Weekly catch-up

Belated writing report! I’m up to 14,000 words on BrightGod, the tentatively-named sequel to 100K. (For the confused, “BrightGod” is Bright God’s Bane, and “100K” is The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Pay attention. I might spring a quiz.) Have also finally resumed regular submissions to short story markets. Got a rejection already from Apex Digest on my “aliens want our women” story, “Commission Report on the Establishment of Extrasolar Trade: Evaluation”. But I am undeterred! I made a special effort to write more science fiction this year past, and by gum I’m going to sell some of it. Eventually.

Reviewing! Spent this week’s train-commutes reading Kay Kenyon’s Maximum Ice, which I never heard of and only happened upon because the Brooklyn Public Library was doing a book giveaway as a promotion. I’ve never read Kenyon’s work before, but I really liked this tale, which was hard SF that had by far some of the best characterization I’ve ever read. The story was about a generation ship which comes back to Earth after 10,000 years to find it covered in “Ice”, a crystalline substance that has almost devoured the entire planet. The ship’s crew then has to navigate its own politics and those of the remaining Earth people in order to solve the mystery of Ice and figure out whether it can be — or should be — destroyed. Cool plot points (er, and spoilers): a) Ice turns out to be a massive crystalline computer, initially designed for its incredible information-storage properties because during the interim 10K years, Earth got hit by a cloud of dark matter which nearly killed all life on earth by stripping it of information (computers, of course, but also DNA). b) The generation ship is populated by the Rom/Gypsies/People of the Road, who fled Earth because there was a global epidemic and the gypsies got blamed for it (because they were immune), with the predictable result being concentration camps and genocide. c) The central conflict in the story comes down to two women — “Ship Mother”, a gypsy woman who serves as the living repository of memory for the generation ship, and “Mother Superior”, the leader of the Sisters of Clarity — an order of atheist nuns who rule the new Ice-covered earth. Mother vs Mother is a theme of the whole story.

It’s breathtaking stuff, and marks only the second hard-SF novel I’ve truly enjoyed in a very long time. (The other was Brenda Cooper’s The Silver Ship and the Sea, which has a sequel out that I need to get my hands on.) I can’t believe I never read Kenyon’s work before. Must check out more of it now.

Pimping! Fellow Altered Fluid member Alaya Dawn Johnson’s short story “Down the Well” came up at Strange Horizons well over a week ago, and shamefully I have only just now read it. But I love it — she’s so damn good at characterization and lyrical language, even in the midst of a grim tale about corrupt governments and playing God. Go read!

ETA: And a work colleague showed me this, which may quite possibly be the world’s most impractical Swiss Army knife. (It’s real, before you ask.) Just thought I would share.

4 Responses »

  1. …it weighs two pounds, and you’ll never fit that into your jeans pocket. That’s beyond impractical, it’s silly :D

  2. Interesting. I need to read Kay Kenyon’s work too. She appeared at a “Writing Group Panel” at Readercon and took an unpopular position, speaking out against the usefulness of writing groups — and did a great job defending it, I thought (though I obviously disagree with her since I’m in an amazing writing group, Altered Fluid). The concerns she expressed was the tendency for writers (1) to get a false sense of approval if the group likes their story, and to thereby not make needed improvements; and (2) to look for “consensus” in the group (making potentially great stories just more commercial). Good points, but not ones I’m worried about given the caliber of writers in our group. But whatever she’s doing, it obviously works given your review of her novel! Must read.

    Good luck with your novel! I can’t wait to read it!

  3. Yeah, supposedly it’s only for “collectors”. Had no idea there were collectors of 2 lb swiss army knives, but takes all kinds, I guess…

  4. I’ve heard this critique of writing groups before. I actually agree with the danger of 2; that’s one of the reasons why I don’t do whatever my group tells me, but rather listen first to my own instincts and let the group’s opinion sway only those things I’m not sure about. I think 2 is less of a danger with a group like ours because we’re so disparate — predominantly-shortstoryists and predominantly-novelists, fantasy preferrers and hard-SF preferrers (and I think at least one horror-preferrer), slipstreamy and just-the-facts-ma’am narrators, and so on. All those differences, and our willingness to respect them and also experiment with them, keeps the group voice from overwhelming any of our individual voices, IMO.

    Granted, I’m a little biased. ^_-