Sunday Status Update: November 11, 2012

This week on Fanlit, books. And occasional snark.

Bill: This final paper deluge continues. Though I did manage to read Catherynne Valente‘s The Folded World.  My son and I also finished our read-aloud of Ray Bradbury‘s Something Wicked This Way Comes, a true classic that had him begging to keep going at the end. That’s my boy!

Brad: First, an explanation:

Since I’m now part of a group that enjoys keeping up with personal weekly reading activity, I’ve had to come up with a way to track my reading accurately since “I haven’t read anything this week will be my usual response” if I’m asked merely to report the NOVELS I’ve finished (though I always have a few going). I love novels, particularly long nineteenth-century, British novels, but since I have two young children, I read short stories and comics–to satisfy my desire for completed stories–and essays since I no longer have time for book-length nonfiction. And I love variety as you will be able to see. You also will be able to understand why I LOVE my Kindle Fire since I can carry around all these books to satisfy my quickly shifting moods. And the color device allows me to carry and read tons of comics, too.

I think reporting my reading of shorter works–though I apologize for the space it takes–will more accurately reflect my reading tastes and activity. I’ve enjoyed writing down each work and thinking briefly about what my favorites are and why. I hope those additional comments are useful to those of you looking for good short stories, comics, and essays. I’ve marked the ones I like the best with an *.

SHORT STORIES & ESSAYS:

*”The Outsider” by H.P. Lovecraft (Amazing story about alienation and the horror of the self)

from The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories edited by Otto Penzler:
“Fall Guy” by George Harmon Coxe

from Chicago Lightning: The Collected Nathan Heller Short Stories by Max Allan Collins:
*”Introduction” (excellent short overview of crime fiction and Collins‘s contribution to the genre through creating the P.I. Nate Heller: Collins combines the classic first person male P.I. with true crime stories)
“Kaddish for the Kid”
“The Blonde Tigress”

from Black Thorn. White Rose edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling:
*”Introduction” (great short overview of the older definition of fairy tales and the history of fairy tales over the past 100 years, which is largely the history of cleaning them up–Bowdlerization–for a younger audience we believe should stay innocent/ naive. Obviously bothered by this trend, the authors argue that “it diminishes our culture to diminish this heritage.” My only complaint about this wonderful essay is that it is too short!)
“Words Like Pale Stones” by Nancy Kress

from Learning To Kill: Stories by Ed McBain
*”See Him Die” (great story that was published originally in MANHUNT magazine in 1955. It was later adapted into the thirteenth 87th Precinct novel, SEE THEM DIE, in 1960)

from Batman & Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul edited by Mark D. White & Robert Arp
*”Why Doesn’t Batman Kill The Joker?” by Mark D. White (considers Batman’s ethical behavior in terms of utilitarianism vs. deontology. Also considers the concept of “prepunishment,” a concept also dealt with in PKD’s “Minority Report,” as the author points out–and why I reread this story next. See below.)

from The Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick
*”Minority Report” (Can’t remember if I liked the movie, but I certainly love the story. As I always say about PKD, he’s my favorite bad writer–his ideas are so good they make me overlook all his other weaknesses that would lead me to mark his literature as inferior!)

COMICS
Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison

*I re-read Captain America: Winter Soldier by Ed Brubaker (see my review)

Frodo: Week 4,234,785,321 in the Undying Lands. Searched for hours through the shelves but ended up reading some very strange treatise on someone named Beowulf. I’m beginning to think I’m exhausting the readable library of the Valar. I keep asking them if they have anything more accessible, but they always misinterpret and get a higher stepladder for the stacks instead. Very annoying.

Kat: I know I keep saying this, but Audible Frontiers has been releasing so much old SFF on audio recently and I can’t even keep up with it though, believe me, I’m trying. This week I downloaded and read R.A. MacAvoy’s Damiano (the plot didn’t thrill me, but her prose is lovely and she’s a great storyteller) and Fritz Leiber’s horror collection The Black Gondolier (I love Leiber, and there’s a few good ones in this collection, but most are painfully outdated). In print I’m reading Kelly Link’s Stranger Things Happen, a collection of beautifully written quirky tales.

Marion: I read my first Brandon Sanderson book, The Alloy of Law. Good fun! I am now making my way through Junot Diaz’s short story collection This is How You Lose Her. While I love his language and his clever turns of phrase, a short story collection of relationship break-ups is really not my idea of a good time. I also started Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht. Robert reviewed this back in 2011. Leicht’s research into the Northern Ireland “troubles” of the 1970s is painstaking, begging the question, “Why fantasy?” especially because the fantasy elements feel secondary. The main character is thick as a brick, but he’s a good guy doing the best he can with the hand he’s been dealt, so I like him.

TerryLois McMaster Bujold‘s Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance was just published this week, and I happily dove in when my copy hit the doormat. I love the VORKOSIGAN SAGA, and I’m really glad Bujold is continuing to write new entries in the series.

Tim: This week I spent some time travelling in downstate Maine and getting through a number of tedious tasks, but I got a good bit of reading done. I finished Sanctuary, the final book in Rowena Cory Daniells‘s OUTCAST CHRONICLES (pretty good), read Ursula K. LeGuin‘s Gifts (expertly written and considered as always, although a bit plodding and gloomy), and started on David Gemmell‘s White Wolf (good heroic fantasy, although Gemmell’s storied struggles with prose styling are much in evidence).


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TIM SCHEIDLER has recently finished a degree in English literature. He currently lives in Canada but will soon be on his way to Trinity College in Dublin for graduate school. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb, and Jacqueline Carey. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing the fiddle and bagpipes, writing in any shape or form, and pretending Kung Fu as he does it is a real sport.

View all posts by Tim Scheidler

7 comments

  1. I have been horrible at getting my status updates in so I’m just going to comment. I finished Kenny and the Dragon, so cute! I finally found where I had placed Brandon Sanderson’s novella The Emperor’s Soul (in the already read pile, instead of the currently reading pile) and finished that. It was pretty good, and my first exposure to Brandon Sanderson, so it’s nice to finally know what all the fuss is about. I started reading K.J. Parker’s novella “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong” online, but then the website broke. I just checked and it’s back up so I hope to finish that today. I’m also reading the anthology Epic, and starting Lisa Mantchev’s Eyes Like Stars. And then I got a box of books from Kat in the mail, so I’ll be busy for the near future.

  2. Brad Hawley /

    Poor Frodo has learned that librarians are a quirky lot, often with their own indecipherable agenda. Frodo, I wonder if there’s something significant for you to find that would be otherwise undiscoverable without a ladder . . . Keep an open mind.

  3. Brad, I never thought to record the short stuff I read! I figure it often shows up in my Magazine Monday columns in any event. But what a great status update! Love the info!

    • Brad Hawley /

      Thanks for your response, Terry. I was nervous giving such a long reply to report such little reading, but being asked every week what I’d read and having nothing to report was really starting to get to me! I keep a record on my phone that has a list of all the anthologies I regularly read in and write down each story/essay as I finish with an additional note. I then copy and paste the list for the status report. I’ll use this format from now on if you all don’t mind. I certainly enjoy reviewing what I’ve read for the week. Otherwise, it’s easy for me to forget the shorter pieces in focusing on “finishing” longer works.

  4. Ruth, I picked up The Emperor’s Soul yesterday.

    • Brad. Hawley /

      Here are some other thoughts I had recently on the short story as art form and as new renaissance because of technology:

      My interest in the short story is fueled by more than just practical reasons: I love the genre itself, much like I love the sonnet, because its brevity, its compression, creates unique demands not present in the freer, more expansive playground of the novel. And if the novel can be compared to playgrounds, which are of nfinite varieties and sizes, the short story and the sonnet are closer to the adjacent neighborhood basketball court–there could be some variation in local rules, but the similarities demand a respect for the limitations built into the game itself. There is something fascinating about the short story as genre.

      The short story is also important to me right now because recent technology has led to renewed interest in the form. I would even argue that, because of digital readers, we are seeing a new golden age of the short story: New authors are self-publishing affordable digital works of fiction and are being widely read. Many readers are more willing to try a $.99 story by a new author praised by other readers in the digital community than they are a long work by a new author endorsed by a publisher who also price fixes digital books. The Kindle community of readers, for example, is very critical of price-fixing and incredibly supportive of authors of self-published short stories known as “Kindle Singles.” Best-selling authors such as Michael Connelly are now following the lead of the self-published authors. Just recently he’s released two affordable mini-collections of short stories previously published in print periodicals.

  5. Living forever but running out of books might be my worst nightmare.

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