Year: 2015

2015 was fantastic. Yes, I know: terrible and terrifying things happened. The world got worse for some people, and we lost others, and it is not my intent to dance on either the sadness of the former or the graves of the latter. But this was one of my favorite years, and I’m sad to see it go.

Only a small part of this had to do with writing or reading. In fact, I wrote less in 2015 than in either of the preceding two years. But I had decent reasons to be unproductive, which for me is itself an accomplishment. I got married, which will always top my 2015 best-of list. The first seven months of marriage have been amazing. Not always easy or uncomplicated, but always better than before. My beloved soccer team won its first national championship. That may seem, especially to the sports haters among you, to be a minor thing, but it was a big deal to me. Screaming my lungs out at Paddy’s Pub in downtown Portland as the Timbers raised the MLS Cup is far below my wedding day, but it’s still a memory that I will hold tight to for many years.

Now, for the reading part. There were some absolutely amazing stories, in every medium, this past year.

I’ve limited myself to four in each category. As with my earlier monthly post, I have skipped novellas, because I am awful and have read so few. I need to do better on that. This pretty much doubles as my Nebula awards ballot, and I’m excited to see how many of these gems actually grab nominations.

Favorite Novels of 2015

I loved Library at Mount Char so much that when I put it down, I knew it was probably going to be my pick for favorite novel of the year. As much as I love Neil Gaiman, this took a Gaiman-style set of archetypal characters and plopped them into a world like ours more completely than Gaiman has ever done, a world where sometimes people are unreasonable and shoot each other. This book gave me a wonderful set of new gods and monsters, while staying very much fixed to that messy, scary real world.

1. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
2. The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu
3. Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Craynor
4. The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Favorite Novelettes of 2015

Fantasy and Science Fiction’s July issue was amazing. The rest of the year was very good, but that issue’s two novelettes managed to stand up all year as two of my four favorites. Tamsin Muir’s The Deepwater Bride still sticks out in my mind as my favorite, but Kowal’s Like Native Things is very close. Ridiculous variety and quality at this length out there this year.

1. The Deepwater Bride by Tamsin Muir (Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine)
2. Like Native Things by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s)
3. The Curse of the Myrmelon by Matthew Hughes (Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine)
4. The Hunger Tower by Pan Haitian (Clarkesworld)

Favorite Short Stories of 2015

This was always going to be the hardest, just because I read so many short stories in a year. Southard’s superpower story did a better job than I’ve ever read of showing me what a regular flawed person would do with special abilities. It’s never cartoonish, but manages not to slip into the grimdark grit that screen superheroes have been drowning in. Other than that one from Nightmare, Clarkesworld owned this category for me. Robert Reed is becoming one of those writers I will follow anywhere, and Sara Saab’s story jumped onto this list in the last few months, when I thought it was cemented shut.

1. The Cork Won’t Stay by Nate Southard (Nightmare)
2. Cremulator by Robert Reed (Clarkesworld)
3. Somewhere I Have Never Traveled (3rd Sound Remix) by E. Catherine Tobler (Clarkesworld)
4. In the Queue for the Worldship Munawwer by Sara Saab (Clarkesworld)

Favorite Screen Things of 2015

What a year for TV. There were some decent SFF movies, but the small screen completely dominated in my mind. Fury Road was the only big-screen movie that truly blew my mind, something that three or four TV shows were able to do. Sense8 stands out most as changing the game, but Mr. Robot was fantastic and The Flash, though sillier than the others, mostly managed to work with one of the least approachable rogues’ galleries in superhero fiction. I loved all four of these, and this is the first year I can remember that carving out reading time was harder because there was so much good on TV.

1. Sense8 Season 1
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Mr. Robot Season 1
4. The Flash Season 1

I’ve been trying to write fiction for a good many years now. Every once in a while I succeed. But long before I was any sort of writer, I was a reader, and reading genre fiction continues to be one of my greatest joys. Since joining SFWA, I’ve been even more concerned with keeping up with new releases of science fiction and fantasy, because I can now nominate for the Nebula Awards and want to do so in as educated and informed a manner as possible.

And, as a confirmed and unrepentant spreadsheet geek, naturally I track what I read, both to stay aware of the authors that are putting out work I consistently like and to keep a list of my favorites come award season.

In July 2015, just now wrapping up, I read 61 pieces of 2015 award eligible fiction. Most of those were flash and short stories, but it included a few novels and longer-form pieces. The one category I completely neglected in July were novellas. I’d like to concentrate on reading some of those in August.

Here are some of my favorites in the various length categories. Even though the Nebulas and Hugos don’t separate out flash and short stories, I have chosen to do so to further break up what would otherwise be a pretty blocky list. I’m not going to describe the stories. This isn’t a review, and I have no interest in being a reviewer. I just want to publicly appreciate some of the stories that I loved this month.

Flash Fiction

I read a lot of flash (up to 1000 words or so) in July. Three were special enough to really call out in this post.

Favorite: This is the Humming Hour by Kate Heartfield, Daily Science Fiction

Also Loved:
The Pixie Game by Anna Zumbro, Daily Science Fiction
The Wanderer by Karen Lord, Popular Science

Short Stories

All the short genre heavy-hitters (Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Asimov’s, etc.) had really solid July issues, but these three stories were the ones that really floored me. Though Nightmare had my favorite, F&SF this month was cover to cover one of the best issues I’ve read in a while and gave me a lot of stories to love.

Favorite: The Cork Won’t Stay by Nate Southard, Nightmare Magazine

Also Loved:
Dixon’s Road by Richard Chwedyk, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine
Paradise and Trout by Betsy James, also from Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine

Novelettes

As we get into the longer categories, I had fewer to choose from, both in terms of what the big SFF markets offer and what I had time to read. But two novelettes really stuck out from the admittedly smaller pack.

Favorite: The Deepwater Bride by Tamsyn Muir, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine

Also Loved:
Like Native Things by Mary Robinette Kowal, Asimov’s

Novellas

Again, bad Ian. I did not read a single SFF novella in July. I leave this section here as a scolding reminder to do better in August.

Novels

The big one, at least in terms of length and certainly in terms of mass-market appeal. I finished three 2015 novels in July, but there’s only one I want to talk about, nay, scream my head off about at every opportunity, and that’s The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. If you have any affection for Gaiman, but sometimes want a story with a little more of our messy world mixed in with the gods and demons, I can’t recommend Mount Char enough. Right now, this is my favorite book of 2015, and it will take some effort to dislodge. Hell, I hope I read a better book this year, but the bar is now high.

I follow a fair number of people on Twitter. Writers, readers, artists, and a whole lot of just plain old folks that at one point or another have said something that made me think they might be worth listening to in the future. Many, though certainly not all of them, have similar politics to my own, which is to say that they lean to the left, at least socially and often economically as well. We agree with many of the same people, and consequently tend to disagree strongly with some of the same people too. Far right wing politics, social conservatism and the like get fairly little time on my stream, and that is by design.

But there’s a recent trend among people I like and agree with that I find increasingly nauseating, and that is the celebration of, and gloating over, tragic acts of those we dislike and disagree with.

The two most notable examples of stories that have led to this phenomenon are allegations of domestic abuse against Bill O’Reilly and the admission of child molestation by Josh Duggar.

Now, before I move on, let me be clear. I find both of these men morally and ethically reprehensible. I disliked them before these news stories, and I am disgusted to a different level by them afterward. I want no confusion – I am not defending either one. They are repulsive. But I have always believed that we should hold ourselves and our allies to a higher standard than our enemies, and I’d like us to be better in how we respond to their crimes.

In short: if a crime has victims, don’t gloat about that crime. Don’t score political points by saying that this is typical Republican behavior, or smile at the cancellation of a show you’ve always hated in the aftermath. These crimes aren’t about you. They aren’t about reinforcing your politics or worldview. They are about the victims and the hell they have been put through by their attackers. I see so little comment on the victims, and so much barely restrained glee at an enemy being taken down a notch, that it frankly turns my stomach.

So, that’s it. Don’t gloat about tragedy. Domestic abuse, child molestation – these are not things to ever cause even a modicum of satisfaction in decent people. If you must comment on them at all, make your first comment an expression of sympathy and support for the victims, and then decide whether, after that, your next comment meets the Buddha’s three standards:

“If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?”

I’m as guilty as anyone of speaking outside of these, and in general, I think they’re far too restrictive. Sometimes we can make jokes, we can blabber on about TV shows we like and the meal we just ate, and these things are never necessary. But when there’s a victim involved, those seem like a good set of rules. I for one will try to adhere to them.

After over a year of engagement and five years of togetherness, we finally tied the knot this past weekend, and I am a married man. I hear from people all the time that they don’t remember their wedding, or even that they didn’t really enjoy it because of all the stress. I absolutely loved my wedding. We got married at the beautiful Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, OR. If you are planning a wedding in or near Oregon, call them. They do a fantastic job at a surprisingly competitive price, and you get to get married SURROUNDED BY FISH.

The ceremony itself shouldn’t change much in my life. After all, my wife and I already own a home and are part-time raising a child together. Compared to those two, signing a paper and wearing a ring are fairly minor life choices. Still, I can’t help but be affected by it. As I type, one of my fingers feeling the still unfamiliar weight of my ring, I want to choose to do better things and be better at the things that I do. I wasn’t alone before – far from it – and she has always been an absolute rock of support, both practically and creatively, but I still feel like a partner – officially – for the first time. Nothing I do is just for me anymore, not wholly, and that’s fine. In fact, it’s kind of amazing.

Thanks to everyone who was able to make the ceremony, and the many who weren’t but offered their congratulations. I will be writing thank you cards, it seems, until my anniversary at least. It was an amazing week, and now the big challenge is getting back to normal life. Though I happen to have a pretty fantastic life, it’s a hard transition back from that fantasy island week of being constantly surrounded by friends and family. Also, eating out every meal. So much great food. We’re going to have to up our cooking game.

Anyway, that’s my update. Married. Back to work.

Happy new story day! Due to many things, most directly my lack of submissions late in 2014, I haven’t been able to make many new story announcements in a while, but I am very happy to have “There Once Was a Lady” in New Myths Issue #30.

Please have a read: LINK

This is my second New Myths story, the first being Album in 2013. Scott Barnes, who heads up the site, is a great editor to work with, and always helpful, responsive and fair with his writers.

“There Once Was a Lady” is the story of Ellie May Pritchard, a young wife and mother who has been dead for some time, and learns to re-enter both the world of the living and her son’s life in a most extraordinary way. It’s based on a nursery rhyme that just about everyone in the western world has heard at least once, and one that has always fascinated me with how dark and scary it really is if you think about it for more than a second.

It’s also somewhat of a companion piece to my Plasma Frequency story last year, You Wouldn’t Download a Mom. Both have to do with the changing role that a mother has in a growing child’s life, and have no small amount to do with my own mother and how much I miss her. As my fiancee and I approach our wedding date in May, I expect many more days when my mother is conspicuously missed, none more than the day itself.

I’m happy to share this issue with J.C. Davis, Ellen Denton, Kristin Janz and a host of other great writers, and I’ll spend a good chunk of time tonight making sure to read every one of the pieces that accompany mine. I recommend you do the same.

Hi there. I’m Ian, and this is my blog. You may THINK you’ve already been to my blog, but that must have been another Ian, or it may be that you were one of the five people who ever visited my previous home on the web, which shall not be spoken of again. There are many Ian Roses in the world. One is a motivational speaker. Another is an -ahem- adult performer. If you’ve come looking for them, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Here, you only get me.

It will take some time to erect and cement the walls of my new e-bower, so stay tuned. I hope it’s something worth visiting, at some point in the future.