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Thursday, April 09, 2015

In the Duke's Sights: Speakeasies, the Brooding Octavias, Tax Kings, Sorrows, and Machines!

It's time to create a new semi-regular column where I talk about things that I'm eyeing for whatever reason and things that I'm currently enjoying (also for whatever reason).  Because what could you want more than anything else in the world than my haphazard thoughts about random pieces of upcoming (or old) sf/f literature, film, and so on?  Assume you can't have pie as an alternative, because I can't compete with pie.

So here we are:  on the cusp of discussing exciting new and old and time-indeterminate things!
The Speakeasy People Are Coming For Us!
This gorgeous book arrived in my mailbox on Wednesday, and, well, it's gorgeous, no?  Valente, of course, is a fine writer, so when something by her appears in my inbox looking all kinds of book sexy, I'm inclined to want to read it immediately.

And the story?  Sounds like something I'd enjoy!
The hotel Artemisia sits on a fantastical 72nd Street, in a decade that never was. It is home to a cast of characters, creatures, and creations unlike any other, including especially Zelda Fair, who is perfect at being Zelda, but who longs for something more. The world of this extraordinary novella—a bootlegger's brew of fairy tales, Jazz Age opulence, and organized crime—is ruled over by the diminutive, eternal, sinister Al. Zelda holds her own against the boss, or so it seems. But when she faces off against him and his besotted employee Frankie in a deadly game that just might change everything, she must bet it all and hope not to lose…
The immediate parallel in 2015 would have to be Elizabeth Bear's Karen Memory, even though they are drastically different sorts of books.  Still, there's a similar feel to them, so I'm likely to enjoy Valente's book as much as Bear's -- which is to say a whole heck of a lot.

Brooding Octavia's!

Given the vocal campaign against the SJW infestation of science fiction and fantasy, I think it entirely appropriate to give Octavia's Brood:  Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements (edited by Walida Imarisha and adrienne maree brown; 4/14/15 release) a prominent place in my "In the Duke's Sights" feature.
The anthology collects twenty stories which engage with movements of social change.  I argued in an upcoming review for Strange Horizons that this kind of concentration of theme is precisely what exceptional science fiction anthologies do.  It also appears to be a prominent trend, which I'm happy exists.  Without a doubt, I desperately want to read this one!

Tax Kings Who Wear Fancy Pants (Probably)
If you haven't already heard about Ken Liu's debut novel, The Grace of Kings, then I'm put in the unfortunate position of having to tell you that you need to stop living under a rock.

Liu has been talking up the book for the past week, noting on more than one occasion that The Grace of Kings is silkpunk which makes taxes fun.  That's perhaps the boldest claim about a book that I have ever heard, since tax season in the United States is objectively less enjoyable for most people than the following:  root canals, being clawed by 90 very angry cats, having your foot chewed off by a badger, sitting through any Uwe Boll film...twice, and so on.  You get the idea.

Initial discussion of the novel has been quite positive.  Hopefully, I'll get a chance to dig into it later this month.

There Are Proper Sorrows, Surely!

Coming later this month is Lindsey Drager's The Sorrow Proper, a literary novel about technological change.  It's rooted in the present changes to publishing, but there's some weirdness about the Many Worlds theory and a future where the public library system is no longer, which sounds like something I'd love precisely because it's my worst nightmare.  NO LIBRARIES?  NO!

The novel certainly seems intriguing, so I hope to get a chance to read it soon.

The Lady Machines Will Ruin Us (Probably...Not)
The one sf/f film everyone is looking forward to this month is Alex Garland's Ex Machina, starring Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac.  Garland is fairly new to the director's seat, but his written work includes 28 Days Later (2002), Sunshine (2007), Never Let Me Go (2010), and the under-appreciated Dredd (2012).  For that reason, I'm actually looking forward to what Garland does with Ex Machina, and so you can expect my toosh in a theater seat once I've kicked this cold in the face.

And there you have it!  So...what are you fixated on at the moment?

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