Quiet moments and readables

It is too warm for candles, which is unfortunate as I am in the mood to light a candle, read, and listen to the rain. That said, the rain stopped a few hours back, so I suppose I’m out of luck on multiple axes.

(I say this while sitting comfortably at home, checking my email, and having received ebook copies of two Neon Hemlock Press novellas today. Life is not exactly hard.)

On other news… mostly just keeping on keeping on, I think. Today is a fortnight since my second vaccine shot, I have a vacation planned in a little less than five weeks, and I’m just trying to keep moving through the checklist of things to do until I get there.

Generally good times

A lot of things going on, but to accentuate the positives: I got my first vaccine shot, I am getting back into reading, and I finally saw the movie Network.

With regards to Network–I am, bluntly, appalled that I had not heard a lot more about this in years past. Someone else mentioned that they hadn’t seen it but they knew “The Rant”, and I was genuinely at a loss to figure out which one he meant. The movie is like a slice of a John Brunner novel with all the science fiction boiled out, studded heavily with oration; it is dense and bitter and self-reflective and, I think, ultimately rather hopeless.

With regards to reading; the brilliant, self-aware, and incisive Forebears by Eric Burns-White is being released. I have mentioned him before (here, discussing The Flash); while I first encountered him through his non-fiction writing, his fiction in the Justice Wing universe is fantastic, and Forebears is possibly my favourite of it all. It is, boiled down to its most apparent and simplest arc, the story of a lawyer who specializes in defending parahumans. You may begin reading it here.

Things I was extremely pleased to hear.

This is slightly belated, because I got the news and then came down with something icky, but:

“Ink, and Breath, and Spring” (initially published in issue 40 of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and reprinted in episode 637 of PodCastle) will be appearing in The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2020. I’m in the TOC and everything.

Cover of the Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2020

I am over the moon.

Knox, from SerialBox

KnoxKnox is available on Serial Box. The last chapter there comes out next week, so this review is still spoiler-free.

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review.

In fact, I was offered this product, and when I read the message part of me thought something like “oh gosh, I have so much I’ve been meaning to read and I’m really not getting to most of it. Maybe I shouldn’t?” In the meantime, the rest of me had parsed “Mythos”, “noir”, and “partly by Bolander” and was typing back something along the lines of “Yes, please, thank you.”

(To be clear: the chapters from Rivera and Iglesias and Moraine are absolutely stellar, I just didn’t know as much of their work going in.)

Knox is a serialized novel set in 1930s Manhattan. Morgan Knox was a nurse in WWI and is now a PI with a knack for dealing with the weird. When the man who committed a series of murders gets shot and falls to his death in the East River, she’s hired to look into who might have set him on the spree, and from there the story unfolds beautifully.

It’s a beautiful blend of noir and horror. We meet Morgan Knox in an extremely dynamic introduction that makes it clear that she is one tough-as-nails bad-ass PI. I’m holding off on getting into spoilers, but I cannot overstate how much Morgan’s reactions to everything she dealt with anchored the world. Both her present-day visions and the past experiences that underpin her life are horrific without being gratuitous[1], and while she keeps going in them, her doing so never feels easy or cheap. Her world-weary familiarity with horror spared me needing to sit through a protagonist who just can’t believe what’s going on as the case takes on more ominous tones; her battered stubbornness and principles made me want to see her succeed so badly. And while the general thrust of an ominous villain was made clear in the beginning, I genuinely was not expecting the details of the reveal, or how the arc of the antagonist progressed. It was creepy and chilling and ultimately damn delightful, for values of delightful that cover horrific entities from beyond our world.

Then there’s the other characters – the people already in Knox’s life and the people she runs into during the investigation (there is some overlap here). I liked reading about all of them, and even those in more antagonistic roles or who only showed up briefly were clearly drawn and distinguishable from each other. Having Knox surrounded by so many well-realized characters keeps the story from being a grim and lonely one, and really brings home how much she holds back. I deliberately took breaks between reading each chapter, and I never had any trouble slipping back into the story or remembering who people were to Knox, and judging by my own reactions at a couple of points I was really invested in them being okay.

(This is my first serial, and I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the story being broken up that way. I will say that each episode felt well-balanced; the focus differed as the story moved along, and the ending always made me look forward to more, but I was never irritated at the stopping points, if that makes sense.)

As a final note, the story is mercifully not whitewashed or Hollywoodized. I find that when reading or watching noir, especially written-to-be-period noir, there’s occasionally a tendency for the story to have a lot of white straight folks. Knox emphatically did not do that, and I was glad to see that 1930s New York had actually been portrayed as a melting pot.

Recommended for fans of the Mythos (you won’t find name-checks here, but you’ll find some great descriptions and lovely horrific scenes), fans of noir with a rich setting, and anyone who wants a combination of the two with a solid and satisfying character arc.
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[1] Please note that I may have a slightly high tolerance for descriptions of the effects of violence done to others, but this is a blend of Mythos and noir, and I think the descriptions work perfectly in that context.

Dynamic

Sometimes I take minutes. My raw notes are inevitably a bit unpolished, but they’re pretty fast. And I clean them up before I send out the draft for people’s comments, because “a bit unpolished” includes my editorializing about some situations. (I write swears. Not that anyone else swears. Just sometimes things are stressful.)

In recent minutes, I referred to the current situation as “extremely dynamic” and that’s about the politest way I can put it.

I’m still submitting. I’m writing a little. I’m having real trouble revising my own stuff, though, so that’s going to be something I’m going to be trying to focus on next month. Aside from writing, I suspect I’m dealing about the same way many other people are, and a lot of them are being more eloquent about it, so moving on.

I am catching up on my reading, though.

 

Looking back on things I’ve read

I’d honestly forgotten about the Hugo nominations until today. My notebook is looking a little sparse; I don’t know if I started forgetting to write things down when they impressed me, or if the end of the year was just so hectic that I fell far, far behind on actually reading and watching new work. It’s probably a combination.

(That said, with having read 105 books (or at least “things with ISBNs”) last year, plus a great number of short fiction magazines, I am pretty sure I can come up with a few nominations.)

Working fulltime (or fulltime-plus) is not making it easy, plus there’s been a little pet trouble so far this year, but overall I’m actually relatively happy with the amount of writing and submitting I’ve gotten done so far. Hoping it continues.

Grey and rainy.

The weather’s gotten properly icy, now; it’s below freezing at night, and winter coats are required. I can still get away without wearing winter boots, though.

I missed Sunday for NaNoWriMo, but I wrote yesterday and today, and I’m still ahead; slightly more than 25% done on the wordcount, although with what I had drafted up already I may hit the end of what I need to have written before I get to 50,000 words. We’ll see.

The usual small flood of magazines came in, and I’m working at getting my owned-and-to-read pile back down to a closer-to-reasonable level. It’s a process. I’m cherry-picking short works and ones that came out in 2017 (Hugos next year, and all).

I bought a sweater quantity of yarn, in a sort of raisin colour, and cast on a pattern tonight. I’m hoping to have a sweater done this month or early December.

Managing the flood of words.

I’ve finished six books so far this month (bringing me to twenty-six for the year), and I may finish another one tonight. That said, March was the month where… hang on, counting up titles and being slightly embarrassed…

March was the month where eight e-magazines dropped into my inbox. Eight. Also two print magazines came by mail, so I’m going to call it… thirty-five stories, probably.

Most months don’t have quite so many magazines, but March was something of a perfect storm. I’m thinking it’s really time to get through some of them. It’s hard, because most of them are e-magazines and I don’t tend to actually parse that those are piling up, so they get out of hand a little more easily.

So I think that, in addition to Camp NaNoWriMo, April is going to be the month where I put down the books and focus on my magazines for a bit. It’ll feel a bit strange because those aren’t tracked in Goodreads, but by the end of April I should still be ahead of the curve (I’m only aiming to read 65 books this year) and the stack of stuff on my ereader and end table will be down a bit.

Dusting off

It’s been a long couple of months. The physiotherapy has helped a lot–in addition to being able to type normally, I’m no longer on 4.5 times the recommended OTC daily dose of naproxen–but things have been piling up a bit and I’m still playing catch-up a little.

I’ve begun knitting again. That’s lovely.

I’ve been reading a fair bit; I’m actually at 23 books for the year so far (although two of those are standalone short stories and five are graphic novels, which are usually pretty quick reads), plus a few magazines.

I’ve gotten a new laptop and a new phone, since the old ones respectively were in the process of slowly failing and died on me completely, and while the new ones are pretty nice I’m still adjusting to the new layouts a bit.

I’ve realized that I have only two stories out, and this means that I actually have eleven works which need to get a quick check to see if it’s been a mistake to be sending them out and then get back out there. Hopefully most of them are in good shape.

There’s more, but I’m trying to focus on the positive, and keep moving.

Taking stock

(This is a very carefully circumscribed post, because that is what I need at the moment.)

Slowed down on getting rid of books. On the other hand, making progress on reading them, which is always nice.

Since it generally leads to a lot of people I know talking about writing and encouraging each other on wordcounts, trying to do NaNoWriMo. The Story Hospital has an excellent post on that.

Worried for people right now, and hoping everyone is doing as well as possible.