Updraft soars above the clouds without visible supports

Far behind the popular curve on this one, I just finished Updraft by Fran Wilde, which was published in 2015 as the first novel in the Bone Universe series. Cloudbound and Horizon are the subsequent titles. Updraft was an enjoyable read, well worth the investment of time, and deserving of its acclaim, but it was also an example of how young adult (YA) novels sometimes sketch the big picture with the thinnest of brushstrokes, and that may not be enough.

There is plenty to say about the novel’s character development and plot, which you can see in a review on Strange Horizons here, but world-building was its core strength. Survivors of some unnamed historic tragedy live high above the ground, above the clouds even, in towers made of living bone. There were key details, such the living tiers shaped like vertebrae in a spine; mostly invisible, tentacled monsters sail around the towers and eat people on occasion; and the challenges of navigating air currents while flying. All important aspects and engaging, but as a reader I felt the novel wasn’t fully fleshed out. We never learn– Continue reading


Ray Day is coming: why you should memorize writing that moves you / El día de Ray está cerca: ¿Por qué deberías memorizar los escritos que te conmueven?

F451Do you remember the first time you read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451? Do you remember Montag’s arrival at the camp in the woods where the drifters who had escaped the authoritarian government memorized books? That scene has never left me, and ever since Bradbury died in 2012, it has seemed more important than ever.

Is it because I love books? Is it because stories are central to my very being? Is it because our current political leadership is trending authoritarian? Is it because net neutrality is in danger? Is it because those grubby drifters strolling through the forest and reciting great works, seemed authentically human in a world where those with power were (are?) technologically advanced, corrupt and soulless?


August 22nd is Ray Bradbury’s birthday. Last year I proclaimed the day “Ray Day,” and, just like the drifters, a few friends and I memorized a few lines from stories we love to honor of Bradbury and, more importantly, to honor his message to all of us about the importance of stories and all the interesting, vital, moving, shocking, essential thoughts humankind has ever recorded.  Continue reading

“Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar highlights the writer’s gifts

Note: this is review number four of the nominees for the Nebula Award for short fiction this year. You can see all the nominees listed here.


Who knew there really were such shoes? These are reportedly displayed at a medieval crime museum in Rothenburg, Germany.

Amal El-Mohtar is no stranger to accolades for her writing. She’s been a Nebula finalist before and won the Locus Award as well as several Rhysling Awards for poetry. I, however, have not been particularly thrilled with some of her more recent stories. So when I saw that she was nominated for the Nebula again this year, I worried that I would be handing out another tough review of an author whose work I want to like.

I am happy to report that my worries were misplaced. This is the story I’ve been waiting for from El-Mohtar. It’s both simpler in form and far, far, better in execution than earlier ones recently nominated for awards.

“Seasons of Glass and Iron”, published in Uncanny Magazine, is a sweet fantasy told from the perspectives of two characters who have painful lives involving curses and shame. One of the main characters is Tabitha who is crossing the world wearing iron shoes that must be worn out before they can be removed. And she is on the fourth of seven pairs. Despite her mangled feet and the pain, she sees beauty in the world all around her. Still, she cannot stop to make a new home. The other character, Amira, sits atop a glass mountain where she feels safe on her glass throne as long as she doesn’t move. Amira appreciates the peace that comes from keeping the world at bay far below her perch, yet she is lonely. Continue reading

“Things with Beards” by Sam J. Miller–a short story bursting at the seams / “Things with Beards” de Sam J. Miller – un cuento lleno a reventar

Note: This is the second review of a short story nominated for the 2017 Nebula Awards. You can see all the nominees here, and my earlier review of “This is Not a Wardrobe Door” by A. Merc Rustad here.


Sam J. Miller (and friend?)

So here’s the short version of “Things with Beards” by Sam J. Miller: Protagonist Jimmy (Jim?) McReady has returned to New York in the summer of 1983 after a mysterious end to his work at a research station in Antarctica. He meets an old friend who’s involved with an underground group bent on payback for the cops harassing and abusing blacks. McReady is gay and white, and he identifies with his friend’s political agenda despite his Irish family, some of whom are cops. During the course of the story McReady discovers that he and his friend Hugh are infected with what is called at that time — the “gay cancer”. He also intuits that he is inhabited by a monster of some sort that claims great stretches of his memory and also attacks and inhabits practically everyone with whom McReady comes into close contact.

No, this is not a novel. It’s a freaking short story. Continue reading