Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

26 Nov 2010, 12:07 p.m.

Speculative Filk & Short Fiction

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2010 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

As with The Autograph Man, I have a couple book titles that now fall into melodies in my head.

Billy Joel's "Great Wall of China":

We coulda gone all the way
to The Left Hand of Darkness
if you'd read a little Ursula K. Le Guin

They Might Be Giants' "Mink Car":

I had sex in a Glasshouse
sex in a Glasshouse
written by Charlie Stross
[pronounced "Strouse" causa rhymi]

Thanks for recommending Glasshouse, Danni and (IIRC) James. I'm a few chapters into it now, so, just past the second sex scene (hence the filk). So far this is the most enjoyable Stross I've read, with neat ideas and a compelling POV character and mystery, up there with the clever "Down on the Farm". I never got into Accelerando, the other Laundry story of his I read didn't hook me (yet another creepy-funny take on Santa Claus), and The Family Trade felt dumbed-down. I find The Family Trade's origin story more interesting, and C.C. Finlay's July 2010 Futurismic story "Your Life Sentence" is a better woman-on-the-run story.

Speaking of that, some short online pieces I've liked recently:

"Private Detective Molly" by A. B. Goelman, 4 June 2007, Strange Horizons. I'm a sucker for hard-talking detectives, and talking robots.

I grab my trench coat and fedora from the closet before looking around the room.

That's when I see my new boss. Four feet of trouble. Brunette variety.

"Death and Suffrage" by Dale Bailey, from the 2007 anthology The Living Dead. "The dead had voted, all right, and not just in Chicago." Not a postapocalyptic zombie story; instead, politics and a compelling droning dreary nightmare feel. Like The West Wing meets World War Z.

"Talisman" by Tracina Jackson-Adams, 19 August 2002, Strange Horizons. Is this urban fantasy, except rural? Horses, a family feud, dark ceremonies in the wood. I don't usually like fantasy, or fiction about horses, but Jackson-Adams got me with high stakes, slow-burn reveals, and believable emotion and characters.

"How to Make Friends in Seventh Grade" by Nick Poniatowski, 21 June 2010, Strange Horizons. "I wasn't mad at you for losing the rocket. I was mad at you for being such a nerd. I'm not your friend, and I never was." Hurts so good. One character's wish fulfillment, but not the POV character's.

I'm halfway through the great Machine of Death anthology (free to download). The Camille Alexa and J. Jack Unrau, David Malki!, and Jeffrey C. Wells stories especially stick with me.

It was a good salesman voice, keen and enthusiastic, and it bore shockingly little resemblance to the one he'd been using his entire workaday life up until that day about two months ago, the day Simon now liked to call "Torn Apart And Devoured By Lions Day."

"Hokkaido Green" by by Aidan Doyle, 1 November 2010, Strange Horizons. Bittersweet fantasy about emotions and trafeoffs.

A brown bear entered the clearing. It walked upright and carried an old-fashioned miner's lantern filled with fireflies. It waddled towards the pool, looking less like a predator than like an elderly sumo wrestler tottering uncertainly towards a bout with a reigning champion.

In the comments, I welcome your thoughts on the linked stories, or additional filk on spec-fic titles.


27 Nov 2010, 11:00 a.m.

I haven't read that bit of Stross. I had been reading the Merchant Princes, basically for their alternate-history take and examination of economics, sociology, and how those scale for globalization. Unfortunately, I just finished book five, and I have to say that I feel he really jumped the shark there. (I mostly agree with his opinion of the central political figure, but wow, that was ludicrous.) I might have to check out "Glasshouse" if it's better than that. I'm not going to read the Atrocity Archives; I'm so not a Cthulhuverse kind of girl.