An Ode to the Joy of SciFi Short Stories

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Weavers of dreams
Creators of worlds
Melders of souls
In a literary blink,
Your imagination bursts upon us
Magic is unleashed
by those purveyors of pithy words
O twice blessed, short story writers
We devour your story and salute you.

There are few written forms more exquisite than a well written short story. The precision of each word’s placement, the crafting of a narrative arc in a narrow space  and the flights of fancy reached in a short take-off are stunning. Experimenting in style, genre and content seem easier at this scale. In particular, the best of SciFi short stories consist of a tightly crafted narrative where a whole world, people and situation are conjured up whole-cloth without having to develop it all. Which, of course, is another way to say – magic

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A great project that showcases modern and classic short story is Summer Shorts 2014. (By the way, you can support ProLiteracy buying a bunch of narrated short stories for a mere $10 at Tantor Audio until the end of the summer.) Another great way to experience short stories is when they are narrated. Some fabulous ones, produced by those exemplary media mavens at Skyboat Media, are Bears Discover Fire, and Other Stories by Terry Bisson, The Complete Short Stories of James Purdy and Honeymoon in Hell by Fredric Brown. Also, if you want to hear some of the benefits of narrating a short story, here’s an interview with Stefan Rudnicki and Gabrielle de Cuir on that topic (and others):

There is a long and illustrious tradition of science fiction short story whose expression still finds its modern home in places like Lightspeed, Tor, Clarkesworld, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog and, relatively recently joining the party, Bastion.  The exciting thing is that this is not an exhaustive list. A lot of vibrant work is happening right now in SciFi short story.

In today’s post, I simply want to highlight some work in hope of whetting your appetite for more. These literary bon bons are digestible during your lunch break, while waiting in the dentist office or simply as a quick bed-time read without fear of getting sucked into something which will, once again, leave you sleep deprived the next day. While there are many stories to choose among, I will highlight some from the current issues of Bastion and Clarkesworld (and I will avoid Aliette de Bodard, reigning queen of contemporary SciFi short story, IMHO, since I’ve already reviewed her short stories Immersion and Ship’s Brother.)

Bastion

Before we start off with a young writer in a young magazine, Hannah Goodwin and her Dreamers of many tales in Abandoned in Bastion, let’s bask in the wonderousness (it’s a word now) of the cover and the beautiful work by Milan Jaram.  Ms. Goodwin explores the importance of story in our lives in the form of Dreamers who have and share stories. In Red Rubber Nose, Robert Quinlivan  explores the directives (laws) of robotics that the focus on entertainment rather than avoiding harm to humans. This may also be a lesson for setting our priorities correctly. Both of these stories are beautifully done. The headliner short story is Axel Taiari‘s Degausser. Mr. Taiari writes a SciFi techno-thriller that ties in love, loss and family in a tightly developed world in which there is simply too much to bear.  (What it is about French writers, and those raised in France, that they produce such wonderful short stories? It’s not as if our Gallic friends are revered for their terse tongues.) Mr. Taiari is able to build suspense, provide action, lay out background and create relationship in a brief piece in a perfectly poised way. He does so in a manner that epitomizes what I love in SciFi short story: his side-ways references, hints, presumptions and responses establishes this whole world with back-story and character’s relationships in the blink of an eye. Interweaving three story sub-plots and bringing them together in a conclusion as precisely executed as his protagonist’s heist is extraordinary magic.

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More lovely cover art, in this case by Albert Urmanov for Clarkesworld’s latest issue. (Of course, SciFi magazines have been known for their covers). Among the stories I will highlight here are Yoon Ha Lee’s The Contemporary Foxwife. It is an exquisite story of family, obligation, graciousness and entertaining angels (or Foxwives) unaware. Kanseun has challenging relationships with her Older Father, her roomate(s) and, to be frank, herself. She is confronted with these relationships and herself through dealing with a Foxwife who shows up (or not) on her doorstep. For a special treat, listen to Kate Baker narrate it. Ms. Baker could read the phone book with that velvet voice of hers and I would still fall all over myself listening. N. K. Jemisin‘s Stone Hunger is a stark story of a girl who lost everything when “the world broke.” She became a monstrous power and requires revenge on the breaker of her world. Yet it is more than loss and revenge, it is also a poignant story of community and the lack thereof.  It must be by sheer accident that this other example of a great short story is narrated by Ms. Baker as well.

So, if you haven’t read or listened to short stories in awhile, I hope this glimpse encourages you to do so. These are some great venues in which to dive into the short story world. If you’re a long time aficionado of short story, I hope I’ve given you some more fodder to feed your habit. As always, if you like the work being done at Bastion and Clarkesworld and you want it to continue, there are a plethora of ways to support them.  Subscriptions to both Bastion and Clarkesworld are available at Weightless Books, but there are lots of others ways to support their work so it can keep on coming.

Happy brief reading.

Review + Q & A with Alysha Kaye ‘THE WAITING ROOM’

J. T. Frazier:

Nice Q & A

Originally posted on Last of The Authors:

Summary of The Waiting Room:
Jude and Nina are the epitome of that whole raw, unflinching love thing that most people are jealous of. That is, until Jude dies and wakes up in The Waiting Room, surrounded by other souls who are all waiting to pass over into their next life. But unlike those souls, Jude’s name is never called by the mysterious “receptionist”. He waits, watching Nina out of giant windows. He’s waiting for her. What is this place? How long will he wait? And what will happen when and if Nina does join him? The Waiting Room is a story of not just love, but of faith, predestination, and philosophy, friendship and self-actualization, of waiting.

The Review

‘The Waiting Room’ is the debut novel by Alysha Kaye.
I picked up a copy hoping to whizz through (even if I’ve never been an overly quick reader), only to be…

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Interview: Alysha Kaye

J. T. Frazier:

R Thomas Allwin interview with Alysha Kaye on his blog Chimaeral

Originally posted on Chimaeral:

Alysha KayeMeet Alysha Kaye, author of the newly released novel The Waiting Room, and the first writer to be interviewed on my blog!

Alysha was born in San Marcos, TX, where she also received her BA in Creative Writing from Texas State University. She worked in marketing for a brief and terrible cubicle-soul-sucking time until she was accepted into Teach for America and promptly moved to Oahu. She taught 7th grade English in Aiea for two years and also received her Masters in Education from University of Hawaii. She now teaches in Austin, TX and tries to squeeze in as much writing as possible between lesson planning. She dreamt about The Waiting Room once, and offhandedly wrote her boyfriend a love poem about waiting for him after death. Somehow, that became a novel.

I found out about her through another blogger here on wordpress (theowllady), and the cover…

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Alysha Kaye’s The Waiting Room Blog Tour Stop

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I’m delighted to host the lovely Alysha Kaye on her blog tour for The Waiting Room.

We have a lot going on for her stop on Joe’s Geek Fest:

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This is really a delightful story where the author uses a waiting room for your next life to deal with issues of love, life and existence within the context of a couple who are separated by an early death. This isn’t intended to be a theological treatise or an argument for reincarnation, rather it provides a nice narrative framework to reflect on these issues within the story arc.  For a little more formal description.

Jude and Nina are the epitome of that whole raw, unflinching love thing that most people are jealous of. That is, until Jude dies and wakes up in The Waiting Room, surrounded by other souls who are all waiting to pass over into their next life. But unlike those souls, Jude’s name is never called by the mysterious “receptionist”. He waits, watching Nina out of giant windows. He’s waiting for her. What is this place? How long will he wait? And what will happen when and if Nina does join him? The Waiting Room is a story of not just love, but of faith, predestination, and philosophy, friendship and self-actualization, of waiting.

 

Review of The Waiting Room: 

The Waiting Room is a delightful novel in which the author conducts a thought experiment played out in the lives of a couple. Think of the book as a story (and various sub-stories) around a bunch of “what ifs,” kind of like what if you were stuck on a deserted island, which three books would you take [I'm thinking "How to build a boat in three easy steps", "Swiss Family Robinson", and the Bible, because I want to read a lot more than three books.] For The Waiting Room, it’s “what if we had a beginning life after which you reentered the world in another time (possibly), another context (family, country, race) and yet you found the love of your live(s)? What happens with the two who became one? What’s important about what you do in each life (there is no carried-over Kharma and you don’t remember your previous lives in the midst of living a new one.)

The Waiting Room is primarily a story of love; yes, the love of a couple but also about people learning to love, recognizing love, nurturing love and the primacy of love. It, as the song goes, makes the world go around. As we follow this couple, we see the impact of their love for each other on their lives, the deaths, their new lives, those around them and even the waiting process between lives. This premise allows Ms. Kaye to strip away what isn’t essential to our identities and our lives. As we follow this reincarnation process, we see that Jude becomes a new person in this next life but it’s Jude in this new form. What makes him Jude? He has a new name, look, family, attributes (now blind and black from sighted and white)? Ms. Kaye seems to suggest that what makes the new person still Jude is how he loves, his moral character and being a guy. Everything else can change, but those remain constant.

Along with thinking about what makes you, you, she reflects on what gives us significance. What, in other words, is worth pursuing and has impact on us and the world around us? That, my friend, is love. All that we do hinges on love. I don’t just mean romantic love (though that’s definitely included) but our relationships, our work and our relationship to our environment. Through a series of vignettes of Jude and Nina’s lives, it becomes apparent that if you pursue some task or thing as a higher priority than others (spouse, family, friends or neighbors), then the significance (and peace) of your life diminishes. So, while work is important, it’s how and why we do what we do more than what we do. For example, in one life, Nina is a baker. She really pursues that passion and builds a successful business. It is successful largely because it is one context in which she expresses love. In another context there is a seriously failed Thanksgiving dinner for a broken family; they love money more than each other. I dare not go any further in fear of giving too much away, but look for love or the lack thereof and see what happens.

Please note that this is not, as I indicated above, a philosophical or theology treatise. This is a novel using a paranormal twist to conduct a thought experiment in the context of story. The story is a good one. Every time I thought I knew where Ms. Kaye was going to go in the next lives lived out, I was wrong. Even the way people wait changes throughout the story. Jude and Nina are not perfect. All questions are not answered, but going through their lives is a terrific and entertaining way to explore those questions. Ms. Kaye does a beautiful job with the characters who people her story; I really came to love Jude and Nina (even in their various incarnations). I also came to love the curmudgeonly manager of the Waiting Room (Ruth) as well as others. So just as a pure story, it’s fun – what’s going to happen to Jude and Nina in the next iteration of their lives? – what will they be like? – how will the Waiting Room change will they return from the land of the living?

So I commend Ms. Kaye’s debut novel to your reading for a great story that’s also thought provoking. I look forward to Ms. Kaye’s future work.
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Q&A on life as an author

1. Who was most influential on your love of books and writing? What pushed you over the edge to take the dive into writing a book?

My mom really got me into reading when I was little- I’ve thanked her for that a million times! As for writing, I really owe a lot to a few supportive English teachers I had. I always knew I wanted to write a book one day, but I guess what really pushed me was the whole concept of this room. Once you have an idea in your mind that won’t leave you alone- that’s when you know you need to write!

2. What do you find the hardest and (comparatively speaking) easiest aspect of writing?

I think the easiest part is finding inspiration- every time I meed someone new, I immediately want to create a character around them! The hardest part is finding time. Most writers have full-time jobs outside of writing and it seems impossible sometimes to set aside time for writing.

3. Being married to an 8th grade English teacher, I have some insight into how challenging your schedule is. How do you work in your writing in the midst of grading, lesson prep and other school activities?

Wow, I didn’t know that! Hats off to her! 8th graders are no easy task haha Like I said in question #2, it’s definitely difficult. I’ve worked out a system in which I do ALL my work in my classroom (during my planning period, during my lunch, before/after school) and then when I come home, I have the whole night to decide whether or not I want to squeeze in writing. Sometimes, dinner and Netflix win the fight.

4. What aspects of self-publishing do you love? Which ones do you find the most difficult?

I love the fact that I have complete creative control. I hate the fact that I have to market all by myself…it’s been time-consuming to say the least.

5. What’s been the most interesting reaction to The Waiting Room?

I was shocked to find out that many people assumed this was the first book in a trilogy or series…that was never my intention!

6. Do you identify with any of your characters?

Definitely. I think a piece of me shines through a few of them. Nina is an English teacher, like me. Jude is extremely sarcastic, like me! Alondra writes mediocre poetry at night, like me… haha I could go on and on.

7. Did working on The Waiting Room influence any of your real world thinking/choices?

It definitely made me question religion, spirituality, philosophy…more than I ever have before. I really dove into the age-old question of what happens after we die?

8. It appears that, at least in The Waiting Room, our essential qualities are how we love, our moral character and, possibly our gender. Even what we think of as personality seem to differ for some, but not for others. Pretty much everything else, race, religion, career and country can all change and it’s still the same you going through one door and returning through the other. Do you think that’s an accurate reflection of the essential qualities of a person? In others, what makes Nina and Deb the same person?

I do think our morals, our ethics, our “being” if you will, are what truly make us who we are. Obviously, in the present day world we live in, our race/career/religion/country play a huge role in how we’re perceived, how we’re treated, and how we live our lives. But when it comes down to our souls? In The Waiting Room, these things are trivial, as I think it should be if there is a Heaven or an afterlife of any kind. The most important thing is our hearts…and how we use them!

9. So I’m on the tail-end of the blog tour. How has it been for you?

I’m loving it! I have a new obsession with WordPress and fellow bloggers. We indie authors live for people like you, who are willing to help us spread the word!

10. Do you have any active projects underway? Anything you can share?

I had started a new novel about a year ago. I only have one chapter written. It’s realistic fiction, no fantasy/paranormal element like The Waiting Room. I’m not sure how I feel about it. Now that I’ve published this novel, I think I’d like to stay in the realm of realistic with a twist of fantasy/paranormal.

Bonus question: this is none of our business, but are you still with the guy who inspired the poem you wrote that, in turn, inspired the book? How did he respond to the book?

Haha, great bonus question! We actually broke up as I was finishing the novel. That definitely plunged me into a ferocious few months of writing and wrapping up the book. I’ve known him since pre-school and we’re still friends today. He just ordered his copy of the novel so we’ll see how he reacts haha it’s definitely a bit strange

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Book Excerpt
Actually, I’m going to cheat a little here and refer you to David Franklin’s excellent site (how can you not love an asker of wrong questions from the Kingdom of Wessex?), The Wessex Literary Review in which he posts an except from Chapter 2 of The Waiting Room.

An excerpt from Chapter 2, that gives a little insight to what the actually waiting room is like for Jude, who waits a total of 52 years
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An informal interview with the author on the book itself ****NOTE, THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THE INTERVIEW -Think of this as questions if the author came to your book club. Don’t listen until you’ve read the book.****

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Author Alysha Kaye

Author Alysha Kaye

For more on Ms. Kaye:

Alysha Kaye was born in San Marcos, TX, where she also received her BA in Creative Writing from Texas State University. She worked in marketing for a brief and terrible cubicle-soul-sucking time until she was accepted into Teach for America and promptly moved to Oahu. She taught 7th grade English in Aiea for two years and also received her Masters in Education from University of Hawaii. She now teaches in Austin, TX and tries to squeeze in as much writing as possible between lesson planning. She dreamt about The Waiting Room once, and offhandedly wrote her boyfriend a love poem about waiting for him after death. Somehow, that became a novel.

Connecting with Alysha Kaye:

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Alysha Kaye’s Blog

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Alysha Kaye’s Facebook page

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Alysha Kaye’s Twitter Page

Debut novel by Alysha Kaye

J. T. Frazier:

Alysha Kaye Touring The Waiting Room

Originally posted on Loving Life in the Rain:

1000x1600I recently came across this debut novel by Alysha Kaye that thought I would bring to your attention. The novel, entitled The Waiting Room is a love story with a difference:

“Jude and Nina are the epitome of that whole raw, unflinching love thing that most people are jealous of. That is, until Jude dies and wakes up in The Waiting Room, surrounded by other souls who are all waiting to pass over into their next life. But unlike those souls, Jude’s name is never called by the mysterious “receptionist”. He waits, watching Nina out of giant windows. He’s waiting for her. What is this place? How long will he wait? And what will happen when and if Nina does join him? The Waiting Room is a story of not just love, but of faith, predestination, and philosophy, friendship and self-actualization, of waiting.”

This novel has had some excellent reviews…

View original 227 more words

Christina Farley’s Gilded Reviewed: Fresh Fun in a Fabulous Setting

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Gilded-Christina-Farley

One of the first things that struck me about Gilded, besides its ridiculously cool cover designed by Katrina Damkoehler with Cliff Nielsen doing the artwork, was how fresh the story seemed. If you examine any individual element, it’s been done before: protagonist girl with abilities of which she is unaware and a willingness to go where angels dare not tread, the cool and slightly shy boyfriend who is the object of the gorgeous girl’s desire, the over-worked and slightly overbearing widowed father who hides his true care and concern under a gruff exterior and the insanely powerful, other-worldly bad guy. Then again, I and the best chefs in Paris can use the same ingredients to prepare a meal but you’ll want to eat the end result of their cooking over mine. While there is nothing really new under the sun, Christina Farley melds the characters, worlds, writing style and narrative elements to make something really fresh and new. The writing is clear, the dialog crisp and the storyline twisty enough to be fun and keep you guessing while not so winding that you can’t remember your way.

Christina Farley

Christina Farley

Ms. Farley spent 8 years teaching at an international school in Seoul, Korea. She brings that experience to present to us two wonderful characters in the story: modern-day Korea and its mythic counter-part in the Spirit World. I loved these settings; obviously others have used Seoul as their setting but this was new for me and done in such a way that it wasn’t just a backdrop. Another aspect I love about Gilded is the sense of community and family it presents. While we have a kick-butt girl, she is not a fearless lone ranger. Jae Hwa Lee feels fear and danger, but feels the stronger call of preserving family doing battle with Haemosu, a demi-god and she does not do so alone. While she recently relocated from L.A. to Seoul, she has family and has generated friendships in Seoul. So while the world is new to her, she has some background and more than a little help. As the spirit world breaks through her already stressed-out competitive world with all the challenges of being a teen, she is definitely feeling her way through all that’s coming at her fast and furiously. There are mythic creatures, morphing creatures, an epic bow for her archery skills and a brilliant love interest with a plot that keeps you guessing. What’s not to love? This is a fun book to read for teens and adults. The pace is quick, but not over-whelming and isn’t a detriment to full-bodied characters and well described world.  This is well-written, smart YA literature, which is another way of saying it well-written, smart literature, full stop. I also seriously love that Ms. Farley knows how to end a book, especially a book that’s part of a series. Alas, that’s all too rare these days.

Greta Jung

Greta Jung

As I often do, I went between the Kindle and Audible versions (using Whispersync for Voice to keep a smooth transition). Greta Jung did a beautiful job narrating, fully allowing you to immerse in Jae’s world. Her pacing was spot on; I particularly liked her smooth-talking Haemosu.

I rarely do this in a review, but I saw a few reviews on Amazon I wanted to address. We all differ in tastes, but I was surprised to see some fairly virulent negative reviews. As I dug into them, they basically came down to suggesting that Jae Haw was an idiot because she wouldn’t do what others, especially adults, told her to do. She would also knowingly go into situations without having everything in control and well planned out. I know, right? A teenager that doesn’t always obey her parents or exercise good judgement. Shocking. Now I’m all for teens obeying their parents (I have four teens) and those in authority over them, however disobedience and sneaking out are not particularly shocking things for a teen to do, Moreover, if her character did not take risks, we would not have a hero. It’s easy to sit back in our chairs reading and think, “No Jae Haw, that’s really a bad guy.” It’s a little easier to spot them when your not in the midst of the action. Also, what safe and good choices does she have? All of the good ones seem fraught with risk.  Normally when I see those superior-minded reviews that the protagonist (and, hence, the author) doesn’t have a clue, I usually just ignore them and think, get a life. There just seemed enough of them that I thought it worth addressing. As Ben Okri put it: Where there is perfection [in a character], there is no story to tell. Jae Hwa is not perfect, but dumb? Not so much.

 

So, if you like fun action in an exotic setting whilst learning a bit about another culture, this is the book for you. It’s an absolutely fun read. I’ve already pre-ordered Silvern which is out September 23rd. Woohoo! One benefit of starting a series a bit late into the game is less wait time for the next entry.

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The Waiting Room

J. T. Frazier:

Alysha Kaye’s The Waiting Room Tour – Day 6!

Originally posted on A Simple, Village Undertaker:

Never having even heard of the term “Blog Tour” before and not knowing what it actually meant, I became involved in one supporting Alysha Kaye’s new book, The Waiting Room. Image 4

I learned that…
“A blog tour is when an author “visits” a bunch of blogs in a short amount of time in order to promote his or her book. At each of these visits (tour stops), the author can post a unique article, do an email or audio interview, or even create a video. Something that provides useful or interesting content for the readers of the blog.”

Summary of The Waiting Room:
Jude and Nina are the epitome of that whole raw, unflinching love thing that most people are jealous of. That is, until Jude dies suddenly in a car wreck and wakes up in The Waiting Room, surrounded by other souls who are all waiting to pass over into…

View original 267 more words

The Waiting Room – Alysha Kaye

J. T. Frazier:

Alysha Kaye’s blog tour on Penny Dreadful Books!

Originally posted on Penny Dreadful Book Reviews (Est. 2013):

What is “the waiting room”?

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Jude and Nina are the epitome of that whole raw, unflinching love thing that most people are jealous of. That is, until Jude dies and wakes up in The Waiting Room, surrounded by other souls who are all waiting to pass over into their next life. But unlike those souls, Jude’s name is never called by the mysterious “receptionist”. He waits, watching Nina out of giant windows. He’s waiting for her. What is this place? How long will he wait? And what will happen when and if Nina does join him? The Waiting Room is a story of not just love, but of faith, predestination, and philosophy, friendship and self-actualization, of waiting.

What is the “waiting room“? Purgatory? Hell? I haven’t had the chance to read this intriguing book but given my fondness for stories featuring ghosts, the afterlife… or what have…

View original 106 more words

Alysha Kaye Blog Tour!

J. T. Frazier:

and it begins…. Great start for a terrific author

Originally posted on theowlladyblog:

Name: Alysha Kaye

Where you live: Austin, TX

1) How long have you been writing? I have been writing ever since I was very young. I filled notebooks upon notebooks with short stories and poems. If you’re a fellow only child, I think you’d agree that we tend to form extravagant imaginations and intense creative outlets from a very young age!
2) What or who was your inspiration to write? Books were a much-needed escape for me. I used to read as much as I breathed (too bad now I have a job and obligations, haha). Each book I read inspired me to write. When I was in middle school, my English teacher submitted one of my stories to a magazine and I won first place! I’ll never forget thinking, “Oh…something can actually come out of this hobby of mine?”

3) Which genre do you like to read? Why? I…

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