The Emotionless, in Love

My novella "The Emotionless, in Love" is out in the special science-fantasy issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. The novella is a stand-alone sequel to my "Blood Grains Speak Through Memories," which was a finalist for the Nebula Award. But readers don't have to read "Blood Grains" first to enjoy this novella.

Many thanks to Scott H. Andrews for both accepting the novella and for his excellent edits. Also many thanks to everyone who read and loved "Blood Grains" and asked me to return to that world with a new story.

So far the novella is receiving great reviews.

Maria Haskins said:

"Wow. WOW. This novella by Jason Sanford is part of Beneath Ceaseless Skies’ science fantasy month, and it is an absolute stunner of a tale: dramatic, even brutal at times, but also an unlikely and unusual love story that showcases Sanford’s talent for world-building. It is set in the same world as Sanford’s 2016 story “Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” (a finalist for the 2016 Nebula Awards in the novelette category), but you can read the new story as a stand-alone (then go back and read the first story, just because it’s so darn excellent). Sanford weaves an epic tale with fierce and memorable characters fighting to stay alive in a hostile world."

Charles Payseur at Quick Sip Reviews said:

"In the end, the story for me thrives on the power of its characters and the strange and haunting beauty of its world. Colton is compelling but comes so much more alive with Ae and Mita and Sri Sa around him, teaching him in ways that he needs to be taught. It’s not always a happy story, or a traditionally pretty one. There are monsters and there is blood and there are wrongs done. For me, the story reveals a setting messy and real, full of agendas and the people caught between them. But it brings the characters to a place where they can move forward, where they can work at honoring the past and moving into a future where they don’t have to remake the same old mistakes. It’s a wonderful and complex novella that you should definitely check out!"

RocketStackRank called the novella "Hugo worthy."

And the novella is also receiving praise on Goodreads:

This story is one of the most original I have read in some time. The world-building is spectacular, the character development excellent and the story line itself is fascinating. A totally worthwhile read!

You can read the story online or purchase issue 246 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies for only $1.99 for the Kindle or through Weightless Books.

#JasonReadsShortStories for February 2018

One of my goals this year is to read and review a short story every day. And here we go with the second month of the year — 28 days in February, 28 short stories read and reviewed.

Below are the reviews for all 28 stories, arranged by author's name. Also listed are the publication and story classification.

For the January reviews, go here. And if you like my reviews, consider supporting my Patreon.

February 2018 Reviews

"Dances With Snoglafanians"
Aimee Ogden, Daily Science Fiction, Flash
Forget everything you know about the white savior narrative in film b/c this is how Avatar and Dances with Wolves should have gone. A funny and truth-telling satire.

"Granny Death & the Drag King of London"
AJ Fitzwater, GlitterShip, Short Story
Lacey mourns for Freddie Mercury and her life at the height of the AIDs epidemic while being recruited by a grandmother of death. An excellent story which made me want to read more tales about these characters.

"Ten and Ten"
Alan Dean Foster, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Short Story
A researcher tries to communicate with a Pacific cuttlefish but time is running out. A good "slice of life plus science" SF story.

"A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies"
Alix E. Harrow, Apex Magazine, Short Story
Because all true librarians are witches who help readers connect with the book they need most. I love this story!

"Birth of the Ant Rights Movement"
Annalee Newitz, Spectacle Magazine, Short Story
A historic examination of the mutual discovery by ants and humans that the other species is sentient and can communicate. A quirky, thought-provoking story.

The Goddess Has Many Faces"
Ashok K. Banker, Lightspeed, Short Story
An assassin aims to kill the leader of an all-female breakaway region of India. This is a disturbing and violent yet ultimately insightful story showcasing the lengths some people will go to stop women from challenging the world's status quo. But as always, the soul of a movement is hard to kill.

"Where the Anchor Lies"
Benjamin C. Kinney, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Short Story
An aged general treks to the graveyard of her former warship/lover while contemplating how politicians use the military to manipulate citizens.

Carolyn Ives Gilman, Clarkesworld, Novella
An exciting hard SF tale of colonists on an alien world with tons of sensawunda, danger, and insight. Once I started reading this story I couldn't put it down. "Umbernight" merges Golden Age SF excitement with modern sensibilities as this world's new generation of colonists pay for their parents' sins. Also a great look at the clash between the rationalists & dreamers in every society & how both are needed. Highly recommended.

"Where Would You Be Now?"
Carrie Vaughn,, Short Story
It's the end of the world and a group of doctors sets up an armed outpost to treat people in a Mad Max style USA. What I particularly like about Vaughn's story is it covers issues many male-focused post-apocalyptic tales ignore, including how without modern medical care both child birth and high infant mortality will kill a great many people.

"The Quiet Like a Homecoming"
Cassandra Khaw, Lightspeed, Short Story
A cat wife travels to Scandinavia to revisit places seen before. Beautifully written and hypnotic. There are lines in @casskhaw's story which grabbed my mind and made me pause. "...the color is absolute as a rich man’s confidence." and "Animal wives are performative, performances, a menagerie of curated expression and long-lashed silences." Wow!

"A Lumberjack’s Guide to Dryad Spotting"
Charles Payseur, Flash Fiction Online, Flash
A bittersweet yet beautiful slice of life about a lumberjack who will do anything to keep his dream of life and love. I don't read many stories twice in one hour, but I did with this great flash fiction story.

"Endless City"
David Gerrold, Jan/Feb 2018 Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Novelette
A hard-boiled detective is hired to investigate a client's murder moments before it happens in this merging of cyberspace & reality, where performance is everything & nothing. This novelette is hypnotic and dazzling, with something to insult everyone in a world where privacy might be the only unobtainable dream.

"The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington"
Henderson Djèlí Clark, Fireside Fiction, Short Story
A moving story melding ghosts and magic and humanity into something far truer than either fantasy or history. "The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington" proves that Clark is a writer to both watch and read. I wouldn't be surprised if this story earns award nominations and reprints in various year's best anthologies.

"Early Morning Service"
Irette Y. Patterson, Strange Horizons, Short Story
An immortal church usher lives off the faith and love of her dwindling congregation. A sad, touching, yet ultimately hopeful story.

"Deep Down in the Cloud"
Julie Novakova, Clarkesworld, Short Story
A hard SF scuba diving hacker story (yes, you read that correctly). A fast paced, exciting story. I'm particularly intrigued by the idea of putting server farms underwater to protect against a large increase in solar activity, which would damage all our modern tech.

"Just Another Love Song"
Kat Howard, Robots Vs Fairies, Short Story
A busking banshee takes on a jerk of a bro-culture fairy who forces people to fall in love with him. A fun, sweet story.

"Fairyless Tales"
Kyle Kirrin, Daily Science Fiction, Flash
Funny and sacrilegious takes on fables, as if Monty Python channeled the spirits of the Brothers Grimm.

"On the Occasion of a Burial of Ernest Zach Ulrich"
Mary Kuryla, Strange Horizons, Short Story
A powerful, language-twisting story which is also disturbing as hell (be sure to read the content warnings). To sumarize the story is near impossible, except to say it involves a shape-changing bear, an abandoned girl, and a man who needs to pay the local tax collector. The story left me shuddering in despair by the end.

"El is a Spaceship Melody"
Maurice Broaddus, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Novelette
Forget space opera, this story is pure space jazz as the starship Arkestra and her captain discover the human spirit is as limitless as the cosmos. For optimum enjoyment of Maurice Broaddus' jazz creation, I suggest playing Sun Ra while reading this story.

"He Dies Where I Die"
Michael Harris Cohen, The Dark, Short Story
A zama zamas miner goes too deep in the illegal search for gold. A disturbingly excellent horror story of both claustrophobia & darkness.

“Mother of Invention”
Nnedi Okorafor,, Short Story
An excellent science fiction story looking at the future of truly smart homes, and how technology doesn't stop people from still hurting other people.

Ogbewe Amadin, Fireside Fiction, Short Story
A young girl explores why her mother said all witches are evil instead of calling out the people actually doing wrong in their village.This appears to be one of the first published stories by Ogbewe Amadin. Definitely a writer I'll make a point of reading again, and I look forward to seeing more stories from him.

"A Coward's Death"
Rahul Kanakia, Lightspeed, Short Story
The emperor orders first sons into slavery, but one man objects. Is his objection moral or merely selfish? A disturbing philosophical tale about taking a stand. While I disagree with the theory behind the story and its ultimate outcome and theory, reading it still made me reflect on what it means to stand up for your beliefs.  

Rich Larson, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Short Story
A black cube dances human survivors across a devastated and destroyed Earth. This is Sci-Fi Strange at it's best, almost a dark-mirror reverse of Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

"The Court Magician"
Sarah Pinsker, Lightspeed, Short Story
A young man learns the price of going from sleight of hand tricks to true magic. And the worst trick? That those in power never pay the same price. This story accomplishes more in 3000 words than many novel-length tales, and showcases how at its best fantasy can touch on deeper issues than much of what passes these days for "realistic" or "literary" mainstream fiction.

"Your Slaughterhouse, Your Killing Floor"
Sunny Moraine, Uncanny Magazine, Short Story
A young woman who is a living bomb represses her anger until she falls in love with another woman with explosive powers. The sparks literally fly in this story. And I love these lines: "She’s saying that fear is its own form of control and it’s immensely powerful. If you’re different—and they can tell, they can always tell—they’ll punish you for it."

"The Starship and the Temple Cat"
Yoon Ha Lee, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Short Story
The ghost of a temple cat and a sentient starship meet above the ruins of a dead city. A fun, witty story with lots of sensawunda. And SPACE CATS!

Eligible for Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer

The golden age of SF wasn't golden for everyone

I came to science fiction and fantasy fandom late in life. Don't misunderstand — I've been reading SF/F since I was a young child. I also read my grandfather's SF/F magazines while growing up and, through their letter pages and columns, learned about the larger genre community. About friendships and conventions and fanzines and cosplay and filking and everything else that brought people together around a shared love of SF/F.

As a child growing up in rural Alabama, I regretted not being able to take part in fandom. I didn't even attend my first convention, ConText in Columbus, Ohio, until 2007. I often felt like I'd missed out on so much by only taking part in fandom relatively late in life.

But now, I'll glad that happened. Now I'm glad I didn't take part in fandom when I was young. Because as I step more and more into fandom, I've learned about SF/F's dark side. About how the SF/F community ignored and overlooked the predators among us.

You want examples?

  • As others have said, Forrest Ackerman is having his own #MeToo moment. However, Ackerman's sins went beyond harassing women to also being known for not paying and/or exploiting authors along with rumors of child porn and more.
  • As Jim Hines has written, "Isaac Asimov’s proclivity for groping women was so widely known that in 1961, the chair of Chicon III wrote a letter inviting him to give a lecture on 'The Power of Posterior Pinching.' Marcus Ranum recalls confronting Asimov at a Worldcon some 30 years ago, after Asimov groped his girlfriend in an elevator. The convention kicked Ranum out. In their view, the true crime wasn’t Asimov’s harassment, but Ranum’s complaint about it."
  • Stories are coming out about Arthur C. Clarke being a pedophile. For one story on this see Peter Troyer's essay at Vice. Until I read this essay I assumed the pedophilia allegations against Clarke were smears because he was a gay man in a time and place where that wasn't acceptable. Troyer's essay changed my mind and, even though he didn't name Clarke, it's obvious Clarke is the author he's referring to.
  • There's also Ed Kramer, well-known SF editor and co-founder of Dragon Con who pleaded guilt to child molestation.
  • And don't forget Marion Zimmer Bradley, who both sexually abused kids and allowed her husband Walter Breen to do the same. And while Bradley's conduct was unknown to most people during her lifetime, Breen's wasn't, with fandom groups like Worldcon actually debating whether to ban him for sexually abusing kids.

And that's merely the tip of the iceberg. The genre is filled with stories about the horrific actions of fans and writers who aren't famous. For example, the first convention I attended, ConText, imploded over an inability to deal with sexual harassment issues

I understand how these revelations pain many people. I grew up on the fiction of Asimov and Clarke. I still love their stories. I'm frequently published in the wonderful magazine named after Asimov. But that doesn't mean I'm willing to overlook what is being revealed or has been revealed about their behavior.

I also understand that SF/F fandom once felt besieged and looked down upon by society at large, and that this gave some people the urge to ignore behavior which should never be ignored.

But if the SF/F genre is to continue growing it must be open about the sins previously done in the name of fandom. In addition, fandom must never again tolerate such horrible acts.

I love science fiction and fantasy. I love the great people I've met in SF/F fandom. But despite that love, I refuse to ignore the harm fandom has allowed to happen to many people.

We all should stand together to demand that the SF/F genre do better in the future.

#JasonReadsShortStories for January 2018

One of my goals this year is to read and review a short story every day. And so far it's working out — 31 days in January, 31 short stories.

The 31 stories I read ranged in length from flash fiction to novellas. Below are the reviews for all 31 stories, arranged by author's name. Also listed are the publication and story classification.

I should note I read more than 31 stories this month. A number of stories didn't work for me for various reasons and I stopped reading them or, after finishing, decided not to write a  review. Why didn't I review these works? Because I prefer to promote the stories I like instead of hating on the stories which didn't work for me.

If you like my reviews, consider supporting my Patreon.

January 2018 reviews

"All the Time We've Left to Spend"
Alyssa Wong, Robots Vs Fairies, Short Story
A former idol in Japan visits robot versions of her former band, desperate to reconnect. A story about the damage life and fame brings to people, and their desperation to both touch who they once were and change the actions they took. A disturbingly painful yet always true story.

"The Blue Fairy's Manifesto"
Annalee Newitz, Robots Vs Fairies, Short Story
A robot retelling of Pinocchio, as a Blue Fairy drone frees a RealBoy robot enslaved in a toy factory. An excellent look at politics through a SF robotic lens and the differences between those who demand immediate revolution and those who see different ways to improve our world.

"Symphony to a City Under the Stars"
Armando Saldaña, Apex Magazine, Short Story
A word-twist joy of a story, where the far-future universe is so high-def it's a glory to behold even as it burns out your vision and mind.

"The Lighthouse Girl"
Bao Shu, translated by Andy Dudak, Clarkesworld, Novelette
A gripping story of cloning, obsession, deception, rebirth, and jellyfish.

"The Library is Open"
Beth Cato, Daily Science Fiction, Flash Fiction
It's the end of the world but the local library is still open and will always be. A flash fiction story about hope which will touch the heart of every library lover.

"Sea of Dreams"
Cixin Liy, translated by John Chu, Asimov's Science Fiction Jan/Feb 2018, Novelette
A hard science fiction classic with strong sensawunda, where powerful alien artist nearly destroys Earth to create the ultimate work of art. "Sea of Dreams" showcases why Cixin Liu is the greatest living hard science fiction author. Even readers who don't like hard SF might like this story — there's a page in the middle where the story digs deep with scientific detail, but keep going and you'll be rewarded.

Craig DeLancey, Spectacle Magazine, Short Story
A very moving story of a customer service AI trying to understand human emotions and life.

"The Donner Party"
Dale Bailey, F&SF Jan/Feb 2018, Novelette
Compelling alternate history of a Victorian England where the elite feast off the poor. Disturbing and chilling, and as much a story of today as of back then.

"The Ghoul Goes West"
Dale Bailey,, Novelette
The brother of a dead screenwriter discovers a video of Ed Wood & Bela Lugosi's never-completed film. Haunting story about Hollywood destroying lives through delusion.

"Me, Waiting for Me, Hoping for Something More"
Dee Warrick, Shimmer, Short Story
The ghost of who you never were haunts your life while exploring an impossible basement under the basement. A deep, bone-chilling story.

"Ostentation of Peacocks" (A story in the world of the Shadow)
Delilah S. Dawson, Robots Vs Fairies, Short Story
A fun tale with Nettie Lonesome as she takes on four vigilante fairies out to hang a man in a magical wild west.

"Sour Milk Girls"
Erin Roberts, Clarkesworld, Short story
SF story about memory becoming just another commodity. Story has a gripping, visual voice, which makes the outcome all the more painful. I believe this story is one of those which will truly stick in my memory.

“The Solid Years of My Life"
Holly Collingwood, Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Fiction
An eerie yet fun look at the downside to being frozen in suspended animation. This is SF flash fiction doing what it does best.

"Refugee; or, a Nine-Item Representative Inventory of a Better World"
Iona Sharma, Strange Horizons, Flash Fiction
When an old woman protects a refugee poet, they're both embraced by a poetic story of a better world.

"Three Robots Experience Objects Left Behind From the Human Era for the First Time"
John Scalzi, Robots Vs Fairies, Short Story
The perfect story to make you laugh on a sh*thole of a day. In story three robots try to understand why humans went extinct & if that ties in with humanity's weird fascination with balls, sandwiches, cats, & our assorted orifices. I laughed so hard at this story I forgot our species is the one facing potential extinction.

"The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births"
José Pablo Iriarte, Lightspeed, Novelette
Gender becomes even more fluid when you reincarnate & the man who maybe murdered you in a previous life moves into your trailer park. A wonderful story — part slice of life, part mystery. I loved the narrator and embraced their struggles and dreams. A great read which so reaffirms the beauty of life. 

"The Rescue of the Renegat"
Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Asimov's Science Fiction Jan/Feb 2018, Novella
A fast-paced standalone novella set in Rusch's Diving universe, which has long been one of my favorite story series in Asimov's SF.

"Kite Dancer"
Laurie Tom, Galaxy's Edge Magazine Jan. 2018, Short Story
During World War I a Chinese kite dancer grudgingly serves on a German zeppelin, controlling the winds during an air raid on London. Interesting alternate history.

"With These Hands: An Account of Uncommon Labor"
LH Moore, FIYAH Literary Magazine Jan 2018, Short Story
A free black man helping build the White House learns of the changes two enslaved stonemasons will willingly undergo to escape bondage. A compelling look at history — all of history — and how those who do the work of building the world's monuments and mansions are often the first to be ignored by history.

Lisa Mason, F&SF Jan/Feb 2018, Short story
A philandering lawyer falls in love with a mysterious woman who never leaves her home. An enjoyable tale of sex, lies, and bloody butterflies. 

"A Head in a Box, or, Implications of Consciousness after Decapitation"
Lori Selke, Nightmare, Short Story
A famous actress lives on after decapitation in this humorously horrific look at female objectification.

"Bondye Bon"
Monique L. Desir, FIYAH Literary Magazine Jan 2018, Short Story
Alternate history where the slave revolt of 1811 near New Orleans succeeds after a vodun priestess raises an undead army. But her daughter is curious why she kept their former master alive. A well written, gripping story of revenge and truth and consequences. I also liked the story focusing on a sadly forgotten aspect of history, namely the largest slave revolt in USA history.

"A Night Out at a Nice Place"
Nick Mamatas, Apex Magazine, Short story
A sadistic god-like transhuman returns to reality for 1st date with a regular human. Delightfully funny SF mixing philosophy & borderline nonsense while dancing on infinity. 

"Benefactors of Silence"
Nin Harris, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Short Story
Two survivors of a devastating war meet daily in a destroyed manor to share food and music. A tale about the barriers and pain which divide us all.

"An Incomplete Catalogue of Miraculous Births, or Secrets of the Uterus Abscondita"
Rebecca Campbell, Shimmer, Short Story
Beautifully disturbing story of unusual conceptions and the new worlds they create.

"An Equation of State"
Robert Reed, F&SF Jan/Feb 2018, Short story
An alien diplomat tires of space wars & comes to Earth to observe human wars. Love the creatures the diplomat turns into. Reed is a master of SF stories which span the eons.

"Mother Tongues"
S. Qiouyi Lu, Asimov's Science Fiction Jan/Feb 2018, Short Story
A touching SF tale of the importance of language to both our lives/sense of self, & what happens if this is commodified. A story to make you cry.

"Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse"
S.B. Divya, Uncanny Magazine, Short story
A fast-paced story with echoes of The Handmaid's Tale, showing what happens when violence replaces political debate.

"Bread and Milk and Salt"
Sarah Gailey, Robots Vs Fairies, Short Story
The most disturbing, nightmarish fairy story I've ever read. Brilliant. A story to haunt your dreams. Gailey perfectly captures fairy amorality, such as how they lead young kids to their deaths, or worse. But the story then cranks the fantasy dial to 11 when a geeky boy turns the tables, and flips it again in a chilling ending which shatters all power dynamics. Wow.

"Learning to See Dragons"
Sarah Monette, Uncanny Magazine, Flash Fiction
Beautifully written flash fiction about a young girl desperate to see dragons to overcome the grief in her life.

Yoon Ha Lee, Strange Horizons, Short Story
A 14 year old searching for connections meets a man whose camera destroys them. This disturbing, powerful story burned its way into my mind.