The best speculative fiction and thought-provoking nonfiction for June 8, 2017.
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Welcome to the Reader's Room for 8th of June, 2017.
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Gifts of the Gods

I mostly read ebooks. It's makes reading frictionless. I can be lounging on my couch or chilling in a coffee shop, discover a book and thirty seconds alter, be reading it. I've counted my receipts, and I know for certain that I read more books after I got an ereader than I did before. But there's something grand about paper and ink, and I miss being able to pass books forward. So I do buy printed books. It's a significant thing to take an object that has made an impression on you (and you on it) and pass it on to someone. A story is a meal that one can savor intimately and devour completely, without consuming it. Reading the very same book that had such an effect on someone else makes it that much better. When I was a kid, I fell in love with fiction—especially science fiction—through the books I found on the dusty shelves in our basement. Knowing my older siblings had read them was enough for me to explore their cracked spines and disappear between their dogeared pages.

But stories—regardless of being printed on a page, spoken on the air, of flickering on a screen—leave indelible marks on a person, just like ink on paper. They entertain, inspire, and teach. They connect people and build relationships. They  create cultures and define gods—and outlive them both.

Neil Gaiman has become popular written everything from comics to popular fiction, children's stories to screenplays. His work is steeped in tradition and myth, mixing folklore and legends with the real world. A consistent theme across his works is giving powerful influences agency, embodying them depth and personality. His mix of humor and gravity makes a reader feel that there might be something to magic spells, that the right words in the right order just might summon something into being. His bestselling novel, American Gods, (just adapted into an incredibly intense and vivid series on Starz) is about the spirits that immigrants brought with them, and their dwindling influence against the gods created from American's modern obsessions.

Gaiman's latest book Norse Mythology forgoes his skill at original storytelling, but is right in line with his ability to bring a mythology to life. It's not set in modern day LA nor are the heroes given capes and tights, it's a straight retelling of old Norse myths with modern English. To readers who aren't well versed in the the full Norse cannon, it might be considered something of an educational book as well. I have a friend reading it with their daughter. (Though, being ancient gods, the stories do have their fair share of drunken violence and should probably be vetted first.) It's not a continuous narrative, unlike, say Beowulf (for which Gaiman helped write the screenplay for the 2007 film), but a series of short tales faithful to the surviving legends. Some of the stories are just a page or two, some are fragments, but they all bring life to the ancient civilization that birthed Odin, Thor, Freyja, and all the rest that shared the cold shores of the North Sea and the eight worlds beyond.

I had two copies of the book, one electronic the other hardback and it's better as a physical book. I've since passed the hardback on to a friend. The collection of short tales are made for flipping through, and the old stories gain more than substance from pressing ink into pulp. And it's hard to forget that these stories have been passed forward across centuries and generations.
Tom Colbie is a fine artist obsessed with space-suited figures, inserting them into surreal scenes, mixing them with pop culture icons, or both.
His (sometimes Not Safe For Work) gallery.

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Clarkesworld magazine has been publishing some fantastic short fiction. One of the best recent stories is Tang Fei's The Person Who Saw Cestus. It's a marvelous tale of a woman coming to understand her father and her own unusual childhood. (There's an audio version also at the link.)

Two links about using science fiction being applied to the non-fictional future. The first is the Swedish Research Council's Radical Ocean Futures which is a collaboration to create scientifically grounded narratives that delve into the future of the oceans. Each one combines text, audio, and visial arts to explore a possible future.

The X-Prize Foundation (which I talked about a few weeks ago in regards to the Tricorder X-Prize) has created an advisory council of sixty-four science fiction authors, made up of some of the genre's biggest writers. It's purpose is to bring together people who have been thinking a lot about the future, and use their expertise to make the good stuff happen.
Writing Status:
I told three different people this week that I wasn't making enough progress on the book, and that's such a tired old writer's cliché that I'm disappointed in myself for saying it once. So I won't repeat it. But I am anxious for you to see the finished version.
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