me to follow, as it meant I skipped lines and reread lines, before giving up on the paragraphs entirely. The language choices in some of the stories also meant I didn’t understand what I was reading. I started out fine with the first few stories, but by the time I got to the end, I felt I was constantly behind. I got very confused about what went with which story. It was all a bit of a blur.

This doesn’t mean that the anthology is bad, as I have language processing issues. Someone who has studied English to a higher level, or has more of a talent for language, will likely find this a far easier read and be able to enjoy the imagery. I am not that person, so I didn’t get as much out of this as I’d hoped.

[A copy of this book was received from the publisher for review purposes]

Meaty Story in Nature

“Dead Meat” is in this week’s Nature. It’s out today in print and appeared on their website yesterday. Yay! [ETA: A number of people have commented that this is pretty graphic… I don’t react the blood quite that way, but if you do, be warned… the meaty part is quite literal.]

Link: “Dead Meat” at Nature

This story is a number of seconds. It’s the second story I’ve had published by Nature. It’s also the second I’ve had published about the arts in science fiction (the first was a horror story in ChiZine). There are times when it feels like people forget that drawing, singing and other forms of expression aren’t things that go away because we have nifty new gadgets. Odd considering creative writing itself is one of the arts.

That’s my thinky thought for the day. Mostly I’m in the yay space, so this is as about as thinky as I get.

Roses Story in Nature (Nature Futures)

My hard science fiction piece “War of the Roses” is in the current issue of Nature (Volume 467 (7316), 7 October 2010). At least, that’s what their website says and I’m going to believe them.

It looks like the story is available online at the moment, but I don’t know how long that’ll last as they’re not primarily an online market: War of the Roses

Back when I was studying for my ecology degree, Nature was one of those places trainee scientists wanted to get published in. Perhaps a paper about some amazing research into the sort of things ecologists research*. I probably wouldn’t have believed time-travelling future me if I said I’d get a piece of fiction published there.

At least fiction doesn’t need citations**.

* Usually stuff like measuring lichens and wading out into swamps to take insect samples. Ecologists are the hardy branch of biologists.

** Blake, Polenth, A Bunch of Random Stuff about Roses, Polenth’s Brain, 2010

Shopping List Fiction

Blue cartoon bird

Often when asked the question ‘what do you write?’, I include shopping lists. People laugh, but I’m serious. You can tell a whole lot about someone from their shopping list. It’s a story in itself (though also a puzzle in a way, as you have to fill in the gaps).

There aren’t many places to send list stories though. So I figured I’d post this one here, in all its listy glory.

Today’s Shopping List: Wheat Field, Two Acres

* Ultrasonic Bird Scarer
* Anti-Perching Pigeon Spikes
* Bird Repeller Ribbon
* Eagle Eye Balloon

* Animating the Inanimate: 10 Beginner Projects by M. Emrys

* Turnip, large
* Carrot
* Bale of straw
* Suit, second hand
* Scarf, woollen with stripes
* Hat, wide-brimmed
* Needle and thread
* Pure spring water, one bottle
* Antimony

* Front door, same as old one
* Kitchen table, oak
* Iron chain, ten feet
* Padlock

* Bandages
* Antiseptic cream
* Matches
* Charcoal, two bags

* Cat, tiger