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Archive for the ‘Books & Literature’ Category

This time three years ago, I had written the scripts for Episodes 1, 2, and 4, and was in the process of writing the script for Episode 8.

This time two years ago, I had written the scripts for “Kill Them All” and “We Were Family” and I had just started scripting “Stuff To Steal, People To Kill”.

This time last year, I had written “Being Better Is So Much Harder” and “Welcome To The Revolution” and was plotting out the back half of season 3.

This summer, I have been checking out most of Vancouver’s ice cream and gelato shops.  I have also been doing a lot of reading.  Here are my favorite mystery/thriller authors in no particular order…

1 – Deon Meyers: South Africa’s king of crime fiction writes some of the tautest, fast-paced thrillers in the genre.

Favorite book: Thirteen Hours –  An American backpacker has been killed and another is on the run for her life.  Inspector Benny Giessel is tasked with solving two parallel murder cases, and locating the whereabouts of a frightened young girl marked for death.

2 – Don Winslow: One of America’s premiere crime novelists, his work is mesmerizing, downright unputdownable.

Favorite book: The Winter of Frankie Machine – A retired hit man is drawn back into the life he left behind after surviving an attempt on his life.  Someone wants him dead – but who?  And why?

3 – Nicholas Pileggi: A successful author and screenwriter, his works include the novels Casino and Wiseguy, both of which he adapted for the big screen.

Favorite book: Wiseguy – The life story of a mobster, a brutal enforcer, murder, and family man, Henry Hill.  It would form the basis of the movie Goodfellas.

4 – Herman Koch: The rich, colorful, reprehensible characters that mark this Dutch author’s novels always make for a shocking, wholly absorbing, emotionally charged read.

Favorite book: Summer House with Swimming Pool – Dr. Marc Schlosser hides a terrible secret, his role in the death of a famous actor.  But the truth is far darker, and goes much deeper, than anyone could have imagined.

5 – Ben H. Winters: Author of The Last Policeman series, a post-apocalyptic crime series that is presently in development at NBC.

Favorite book: The Last Policeman, the first book in the aforementioned series.

6 – Ariana Franklin: Nom de plume of late British author Diana Norman.  Her Mistress of the Art of Death books are my all-time favorite historical crime series.

Favorite book: Mistress of the Art of Death – A young female medical examiner must weather sexism and anti-semitism to solve the murder of four young children, a crime that has been blamed on the local Jewish community of medieval Cambridge.

Honorable Mentions (Fantastic single titles from authors who I plan to read more of…):

The Coroner’s Lunch, by Colin Cotterill.  A mix of thriller, humor, and the supernatural, this novel, set in the 197o’s, focuses on Siri Paiboun, a 72 year old Laotian medical examiner who takes it upon himself to uncover the conspiracy surrounding the death of a government official’s wife.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, by Hannah Tinti.  My favorite read of 2017 so far, this book focuses on the relationship between a spirited young girl and her well-intentioned father struggling with his criminal past.

Gotham Central, by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka.  The stories of the lives and cases of Gotham’s finest.  A dark, gritty, more human perspective of Batman’s big city.

Ill Will, by Dan Chaon.  A psychologist is drawn to explore the work of what may be a serial killer of young college men in suburban Cleveland – but his past involvement in a horrific crime complicates his personal investigation.

Cutter and Bone, by Newton Thornburg.  A mysterious murder leads Vietnam vet Cutter and his best friend Bone journey to the Ozarks, home of the infamous Wolfe Empire.

Get Carter, by Ted Lewis.  London “fixer” Jack Carter travels to the mill town of Scunthorpe to attend his brother’s funeral.  But when he starts using his tried and true methods to get at the truth behind his brother’s death, all hell breaks loose.

Any recommendations?

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If you enjoy Dark Matter and are looking for a book that is similar in spirit, might I suggest the following ten scifi novels.

Whether it’s kickass characters, a shipboard setting, an anti-villain premise, or a sense of humor, Dark Matter shares a little something with each of these amazing titles…

The Darwin Elevator (Dire Earth Cycle, #1) by Jason M. Hough

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.

Fortune’s Pawn (Paradox, #1) by Rachel Bach

Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet.

That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire, #1) by Yoon Ha Lee

The first installment of the trilogy, Ninefox Gambit, centers on disgraced captain Kel Cheris, who must recapture the formidable Fortress of Scattered Needles in order to redeem herself in front of the Hexarchate.

To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.

Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.

The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim.

Dark Run (Keiko, #1) by Mike Brooks

The Keiko is a ship of smugglers, soldiers of fortune and adventurers, travelling Earth’s colony planets searching for the next job. And nobody talks about their past.

But when a face from Captain Ichabod Drift’s former life send them on a run to Old Earth, all the rules change.

Trust will be broken, and blood will be spilled.

Old Man’s War (Old Man’s War, #1) by John Scalzi

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce– and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine–and what he will become is far stranger.

Revenger (Revenger, #1) by Alastair Reynolds

The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilizations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives.

And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them.

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded by layers of protection–and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future–a tale of space pirates, buried treasure, and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism and of vengeance…

Diving into the Wreck (Diving Universe, #1) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Boss loves to dive historical ships, derelict spacecraft found adrift in the blackness between the stars. Sometimes she salvages for money, but mostly she s an active historian. She wants to know about the past to experience it firsthand. Once she s dived the ship, she ll either leave it for others to find or file a claim so that she can bring tourists to dive it as well. It s a good life for a tough loner, with more interest in artifacts than people.

Then one day, Boss finds the claim of a lifetime: an enormous spacecraft, incredibly old, and apparently Earth-made. It s impossible for something so old, built in the days before Faster Than Light travel, to have journeyed this far from Earth. It shouldn t be here. It can t be here. And yet, it is. Boss s curiosity is up, and she s determined to investigate. She hires a group of divers to explore the wreck with her, the best team she can assemble. But some secrets are best kept hidden, and the past won t give up its treasures without exacting a price in blood.”

The Wreck of the River of Stars by Michael Flynn

This is a story of the glory that was. In the days of the great sailing ships in the mid-21st century, when magnetic sails drew cargo and passengers alike to every corner of the Solar System, sailors had the highest status of all spacemen, and the crew of the luxury liner The River of Stars, the highest among all sailors.

But development of the Farnsworth fusion drive doomed the sailing ships and now The River of Stars is the last of its kind, retrofitted with engines, her mast vestigial, her sails unraised for years. An ungainly hybrid, she operates in the late years of the century as a mere tramp freighter among the outer planets, and her crew is a motley group of misfits. Stepan Gorgas is the escapist executive officer who becomes captain. Ramakrishnan Bhatterji is the chief engineer who disdains him. Eugenie Satterwaithe, once a captain herself, is third officer and, for form’s sake, sailing master.

When an unlikely and catastrophic engine failure strikes The River, Bhatterji is confident he can effect repairs with heroic engineering, but Satterwaithe and the other sailors among the crew plot to save her with a glorious last gasp for the old ways, mesmerized by a vision of arriving at Jupiter proudly under sail. The story of their doom has the power, the poetry, and the inevitability of a Greek tragedy.

The Dark Beyond the Stars by Frank M. Robinson

For two thousand years, the starship Astron has searched the galaxy for alien life–without success. Now, just as the ship is falling apart, the only direction left to explore is across the Dark, a one-hundred-generation journey through empty space.

The ship’s captain–immortal, obsessed–refuses to abandon the quest. He will cross the Dark, or destroy the ship trying.

Only Sparrow, a young crewman uncertain of his own past, can stand against the captain, and against the lure and challenge of the dark beyond the stars…

Legion of the Damned by William C. Dietz

There is one final choice for the hopeless the terminally ill, the condemned criminals, the victims who cannot be saved: becoming cyborg soldiers in the Legion. Their human bodies are destroyed and they are reborn as living weapons. But when aliens attack the Empire, the Legion must choose sides.”

 

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Like me, my mother is a fairly prolific reader.  Unlike me, she prefers books with soft conflicts and happy endings.  You know, the ones that inevitably get adapted for television by the Hallmark Channel.  So, apparently, last week she started to read a book so upsetting that she couldn’t get the images out of her mind.  Not upsetting like that time I recommended Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” and all she could think of was post-apocalyptic scenarios for days, but horrifyingly distressing to the extent that she wanted to throw the book away after those first few pages!  To my mother, throwing out a book is tantamount to sacrilege but she was compelled to act out of fear someone else might come across the book and read it.

“What’s the book?”I asked my sister who informed me of the bizarre reading experience.

My sister texted back…

My sis suspects mom might have inadvertently picked it up during her last hospital visit or had someone gift it to her amongst a pile of less startling titles.

“Definitely not from me,”I assured my sister.

On the bright side, mom’s experience expanded her vocabulary.  She learned a new word.  It starts with “C”.

Hey, look who’s manning the grill.  If it isn’t BBQ King and Pizza Maestro (also Executive Producer Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Stargate: Universe, Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate: SG-1) Robert C. Cooper.  Rob kindly hosted a Stargate reunion of sorts on Carl Binder and Ivon Bartok’s final night in town.  On the menu…

Six types of sausage, wood-fire-smoked burrata, two types of pie (blueberry and rhubarb), chocolate-coffee cake, and seven types of ice cream.  Not pictured = the salad.

This is it!  Your last chance to post a comment for actress Ayisha Issa, Dark Matter’s Solara Shockley, in advance of her coming fan Q&A.  If you got ’em, post ’em in the comments section!

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2016 was a solid reading year for yours truly (100+ titles read), and 2017 is shaping up to be even better (at close to 100 titles already and counting).

I consider myself well-read.  I know what I like.  And I love to offer an opinion.  So, last year, I thought why not create and bestow my own literary awards, especially if it helps shine a light on some authors or titles that may not get the love and attention they richly deserved?

Today, I present to you my Rogue Star Awards picks in x categories.  They’re all fantastic reads, nominees and winners alike, so check them out – and prepare to be amazed, informed, and entertained.

***

BEST COMIC BOOK SERIES

NOMINEES

Black Hammer – Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston, Dark Horse
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina – Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack, Archie
The Omega Men – Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda, DC
Saga – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Image
Vision – Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Marvel

WINNER

Vision – Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Marvel

***

BEST SHORT STORY

NOMINEES

“Against the Stream” – A Que, Clarkesworld
“Not a Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass” – Jeremiah Tolbert, Lightspeed
“Rooms Formed Of Neurons And Sex” – Ferrett Steinmetz, Uncanny Magazine
“The Savannah Liar’s Tour” – Will McIntosh, Lightspeed
“We Have A Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You?” – Rebecca Ann Jordan, Strange Horizons

WINNER

“Against the Stream” – A Que, Clarkesworld

***

BEST NOVELETTE

NOMINEES

A Deeper Green – Samantha Murray, Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Blood Grains Speak Through MemoriesJason Sanford, Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Extraction Request – Rich Larson, Clarkesworld
In the Midst of Life – Nick Wolven, Clarkesworld
Teenagers From Outerspace – Dale Bailey, Clarkesworld

WINNER

Blood Grains Speak Through MemoriesJason Sanford, Beneath Ceaseless Skies

***

BEST NOVEL

NOMINEES

Core of the Sun – Johanna Sinisalo (translated by Lola Rogers), Grove Press
Hex – Thomas Olde Heuvelt (translated by Nancy Forest-Flier), Tor
Mongrels – Stephen Graham Jones, William Morrow
The Regional Office Is Under Attack – Manuel Gonzales, Riverhead Books
The Sudden Appearance of Hope – Claire North, Redhook

WINNER

Core of the Sun – Johanna Sinisalo (translated by Lola Rogers), Grove Press

***

BEST NON-FICTION BOOK

NOMINEES

Dark Knight: A True Batman Story – Paul Dini and Edward Risso, Vertigo
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis – J.D. Vance, Harper
Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating And What You Can Do About It – Larry Olmsted, Algonquin Books
Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything – Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, Simon & Schuster
When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi and Abraham Verghese, Random House

WINNER

Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything – Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, Simon & Schuster

***

BEST NOVEL (NON-GENRE)

NOMINEES

News of the World – Paulette Giles, William Morrow
Sweetbitter – Stephanie Danler, Knopf
The Girls – Emma Cline, Random House
The Invisibility Cloak – Ge Fei (translated by Canaan Morse), New York Review of Books
Under the Harrow – Flynn Berry, Penguin Books

WINNER

The Girls – Emma Cline, Random House

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My favorites…

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

“When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults. ”

This one has made my Best Of list for as long as I’ve been making these Best Of lists.  Wildly inventive SF peopled with some truly wonderful characters.

Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire

“Once they were heroes, but the age of heroes has long since passed. Banished from existence by a multiversal crisis, the old champions of Spiral City–Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly, and Barbalien–now lead simple lives in an idyllic, timeless farming village from which there is no escape! But as they employ all of their super abilities to free themselves from this strange purgatory, a mysterious stranger works to bring them back into action for one last adventure!”

I’m a big fan of Jeff Lemire’s work (Sweet Tooth, Descender, Plutonia) but this book, about a group of bizarre former superheroes trapped in a small town community, is now my favorite.

Vision by Tom King and Michael Walsh

“The Vision wants to be human, and what’s more human than family? So he heads back to the beginning, to the laboratory where Ultron created him and molded him into a weapon. The place where he first rebelled against his given destiny and imagined that he could be more -that he could be a man. There, he builds them. A wife, Virginia. Two teenage twins, Viv and Vin. They look like him. They have his powers. They share his grandest ambition (or is that obsession?) the unrelenting need to be ordinary.

Behold the Visions! They’re the family next door, and they have the power to kill us all. What could possibly go wrong? Artificial hearts will be broken, bodies will not stay buried, the truth will not remain hidden, and the Vision will never be the same.”

As someone who explores the humanity at the heart of an Android, I am in awe of King’s examination of this very conceit. Sure, it may seem to be about superheroes and supervillains and superpowers but, really, it’s about family.

Kingin (Civil War II) by Matthew Rosenberg and Ricardo Lopez Ortiz

“An Inhuman with the ability to predict the future has helped the heroes of the Marvel Universe clamp down on crime before it can even happen. While this thwarts most criminals, one man has found a way to keep doing what he does best. Wilson Fisk has managed to stay one step ahead of the good guys and his crime enterprise is BOOMING. But what’s his secret?! It’s a gritty, street-level view of CIVIL WAR II starring the Kingpin in a world without crime!”

I loved Matthew Rosenberg’s work for Black Mask Studios (We Can Never Go Home4 Kids Walk Into A Bank) and, not surprisingly, loved his take on one of Marvel’s biggest bads.  They say that everyone is the hero of their own story, and it’s fascinating to see this old adage play out with the Kingpin of crime.

Kill Or Be Killed by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

“The bestselling team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (The Fade Out, Criminal, Fatale) return with Kill or Be Killed, Volume One, the twisted story of a young man forced to kill bad people, and how he struggles to keep his secret from destroying his life.

Both a thriller and a deconstruction of vigilantism, Kill or Be Killed is unlike anything Brubaker and Phillips have ever done.”

A dark, occasionally shocking, thoroughly absorbing read.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack

“Sabrina’s father, Edward Spellman, is back from the dead, inhabiting the body of the newly resurrected Harvey Kinkle! Sabrina, believing the love of her high school life is back, arranges for a romantic rendezvous — but neither Hilda nor Zelda want that reunion to take place and are willing to start a witch-war to keep them apart! Meanwhile, the diabolical Madam Satan reveals her true plans for the Spellman family… You dare not miss the last page of this masterpiece of the macabre!”

This one outcreeps and outclasses its predecessor, Afterlife With Archie, another surprisingly great horror title.

The Omega Men by Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda

“Broadcast across the universe, the Omega Men reveal a beaten and restrained Kyle Rayner. They make their intentions clear as they kill the former White Lantern. Now the universe is on watch and the hunt for the Omega Men begins. The line between good and evil is blurred in this part of the galaxy, and you do not know who to trust. Please Omega.”

Layers upon layers in this grand DC conspiracy.  I went in cold and came away a fan.

The Fix by Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber

“THE FIX is a story of the crooked cops, scheming mobsters, and corrupt politicians that run Los Angeles—and the sex toy that can bring them all down. Oh, and the hero is a drug-sniffing beagle named Pretzels.”

Wild, hilarious, and more than a little offside.

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My favorites…

The Suicide Motor Club by Christopher Buehlman

“Remember that car that passed you near midnight on Route 66, doing 105 with its lights off? You wondered where it was going so quickly on that dark, dusty stretch of road, motor roaring, the driver glancing out the window as he blew by.

Did his greedy eyes shine silver like a coyote’s? Did he make you feel like prey?

You can’t remember now.

You just saw the founder of the Suicide Motor Club. Be grateful his brake lights never flashed. Be grateful his car was already full.

They roam America, littering the highways with smashed cars and bled-out bodies, a gruesome reflection of the unsettled sixties. But to anyone unlucky enough to meet them in the lonely hours of the night, they’re just a blurry memory.

That is—to all but one…

Two years ago, they left a witness in the mangled wreck of her family car, her husband dead, her son taken. She remembers their awful faces, despite their tricks and glamours. And she’s coming for them—her thirst for vengeance even more powerful than their hunger for blood.

On the deserted highways of America, the hunters are about to become the hunted… ”

Rosewater by Tade Thompson

“Between meeting a boy who bursts into flames, alien floaters that want to devour him, and a butterfly woman who he has sex with when he enters the xenosphere, Kaaro’s life is far from the simple one he wants. But he left simple behind a long time ago when he was caught stealing and nearly killed by an angry mob. Now he works for a government agency called Section 45, and they want him to find a woman known as Bicycle Girl. And that’s just the beginning.

An alien entity lives beneath the ground, forming a biodome around which the city of Rosewater thrives. The citizens of Rosewater are enamored by the dome, hoping for a chance to meet the beings within or possibly be invited to come in themselves. But Kaaro isn’t so enamored. He was in the biodome at one point and decided to leave it behind. When something begins killing off other sensitives like himself, Kaaro defies Section 45 to search for an answer, facing his past and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.”

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

“The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilizations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives.

And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them.

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded by layers of protection–and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future–a tale of space pirates, buried treasure, and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism and of vengeance…”

The Destructives by Matthew de Abaitua

“Theodore Drown is a destructive. A recovering addict to weirdcore, he’s keeping his head down lecturing at the university of the moon. Twenty years after the appearance of the first artificial intelligence, and humanity is stuck. The AIs or, as they preferred to be called, emergences have left Earth and reside beyond the orbit of Mercury in a Stapledon Sphere known as the university of the sun. The emergences were our future but they chose exile. All except one.

Dr Easy remains, researching a single human life from beginning to end. Theodore’s life. One day, Theodore is approached by freelance executive Patricia to investigate an archive of data retrieved from just before the appearance of the first emergence. The secret living in that archive will take him on an adventure through a stunted future of asylum malls, corporate bloodrooms and a secret off-world colony where Theodore must choose between creating a new future for humanity or staying true to his nature, and destroying it.”

Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

“Set in an alternative historical present, in a “eusistocracy”—an extreme welfare state—that holds public health and social stability above all else, it follows a young woman whose growing addiction to illegal chili peppers leads her on an adventure into a world where love, sex, and free will are all controlled by the state.

The Eusistocratic Republic of Finland has bred a new human sub-species of receptive, submissive women, called eloi, for sex and procreation, while intelligent, independent women are relegated to menial labor and sterilized so that they do not carry on their “defective” line. Vanna, raised as an eloi but secretly intelligent, needs money to help her doll-like sister, who has disappeared. Vanna forms a friendship with a man named Jare, and they become involved in buying and selling a stimulant known to the Health Authority to be extremely dangerous: chili peppers. Then Jare comes across a strange religious cult in possession of the Core of the Sun, a chili so hot that it is rumored to cause hallucinations. Does this chili have effects that justify its prohibition? How did Finland turn into the North Korea of Europe? And will Vanna succeed in her quest to find her sister, or will her growing need to satisfy her chili addiction destroy her?

Johanna Sinisalo’s tautly told story of fight and flight is also a feisty, between-the-lines social polemic—a witty, inventive, and fiendishly engaging read.”

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

“Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a 17th century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters your homes at will. She stands next to your bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting, but in so doing send the town spiraling into the dark, medieval practices of the past.”

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

“A spellbinding and darkly humorous coming-of-age story about an unusual boy whose family lives on the fringes of society and struggles to survive in a hostile world that shuns and fears them.

He was born an outsider, like the rest of his family. Poor yet resilient, he lives in the shadows with his Aunt Libby and Uncle Darren, folk who stubbornly make their way in a society that does not understand or want them. They are mongrels, mixedblood, neither this nor that. The boy at the center of Mongrels must decide if he belongs on the road with his aunt and uncle, or if he fits with the people on the other side of the tracks.

For ten years, he and his family have lived a life of late-night exits and close calls—always on the move across the South to stay one step ahead of the law. But the time is drawing near when Darren and Libby will know if their nephew is like them or not. And the close calls they’ve been running from for so long are catching up fast, now. Everything is about to change.

A compelling and fascinating journey, Mongrels alternates between past and present to create an unforgettable portrait of a boy trying to understand his family and his place in a complex and unforgiving world. A smart and innovative story—funny, bloody, raw, and real—told in a rhythmic voice full of heart, Mongrels is a deeply moving, sometimes grisly novel that illuminates the challenges and tender joys of a life beyond the ordinary in a bold and imaginative new way.”

The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales

“In a world beset by amassing forces of darkness, one organization—the Regional Office—and its coterie of super-powered female assassins protects the globe from annihilation. At its helm, the mysterious Oyemi and her oracles seek out new recruits and root out evil plots. Then a prophecy suggests that someone from inside might bring about its downfall. And now, the Regional Office is under attack.

Recruited by a defector from within, Rose is a young assassin leading the attack, eager to stretch into her powers and prove herself on her first mission. Defending the Regional Office is Sarah—who may or may not have a mechanical arm—fiercely devoted to the organization that took her in as a young woman in the wake of her mother’s sudden disappearance. On the day that the Regional Office is attacked, Rose’s and Sarah’s stories will overlap, their lives will collide, and the world as they know it just might end. ”

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

“A contemporary gothic from an author in the company of Kelly Link and Aimee Bender, Mr. Splitfoot tracks two women in two times as they march toward a mysterious reckoning.

Ruth and Nat are orphans, packed into a house full of abandoned children run by a religious fanatic. To entertain their siblings, they channel the dead. Decades later, Ruth’s niece, Cora, finds herself accidentally pregnant. After years of absence, Aunt Ruth appears, mute and full of intention. She is on a mysterious mission, leading Cora on an odyssey across the entire state of New York on foot. Where is Ruth taking them? Where has she been? And who — or what — has she hidden in the woods at the end of the road?

In an ingeniously structured dual narrative, two separate timelines move toward the same point of crisis. Their merging will upend and reinvent the whole. A subversive ghost story that is carefully plotted and elegantly constructed, Mr. Splitfoot will set your heart racing and your brain churning. Mysteries abound, criminals roam free, utopian communities show their age, the mundane world intrudes on the supernatural and vice versa.”

Company Town by Madeline Ashby

“Meet Hwa. One of the few in her community to forego bio-engineered enhancements, she’s the last truly organic person left on the rig. But she’s an expert in the arts of self-defence, and she’s been charged with training the Family’s youngest, who has been receiving death threats – seemingly from another timeline.

Meanwhile, a series of interconnected murders threatens the city’s stability – serial killer? Or something much, much worse…?”

The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

“Listen.

All the world forgets me. First my face, then my voice, then the consequences of my deeds.

So listen. Remember me.

My name is Hope Arden, and you won’t know who I am. We’ve met before – a thousand times. But I am the girl the world forgets.

It started when I was sixteen years old. A slow declining, an isolation, one piece at a time.

A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A teacher who forgets to chase my missing homework. A friend who looks straight through me and sees a stranger.

No matter what I do, the words I say, the people I hurt, the crimes I commit – you will never remember who I am.

That makes my life tricky. But it also makes me dangerous . . .

The Sudden Appearance of Hope is the tale of the girl no one remembers. But this gripping story – of love and loss, of hope and despair, of living in the moment and dying to leave a mark – is novel that will stay with you for ever.”

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Yesterday, I offered up a list of My Favorite Genre Novelettes of 2016.

Today I’d like to offer up a list of My Favorite Genre Short Stories of 2016.

Of the roughly 200 stories I read last year, these were, in my humble opinion, the Top 30.

I’ve included a short synopsis and links to an online reading copy. You may also want to consider purchasing the issues outright (or, better yet, subscribing!). And, if you’re interested in further reading, I would heartily recommend RockStackRank, a site that offers up monthly aggregate ratings for works in the categories of short stories, novelettes, and novellas.

“Salvage Opportunity” by Jack Skillingstead (Clarkesworld #114) – SF

Badar has a 4-year contract sits all alone at a salvage site on Kepler-186f.  – RocketStackRank

“The Governess with a Mechanical Womb” by Leena Likitalo (Clarkesworld #114) – Post Apocalyptic

Agneta and her little sister, Saga, are among the last human survivors. The invading aliens have assigned a modified human “governess” to watch over them. RockStackRank

“Into the Wreck” by June Oldfather (Strange Horizons – February 22nd, 2016) – SF

A human science team studies the colossal wreck of an alien spacecraft. RocketStackRank

“The Artificial Bees” by Simon Guerrier (Uncanny #9) – SF

Randall, a robot, investigates an unfamiliar place: a home garden. RocketStackRank

“Not a Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass” by Jeremiah Tolbert (Lightspeed Magazine #69) – Fantasy

Ellie used to travel freely to the other world, but lately her door doesn’t work. In fact, all the portals are broken for some reason.RocketStackRank

“Blessed are Those Who Have Seen and Do Not Believe” by D.K. Thompson (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #91) – Magical Steampunk

Elijah is dying of tuberculosis in a London where Darwin discovered spirits, not evolution. He and a vampire friend descend into the underground to look for a cure. – RocketStackRank

“In Skander, For a Boy” by Chaz Brenchley (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #91) – High Fantasy

Having no heir, King Rulf sends Harlan, his most trusted adviser, to find the son of the king he overthrew 20 years ago.RocketStackRank

“We Have A Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You?” by Rebecca Ann Jordan (Strange Horizons – April 18th, 2016) – SF

Filo/Gee, an intelligent giant amoeba, isn’t the ideal college roommate, particularly since he experiences the world through touching and tasting, which is hard on books, electronics, and relationships.RocketStackRank

“1957” by Stephen Cox (Apex Magazine #84) – SF Horror

Daniel is 17, attends a British boys school, and is very happy except in those moments when he remembers a very different life.RocketStackRank

“Blameless” by Jeffrey Ford (A Natural History of Hell – Stories)

A couple are invited over to a neighbor’s daughter’s exorcism. (Small Beer Press) – New Weird Horror

“Life in Stone, Glass, and Plastic” by Jose Pablo Iriarte (Strange Horizons – June 13th, 2016) – Contemporary Fantasy

Sergio is called to remove an offensive mural, but when he touches it, it makes him “remember” things from other people’s lives. – RocketStackRank

“A Good Home” by Karin Lowachee (Lightspeed Magazine #73) – SF

A disabled human veteran takes in a disabled AI veteran. The AI doesn’t talk anymore due to trauma, but Tawn tries to get through to it, even though his mother thinks it’s dangerous.RocketStackRank

“Binaries” by S.B. Divya (Lightspeed #73) – SF

The narrator describes his life in exponential steps.RocketStackRank

“Cuckoo Girls” by Douglas F. Warrick (Apex Magazine #85) – Horror

Nikki and Samantha are on the run from luminous monsters that are trying to kill them–and anyone they care about who’s near them.  – RocketStackRank

“Lullaby For A Lost World” by Aliette De Bodard (Tor.com) – Horror

Charlotte’s sacrifice kept the forces of chaos at bay, but only for a while, and in her grave, she grows resentful.RocketStackRank

“Against the Stream” by A Que (Clarkesworld #118) – Time Travel

An “illness” causes a man to wake each morning in the previous day, and as he lives his life backwards, he sees the mistakes he made.RocketStackRank

“The One Who Isn’t” by Ted Kosmatka (Lightspeed Magazine #74) – SF

A woman appears to be helping a child recover from some form of brain damage. His perceptions and memory are off, but something is off about her too.RocketStackRank

“The Assassin’s Secret” by Adam Troy-Castro (Lightspeed #75) – Fantasy

The world’s greatest assassin sits in his lair, waiting for people to come to him to beg his assistance.RocketStackRank

“The Gentleman of Chaos” by A. Merc Rustad (Apex Magazine #87) – High Fantasy

An immortal assassin threatens the new king, so he has his sister trained as the ultimate bodyguard.RocketStackRank

“The Engines Imperial” by Sean Bensinger (Clarkesworld #119) – Fantasy SF

The starship Rook returns to the system to mourn her sister starship, who died there 10,000 years ago.RocketStackRank

“Rooms Formed of Neurons and Sex” by Ferrett Steinmetz (Uncanny Magazine #12) – Near-Future SF

Lydia’s boyfriend, Ross, was just a brain in a jar. So how, exactly, did she injure him during sex?RocketStackRank

“Of Sight, Of Mind, Of Heart” by Samantha Murray (Clarkesworld #122) – SF

You adopt an android baby. You name him Ben. He grows amazingly fast.RocketStackRank

“Afrofuturist 419” by Nnedi Okorafor (Clarkesworld #122) – SF

Nigerian astronaut Abacha Tunde has been abandoned in space since 1990 and he would appreciate some help getting home.RocketStackRank

“Every Day Is The Full Moon” by Carlie St. George (Lightspeed Magazine #79) – Slipstream

B’s werewolf dad beats her, but what really gets her down is she hasn’t become supernatural like her friends have.RocketStackRank

“A Salvaging of Ghosts” by Aliette De Bodard (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #195) – Space Opera

Thuy seeks her daughter’s remains in the twisted parts of unreal space where salvagers pick over the remains of wrecked starships.RocketStackRank

“Terminal” by Lavie Tidhar (Tor.com) – SF

A vast fleet of “jalopies” carry individuals on a one-way trip from Earth to Mars. People do it for different reasons, some of which we learn about in this story.RocketStackRank

“The Savannah Liar’s Tour” by Will McIntosh (Lightspeed Magazine #68) – Urban Fantasy

In the near future, Ben uses cryosleep for a side-effect: while he’s under, he can meet his dead wife. Trouble is, he has a new wife.RocketStackRank

“Secondhand Bodies” by JY Yang (Lightspeed #68) – SF

Agatha wants a svelte replacement for her plump body, but since she can’t get one grown in a reasonable time, she looks into an illegal swap.RocketStackRank

“Two’s Company” by Joe Abercrombie (Tor.com) – High Fantasy

A warrior woman and a thief fleeing from the south meet a male warrior fleeing from the north in the middle of a bridge. Then it gets complicated.RocketStackRank

“Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” by Jason Sanford (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #195)- SF

Frere-Jones controls the nanobot “grains” that help protect the ecology in the bit of land she “anchors.” She’s come to view the grains as a tyranny, but there doesn’t seem to be much she can do about it.RocketStackRank

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