A New (Double) Review, and Some Thoughts on the State of the Field At Year’s End

Unlike the last couple of (fairly long) posts, a (marginally) shorter post today, helmed by an announcement:

My double review of Kendare Blake’s Anna Series (Anna Dressed in BloodGirl of Nightmares) is now up at ChiZine.

And in thinking about that review, it occurs to me that I have been reading a lot of really rather brilliant books this year which fall under the label of “Young Adult Fiction”, or YA titles. Which is, actually, a bit of a departure for me as I don’t generally read from the YA shelves. That has to do with the fact that I don’t generally identify with characters of the age group YA focuses on (which is also one of several reasons I have a love/hate relationship with anime), rather than speaking to the quality of the writing in genre YA, which is often quite high. The concerns of characters of this age group were never really my own, for a whole host of reasons, though I can relate entirely to the bone-deep ache of not being able to find one’s place in the world that is the thematic current underpinning a vast tract of YA fiction (genre and otherwise). But, still, there has always been that divide for me, and I have not often found myself bridging that particular chasm.

Nevertheless, after all the reading I’ve done this year (both for reviews and otherwise) I’ve found that among the YA titles I have been reading there are some books which very much stand out. For me, over the course of this year, those have been Leah Bobet‘s Above, Michelle Sagara‘s Silence, Gina Damico‘s Croak, Kendare Blake‘s Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares, and Lish McBride‘s Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. I’ve just started Sarah Rees Brennan‘s Unspoken, or it would be on that list as well. Yes, I know two of the books on that list aren’t from this year, but I hadn’t had a chance to read them until this year.

Other excellent YA titles have come out this year, but these are the ones I have read over the course of the year (or, in the case of Unspoken, am still reading) which resonated with me. Other books will resonate moreso with their respective readers. This is, fortunately or unfortunately, the nature of the beast: no writer can be all things to all readers (nor should one try). It has been a good year for powerful, intelligently written genre fiction in general, and I could also recommend adult material that I have read (or read the latter part of various series that have come out) this year. Have you read Kameron Hurley‘s Bel Dame Apocrypha sequence (God’s War, Infidel, Rapture) yet? Mike, Linda, and Louise Carey’s The Steel Seraglio? Martha Wells‘ Books of the Raksura (The Cloud Roads, The Serpent Sea, and  The Siren Depths)? The first two books of Ian Tregillis‘ Milkweed Triptych (Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War)? David Nickle‘s Rasputin’s Bastards? Madeline Ashby‘s vN? Helen Marshall‘s Hair Side, Flesh Side collection? Robert Shearman’s Remember Why You Fear Me collection? Or … Actually, screw it, just go read everything ChiZine Publications has put out. Also everything Nora Jemisin, Elizabeth Hand, Catherynne M. Valente, and a whole host of other extraordinarily good writers – whose names are not at this particular moment coming to mind because these are the books at the forefront of the tidal wave of my thoughts as I write this – have put out.

It’s been a damn strong year in terms of fiction, both as regards long form and short form writing. Not really any sign of that abating in the coming year, thankfully.

Actually, given that I’m already leaning in that direction, I think I might pull together a best of 2012 list of some kind come the new year. Probably once I’ve had a chance to see what the publishing world offers up in the last few throes of the old year, before we slam headlong into the next. Hey, Amal El-Mohtar‘s gorgeous short story “Wing” just came out at Strange Horizons this Monday, and it’s easily one of the best pieces of fiction I’ve read all year (which was somewhat predictable as I’ve found every piece of Amal’s work I’ve ever read – her poetry and her fiction – absolutely breathtaking). It’s the kind of gorgeous interstitial writing I often find myself drawn to as a reader (probably why I enjoyed Hair Side, Flesh Side so much), and why I love the poetry magazine Goblin Fruit that Amal El-Mohtar and Jessica P. Wick run between them. It is also the reason I love Ideomancer Speculative Fiction so much, because this is the kind of fiction they run: gorgeous stories that defy categorical or genre definition, woven from a reverence for beautiful prose and the sublime imagery threading through the work. Ideomancer, and it’s distant cousin, Shadows & Tall Trees (another publication focused on the beauty of language and stories that defy definition, skewed uniformly toward horror, while Ideomancer occupies a wider demesne) are the two magazines actively publishing stellar work in their quiet corners of the publishing industry, recognized rightly (if not always often enough) for their contributions to the field.

You will, I trust, forgive me if I pause for a moment to note that all three publications, Goblin FruitIdeomancer, and Shadows & Tall Trees, are all run, at least in part, by Canadians.

It’s a national pride … thing.

In this case it’s no false virtue. There’s great pride to be had in the state of the field, national, international, or global. There’s some good times ahead.

In the meantime, enjoy the review :)

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