Every year this post comes out a little bit different. This year it’s going to be a list of book length (in various meanings of that term) works that I read, though I’m holding back on some things I read for Publishers Weekly, because those are reviewed anonymously. And in addition to the list of books read, I’ll also be doing a recommendation list for 2015 fiction and poetry works below book length, as well as a discussion of most of the magazines I used to assemble the recommendations list. The latter also functions as notes and/or an overview on some of the field’s venues.
Like last year, this will be in part an overview of my reading habits for 2015. Many of the books I read last year were not published in 2015. Not least of all because I was doing a lot of comfort reading, owing to needing a lot of downtime around moving and other issues last year.
In many ways, what’s below may not be entirely useful for award considerations (partly because we’ve already blown past the Nebula award nomination deadline). But I am happy to recommend things that I think others should seek out.
I’m not entirely happy with my reading patterns last year, mostly because I had been trying to keep to a version of K. Tempest Bradford’s reading challenge, which is the basis I use for reading choices anyway if at all possible. And it usually is doable, barring review work.
It was review work and the zoning-out reading that tripped me up on keeping to that goal.
Reminds me that I’d love to get back to doing reviews on a more regular basis, in addition to my work for PW. Something to look into again this year.
And I’d intended to read far more anthologies than I did. (I read practically none last year.) Partly because there were some fantastic anthologies with mostly original content out last year that I’d have love to have a chance to read before creating this post. Next year.
In the meantime, enough preamble out of me. I’ll have additional notes for each section, below.–
I’m not collecting a list of other people’s recommendations this year, beyond noting that K. Tempest Bradford’s short fiction review column at the io9 Newstand and A.C. Wise’s metapost of links, roundups, and recommendations across the board are fantastic starting points for catching up on multiple, informed perspectives on the field.
Likewise, I’m not going to link to roundups like the Locus Recommended Reading List this year because then that means I’m making yet another massive list of links – and this post is going to be plenty long without yet one more list. And though I find individual reviews of work to be interesting, retrospective lists often cover the entirely expected suspects, and that to me is boring. It’s entirely possible this post will fall into similar vein, but I hope not.
Books Read in 2015:
Starting with novels, some notes, and a legend:
Bolded titles are recommendations.
RR is a book I was re-reading in 2015.
DNF stands for “did not finish.”
Re the latter designation, this does not mean that the book was necessarily bad, and where I feel like sharing a reason for dropping out of a book I have given one. With some books, I just wasn’t in the right place for the book. Speaking to those that are bad, I tend to drop out of a lot of books either because of structural/editing (as in there should have been much more of it) issues, or poor prose. I can’t deal with clunky prose anymore. I have only so much time in a year, and I’d rather be reading something that soars or working on my own material than wading through lacklustre work.
I finished something near 75 titles that I can recall (a decidedly slow year in terms of reading), and know I’m missing several books off this list. And I’m missing a lot of titles that would fall under DNF status, since they are not memorable and are among the titles I did not bother to note throughout the year. You may also note the appearance of less than a handful of non-fiction titles on the list again this year. This is because I am fucking terrible at keeping track of the non-fiction I read. I’m not entirely sure why.
As noted above, I’m holding back on mentioning various PW titles I reviewed throughout the year. Otherwise, this list is as close as I can come through notes and recollections.
- Ben Aaronovitch – Foxglove Summer
- Katherine Addison – The Goblin Emperor
- Madhur Anand – A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes
- Raif Badawi – 1,000 Lashes Because I Say What I Think
- Nathan Ballingrud – North American Lake Monsters
- (DNF) Elizabeth Bear – Karen Memory
- (DNF) NoViolet Bulawayo – We Need New Names – Beautiful prose, but uneven on the whole, with other issues that dropped me out of the book a little more than midway through.
- (DNF) Monica Byrne – The Girl in the Road – Conceptually intriguing (and Byrne is a good prose writer), but the book is so uncareful in its execution as to be drowning in the blood of its self-inflicted death of a thousand cuts.
- Charlene Challenger – The Voices in Between
- (DNF) Kristi Charish – Owl and the Japanese Circus
- Laura Clarke – Decline of the Animal Kingdom
- Kim Echlin – Inanna: From the Myths of Ancient Sumer – The updated edition.
- Kate Elliott – The Very Best of Kate Elliott
- (DNF) Will Elliott – The Pilgrims
- (DNF) Michael Faber – The Book of Strange New Things
- Raoul Fernandes – Transmitter and Receiver
- (DNF) Sharon Lynn Fisher – Echo 8
- (DNF) Jonathan Franzen – Purity
- (DNF) Rhiannon Frater – Dead Spots
- (DNF) Sally Green – Half Bad
- (DNF) Michael Hale – A Fold in the Sky
- Lisa L. Hannett – Lament for the Afterlife
- (DNF) Randy Henderson – Finn Fancy Necromancy
- Kenneth Mark Hoover – Quaternity
- Nalo Hopkinson – Falling in Love With Hominids
- Liz Howard – Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent
- N.K. Jemisin – The Broken Kingdoms
- Stephen Graham Jones – After the People Lights Have Gone Off
- Pia Juul, trans. Martin Aitken – The Murder of Halland – The reissue from Coach House Books.
- (RR) Mike Kelly, ed. – Shadows & Tall Trees 2014
- Kathe Koja, ed. – Year’s Best Weird Fiction 2
- (DNF) Nicole Kornher-Stace – Archivist Wasp – I started this in a mood where all I could see were the structural issues and so decided to come back to it when I can come at it in different state, since the writing is absolutely gorgeous.
- V.H. Leslie – Skein and Bone
- Cassidy McFadzean – Hacker Packer
- (DNF) Peyton Marshall – GoodHouse
- Chihiro Masui & Hanaé Kaédé – Japanese Home Cooking – In case you were wondering why this stands out here, cookbooks and anything graphic/comic are comfort reading for me.
- (DNF) Michael Moorcock – The Whispering Swarm
- (DNF) Walter Mosley – Inside a Silver Box – I love Mosley’s writing, but this one just didn’t click for me.
- H.L. Nelson & Joanne Merriam – Choose Wisely – One of those books I keep meaning to review and never seem to get around to doing so for.
- (DNF) Jelani Nias – Where Eagles Crawl and Men Fly
- Daniel José Older – Shadowshaper
- Helen Oyeyemi – Boy, Snow, Bird – Almost a recommendation, because I love her work. But this book has some serious issues, not the least of which is that fucking train wreck of a third act.
- (DNF) Laline Paull – The Bees – An exceptionally well-written novel (whose subtext is perhaps too much text, but so be it), but when I put it down after reading the first two chapters at a clip I found I had no compulsion to return to it.
- (DNF) Natasha Pulley – The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
- (DNF) Adam Roberts – Bête
- Rachel Rose – Marry & Burn
- Olive Senior – The Pain Tree
- Neal Stephenson – Seveneves – Though I did technically finish this, it was because I was reading it for review. Then I didn’t write the review, because as I have already noted to one person (with whom I shared what a potential review would look like), my (capsule) review could be one paragraph long and would be decidedly unkind. And I’d rather review things I want to promote, if at all possible.
- Simone St. James – The Haunting of Maddy Clare
- Simone St. James – An Inquiry into Love and Death
- Simone St. James – Silence for the Dead
- Simone St. James – The Other Side of Midnight
- (RR) Caitlin Sweet – The Silences of Home
- Molly Tanzer – Vermilion – I enjoy the concept immensely, I just couldn’t get into the book. Happens sometimes.
- Rita Wong – undercurrent
- Rio Youers – Point Hollow
- Abe Sapien 4: The Shape of Things to Come – ?
- Alabaster: Grimmer Tales – Kiernan, Lieber, Rosenberg
- Are You Alice? 1 – Ikumi Katagiri
- B.P.R.D.: Hollow Earth & Other Stories – ?
- B.P.R.D. 4: The Dead – Mignola, Arcudi & Davis
- (RR) B.P.R.D. 5: The Black Flame – Mignola, Arcudi & Davis
- B.P.R.D. 7: Garden of Souls – Mignola, Arcudi & Davis
- B.P.R.D. 10: The Warning – Mignola, Arcudi & Davis
- B.P.R.D. 11: The Black Goddess – Mignola, Arcudi & Davis
- B.P.R.D. 12: 1948 – Mignola, Arcudi & Fiumara
- (RR) B.P.R.D.: Vampire – Mignola, Ba & Moon
- B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth 1: New World – Mignola, Arcudi & Davis
- B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth 2: Gods and Monsters – ?
- B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth 3: Russia – ?
- B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth 4: The Devil’s Engine & The Long Death – Mignola, Arcudi, Crook & Harren
- B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth 5: The Pickens County Horror & Others – Mignola, Allie, Latour, Fiumara & Harren
- B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth 6: The Return of the Master – Mignola, Arcudi & Crook
- B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth 7: A Cold Day in Hell – Mignola, Arcudi, Campbell & Snejbjerg
- B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth 8: Lake of Fire – Mignola, Arcudi & Crook
- B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth 9: The Reign of the Black Flame – Mignola, Arcudi & Harren
- B.P.R.D Hell on Earth 10: The Devil’s Wings – Mignola, Arcudi, Campbell, Querio & Crook
- Dial H 1: Into You – Miéville, Santolouco
- In Real Life – Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang
- Fables 19: Snow White – Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham
- Fables 20: Camelot – Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham
- Fables 21: Happily Ever After – Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham
- Fables 22: Farewell – Willingham, Buckingham & Leialoha
- Gotham Academy 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy – Cloonan, Fletcher & Kerschl
- Hacktivism – Alyssa Milano, Collin Kelly & Jackson Lanzing
- Lobster Johnson 2: The Burning Hand – Mignola, Arcudi & Zonjic
- Saga: Book One (Vols. 1-3) – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples – Some of this was a re-read as I’d read the first two volumes in TPB format previously.
- The Ring of the Seven Worlds – Giovanni Gualdoni, Gabriele Clima, Matteo Piana & Davide Turotti
- Through the Woods – Emily Carroll
- The Unwritten 7: The Wound – Carey, Gross
- The Unwritten 8: Orpheus in the Underworld – Carey, Gross
- The Unwriten 9: The Unwritten Fables – Carey, Gross, Willingham, Buckingham
- The Unwritten 10: War Stories: Carey & Gross
- Valor – Isabelle Melançon & Megan Lavey-Heaton, eds.
Books in Progress at the End of the Year
- Susan Barker – The Incarnations
- N.K. Jemisin – The Kingdom of Gods
- Chibundu Onuzo – The Spider King’s Daughter
Books to Read in 2016
- Jennifer Marie Brissett – Elysium – The opening is gorgeous, but that’s all I’ve had a chance to read thus far until I can acquire my own copy.
- Zen Cho – Sorcerer to the Crown
- Zen Cho – Spirits Abroad
- TaNehisi Coates – Between the World and Me
- Indra Das – The Devourers – Waiting for its North American release, or I’d have read this already.
- Roxane Gay – An Untamed State – Started this in a bookstore during a cash strapped period, and it’s on my list of things to acquire post haste.
- Amelia Gray – Gutshot – Another amazing collection I’m having trouble finding a copy of whenever I have the money to actually acquire it.
- Maria Dahvana Headley – Magonia – Again, something I had a chance to start, but not to finish. Gorgeous writing on Headley’s part, as is expected.
- N.K. Jemisin – The Fifth Season – Another instance of starting a fantastic book in a bookstore while not being able to buy it. Soon.
- Kelly Link – Get in Trouble
- Kuzhali Manickavel – Things We Found During the Autopsy – Because her writing is amazing, and I’d be reading this already if I weren’t having trouble finding a copy.
- China Miéville – Three Moments of an Explosion
- Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Signal to Noise – Only had a chance to start it thus far. Looking forward to it.
- Naomi Novik – Uprooted – Started reading in book store, to go back to.
- Daniel José Older – Half-Resurrection Blues – Started this in a bookstore, and I’ve been so burned out on urban fantasy in recent years I was not in the place to read this then. But I’ve loved Older’s short fiction tied to this world, and deeply enjoy his writing in general, so this is something I’ll be coming back to in 2016. Especially with the sequel coming out.
- Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven – Again, started while bookstore browsing during a period where unable to buy books freely.
- Catherynne M. Valente – Radiance
- Fran Wilde – Updraft
Non-Book Length Work for Recommendation:
Though all the works below are recommendations, the bolded entries are things I think deserving of special attention or note.
Usman Tanveer Malik – The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn (Tor.com, April 2015)
- Nicolette Barischoff – Follow Me Down (Unlikely Story, October 2015)
- Brooke Bolander – And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead (Lightspeed, February 2015) – I always fall out of this story (given it several runs), but I love what it’s
doing and how, so it’s on the list.
- Naim Kabir – The Four Schools (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, October 2015) –
Overlong for what it’s doing, but still a good story at its core.
- Rose Lemberg – Grandmother-Nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, June 2015) – I drop out of this one on every attempt because of the pacing, but it’s absolutely gorgeous and I love the various things it’s doing.
- Daniel José Older – Ginga (Tor.com, May 2015)
- Priya Sharma – Fabulous Beasts (Tor.com, July 2015)
- Lee Thomas – The Lord of Corrosion (Queers Destroy Horror!, Nightmare, October 2015)
- E. Catherine Tobler – Blow the Moon Out (GigaNotoSaurus, August 2015)
- Megan Arkenberg – All in a Hot and Copper Sky (Lightspeed, September 2015)
- Adanze Asante – The Journey (Omenana, September 2015)
- Charlotte Ashley – Sigrid Under the Mountain (Sockdolager, Summer 2015)
- Erzebet Barthold – How Billy the Conqueror Took Back the Greenwood (Grendelsong, October 2015)
- Desirina Boskovich – The Island (Nightmare Magazine, April 2015)
- Vajra Chandrasekera – Documentary (Lightspeed Magazine, March 2015)
- Nino Cipri – The Shape of My Name (Tor.com, March 2015)
- Indrapramit Das – Psychopomp (Interfictions 6, November 2015) – I have reservations about this one. Das’s writing is expectedly excellent, but the close needed work, and tighter editing for the whole.
- Delilah S. Dawson – Catcall (Uncanny, July 2015)
- Malon Edwards – If Wishes Were Obfuscation Codes (Fireside Fiction 24, June 2015)
- Amal El-Mohtar – Pockets – (Uncanny Magazine, February 2015)
- Jaym Gates – As the Sun Dies (Grendelsong, October 2015)
- Caspian Gray – The King of Ashland County (Nightmare, December 2015)
- Maria Dahvana Headley – And the Winners Will Be Swept Out to Sea (Lightspeed, January 2015)
- Maria Dahvana Headley – The Cellar Dweller (Nightmare Magazine, June 2015)
- Maria Dahvana Headley – Solder and Seam (Lightspeed, October 2015)
- Maria Dahvana Headley – Some Gods of El Paso (Tor.com, October 2015)
- I.L. Heisler – The Sons of Vicente (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, October 2015)
- Michael Hernshaw – Hadley Full of Hate (Sockdolager, Summer 2015)
- Kat Howard – Translatio Corporis (Uncanny Magazine, March 2015)
- Kij Johnson – The Apartment Dweller’s Bestiary (Clarkesworld, January 2015)
- Ani King – Artemis, with Wildflowers (Strange Horizons, October 2015)
- Mayowa Koleosho – Ara and Monamona (Omenana, September 2015)
- Mary Robinette Kowal – The Midnight Hour (Uncanny, July 2015) – Recommending this story in spite of several issues it has, chief among them pacing, because the basis of what it’s doing and the writing are alone sufficient to recommend it.
- Karalynn Lee – Court Bindings (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, June 2015)
- Shira Lipkin – Never Chose This Way (Apex, July 2015)
- Carmen Maria Machado – Descent (Nightmare Magazine, February 2015)
- Carmen Mario Machado – Horror Story (Granta 132: Possession, October 2015)
- Kuzhali Manickavel – Item Girls (Granta 130: India, April 2015)
- Kuzhali Manickavel – Six Things We Found During the Autopsy (Apex, September 2015)
- Arkady Martine – City of Salt (Strange Horizons, March 2015)
- Jehangir Mehentee – The Salt Mosquito’s Bite and the Goddess’ Sting (Strange Horizons, March 2015)
- Sam J. Miller – Calved (Asimov’s, September 2015) – I have reservations about this piece : it doesn’t feel finished to me, and I don’t think it quite hangs together as written, but the writing is excellent and what it’s aiming for is definitely worth lauding.
- Sam J. Miller – Ghosts of Home (Lightspeed, August 2015)
- Sarah Monette – The Half-Life of Angels (Uncanny, July 2015)
- Sunny Moraine – Dispatches from a Hole in the World (Queers Destroy Horror!, Nightmare, October 2015)
- Sunny Moraine – eyes I dare not meet in dreams (The Society Pages, Cyborgology, June 2015)
- Sunny Moraine – Love Letters to Things Lost and Gained (Uncanny Magazine, February 2015)
- Mandisi Nkomo – The Horror in the Bush (Omenana, September 2015)
- Daniel José Older – Stay (Fireside Fiction 22, April 2015)
- Mallery Ortberg – The Six Swans (The Toast, September 2015)
- Brittany Pladek – Andromache and the Dragon (Ideomancer, March 2015)
- Rhiannon Rasmussen – Charge! Love! Heart! (Sockdolager, Spring 2015 )
- Gabby Reed – Glaciers Made You (Strange Horizons, September 2015)
- Kelly Robson – The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill (Clarkesworld, February 2015)
- Sofia Samatar – The Closest Thing to Animals (Fireside, September 2015)
- Erica L. Satifka – States of Emergency (Shimmer, July 2015)
- Carlie St. George – Break the Face in the Jar by the Door (Unlikely Story, April 2015)
- Rachel Swirsky – Tea Time (Lightspeed, December 2015)
- Sonya Taaffe – ζῆ καὶ βασιλεύει (Ideomancer, March 2015)
- Lauren C. Teffeau – Jump Cut (Unlikely Story, February 2015)
- Natalia Theodoridou – On Post-Mortem Birds (Interfictions 5, June 2015)
- Tade Thompson – The Monkey House (Omenana, March 2015)
- E. Catherine Tobler – Somewhere I Have Never Traveled (Third Sound Remix) (Clarkesworld, June 2015)
- Laurie Tom – Even the Mountains Are Not Forever (Strange Horizons, March 2015)
- Sabrina Vourvoulias – The Ways of Walls and Words (Tor.com, April 2015)
- Marlee Jane Ward – The Walking Thing (Interfictions 5, June 2015)
- Fran Wilde – You Are Two Point Three Meters From Your Destination (Uncanny, March 2015)
- A.C. Wise – And If the Body Were Not the Soul (Clarkesworld, October 2015)
- Alyssa Wong – Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers (Queers Destroy Horror!, Nightmare, October 2015)
- JY Yang – Temporary Saints (Fireside Fiction 28, October 2015)
- Isabel Yap – Good Girls (Shimmer, May 2015)
- Liz Bourke – Laying Claim (Strange Horizons, March 2015)
- Lisa M. Bradley – Aboard the Transport Tesoro (Uncanny, November 2015)
- Octavia Cade – Mary Shelley Makes a Monster (Strange Horizons, November 2015)
- Sunny Chan – The Difference Between an Arm and a Wing (Interfictions 5, June 2015)
- C.S.E. Cooney – Deep Bitch (Uncanny, March 2015)
- Theodora Goss – Swan Girls (Strange Horizons, October 2015)
- Sasha Kim – The Changeling’s Gambit (Strange Horizons, September 2015)
- Shweta Narayan – Nettle-stung (Strange Horizons, October 2015)
- Dominik Parisien – To a Dying Friend (Uncanny, September 2015)
- Gabby Reed – Lola (Strange Horizons, July 2015)
- Sofia Samatar – The Noble Torturer (Blue Stockings Magazine, July 2015)
- Sofia Samatar – The White Goddess (Blue Stockings Magazine, January 2015)
- M. Sereno – Adarna (Strange Horizons, December 2015)
- Penny Stirling – Stone (Interfictions 5, June 2015)
- Isabel Yap – After the Moon Princess Leaves (Uncanny, January 2015)
- Isabel Yap – Apologies for Breaking the Glass Slipper (Uncanny, May 2015)
In order to compile the above recommendations, I spent the last six weeks (on top of some decidedly off and on browsing throughout the year) reading through the full run of some thirty-odd magazines, along with bits and pieces of other venues. There are others I would have liked to have looked at, but for reasons of time constraints (this is unpaid work around my freelancing) and for my sanity, I’ve kept it to what I could manage in that span.
All of which means I have some larger thoughts on patterns and trends in 2015, as mentioned in the last post. But as I’m still mulling that over, I’m going to note some very brief thoughts about the magazines I had a chance to interact with (or tried to) in some capacity last year and into the start of this one.
AE SciFi – List the fucking release dates in the short story archives. Even just by year. If you’re going to make me work to figure out what came out from your mag in 2015 I’m going to go read something elsewhere. Petty? Probably. But my reading time is fairly limited unless I’m reviewing work for a paid outlet. And for the record, I quite like some of what AE’s published in the past, so it is entirely possible that I would be having 2015 recs from them. Now we will not get to know.
Analog – I browsed a couple of stories here and there, but Analog doesn’t generally cater to the kind of fiction I’m interested in reading. Also, as with so many mags right now, not being able to afford a subscription means it’s just damn hard to find copies of in general. My approach to Analog is much the same as my approach to reading Asimov’s: If I’m there it’s usually for the work of a writer I’m already reading elsewhere.
Apex – There are some recommendations from Apex this year, but the mag has moved into less stellar territory in a lot of ways. As Ellis’s run as editor came to its close, the mag started drifting. I find a number of the mounting editorial choices questionable, and the 2015 run deeply uneven. Still some excellent fiction, including a couple of things I recommended be published when I was a slush reader there. But I’m not quite sure what to think of where the mag is going. I guess we’ll have to see what 2016 brings.
Asimov’s – I read almost nothing from Aimov’s in 2015. This is one of those mags I’m hit and miss on. When the stories are good, they’re really good, but most of the time I’m not the audience they’re aiming for. And without a subscription I’m struggling to find copies actually peruse much of the time. Mostly I go looking for Asimov’s when a writer whose work I know has a story there and I want to read that specifically.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies – The quality of the writing on display in BCS is always consistent and always good. Good concepts cropping up in the storytelling too, on a general basis. I always feel bad though that very few BCS stories end up on my recommendation list, because the style of the storytelling on display often doesn’t hook me, so I end up dropping out of a lot of what runs there.
Black Static – See Interzone.
Clarkesworld – While quality has never been an issue for Clarkesworld, more and more I find I am not their audience. I stop by and catch up on everything periodically, but each year less and less of their fiction holds me and I find I frequently drop out of reading their stories. This is especially frustrating where the translation work is concerned, since it’s a function of what Clarkesworld’s endeavouring to do that I very much want to follow. In the end, it’s much more the way I approach SF than Clarkesworld’s choices. And whatever direction they take, I hope they continue strong. The translation work alone, let alone all the other excellent content they produce, is worth having them in the field for.
Crossed Genres – I’ll be sorry to see this mag go. I’ve run extremely hot and cold on their stories in the past, but it’s good to see something so inclusive on a regular basis. It was a good run, and even though nothing that I came across this year won me over enough to tag with a recommendation, there was some good work there this year. We can at least still look forward to seeing book projects out of Crossed Genres. For which it’s totally worth keeping an eye on them.
Daily Science Fiction – I’m going to skip reading most of DSF on this roundup. I’ve never been much of a fan. A few excellent stories here and there, but the quality of writing on display there is so routinely uninspired. I know, it’s not a popular opinion. But by virtue of running that many stories in a year, there’s just no way to consistently print top tier work. As DSF has proved, at length. Honestly, it’s not a good sign that I’m willing to miss potential recommendation-worthy work if it means I don’t have to wade through DSF’s 2015 run.
The Dark – I’m only seeing bits and pieces of The Dark throughout the year at this point (again, not being able to pick up a subscription). But what I’ve seen I continue to like. The Dark had a strong first year, and has just carried on with quality writers and quality storytelling. Despite what I suppose would be a fairly small output of stories during the year, they’re balancing that with consistently quality work.
F&SF – I read barely anything of theirs in 2015, which has much more to do with time, not being able to purchase a subscription, and a lack of access to individual issues because they’re in print than dislike for the mag. I understand the economics, but it means I have almost no access to F&SF right now. Still, what I did read of theirs in 2015 was enjoyable, perhaps mostly because C.C. Finlay has taken over. F&SF has always been hit and miss with me, and I frequently read it as much for the book recommendation columns as for the fiction. But I like very much where Finlay is taking the mag, and I look forward to seeing more of his imprint on the editorial choice and where that takes things.
Fireside – Beautiful work when it’s on, but plagued by variable quality. Fireside and SH are alike to me in a number of ways: good aims, not always met. And again like SH I find most of the work in Fireside could do with more editing than it gets. And Fireside also this year ran a story from a white writer whose exoticism in the story was … deeply uncomfortable. And I don’t know how the fuck that piece got past the editorial team.
GigaNotoSaurus – Another year’s worth of beautiful work, as is to be expected from GigaNotoSaurus. Their stories do not always speak to me, but there’s a consistency of quality writing there that I deeply enjoy. The editorial changeover in past brought a slight change in the style of storytelling acquired, but maintained that quality. And I look forward to GigaNotoSaurus continuing for some time yet.
Granta – I read Granta very intermittently. Usually when I’m coming across a particular writer whose work I’m following anyway. This because while the quality of their fiction is often exceptional, they have long been plagued by beautiful, but utterly empty content. It’s the thing that’s kept me from spending more time reading Granta than I already do. That variable level of quality is strongly off-putting.
Grendelsong – I’m glad to see this back. I know of the original run on Grendelsong only in absentia, having never perused it. But the resurgence is off to a hell of a good start with that lone, October 2015 issue. Excellent storytelling across multiple content types. And some wonderfully Weird fiction cropping up there, alongside more directly liminal, slipstream and surrealist work.
Grimdark – I’m actually quite curious about Grimdark. The subgenre is really not my bent, but there are names there whose writing I consider quite good, and I would be willing to go read the mag to get a sense of what it’s actually doing. Admittedly, they did have that incredibly idiotic submissions page when they first set up the site. But I’m not entirely sure I want to judge an entire mag by some decidedly poor choices re their submissions page. Not that I’ve never done it before, but I’d like not to have to. Anyway, without freely available online content to peruse, the point’s moot.
Ideomancer – Owing to their closure, Ideomancer ran only a single issue in 2015, but it was a good set of stories to go out on. This was, for a long time, one of my favourite venues. The fabulist bent appealed to my tastes as a reader, and high quality was always in evidence. It had occasional issues crop up, though they often seemed negligible. But after hearing of what’s been said in past by former submitters to the magazine there were a lot more problems going on with some of the editorial input at various levels than I would have thought — and in some ways that are frankly uncomfortable. Having said that, I will note that there is an issue of potential bias in me saying anything detrimental about
the mag, since the publisher and I were at one time close friends but have since fallen out vociferously. Nevertheless, I stand by all my statements about Ideomancer, positive and negative.
Interfictions – Given what Interfictions has been doing, it’s quickly becoming one of my favourite venues. Storytelling that plays with style and form, exquisite writing, and a liminal and fabulist basis to storytelling are all in the mag’s favour. And the
willingness to experiment constantly on display there, from both contributors and editors, is very welcome. I’m hoping to see a long run from Interfictions.
Interzone – As I find with Black Static, without a subscription I can read only bits and pieces of Interzone throughout the year, though I do like immensely what I read whenever I come across a copy. In past I’ve had time to sit down and read through an entire year’s run via the Toronto Public LIbrary’s Merril’s collection, but I didn’t have a chance to do that this year. Had I done so, I expect there would have been several recommendations from here and Black Static for 2015. There usually are from a given run of Interzone, Black Static, and Crimewave.
Lackington’s – Beautiful fiction, lovingly wrought. The recent year was not as strong as the prior one, and many of the stories came close to being recs, but didn’t quite come off. Always look forward to reading this though. Both the variety present within a given theme issue, and that Lakcington’s doesn’t fall into the uniformity of voice that plagues many of the current mags in the field appeals to me deeply.
Lightspeed – Solid work, always good quality writing. A lot of what Lightspeed publishes isn’t my thing, but their work is consistently well-written, on both the SF and Fantasy sides of the mag.
Nightmare – Still going strong in 2015. A little less sharp than it was that first year out of the gate, though there were definitely some standouts last year. One of those mags I’ll just keep coming back to because I love the content and Nightmare roams far and wide enough to keep me interested.
Omenana – As a readily accessible window outside of Western storytelling, and a view into where the various voices of African (continental and diasporic) storytelling stand and evolve, Omenana is incredibly valuable. It has occasional rocky patches, but there’s some fantastic storytelling going on there, and I’m looking forward to what 2016 holds for the mag. And again for the sake of owning bias: one of the two co-editors is one
of my best friends, and we were at Clarion West together.
On Spec – No access to On Spec currently without a subscription, so I’ve not seen a lot of what’s been happening with the mag. Long story of grant issues, and then potentially taking things online. I’ve lost track of what’s going on with On Spec lately, though there were issues out in 2015. Their fiction’s always been hit or miss for me, and the writing quality variable. I have larger arguments with the idea of editorial consensus from six parties, but their hearts always seem to be in the right place.
Shimmer – One of the defining aspects of Shimmer no matter the form it takes is the quality of the prose on display. 2015 was no exception. A fair range of fiction on display as well, which is one of the reasons I keep coming back to read Shimmer.
Sockdolager – Fun, generally light and breezy, with some heavier edges here and there, The Sockdolager works on a lot of levels. The writing’s consistently good, and the stories appeal, and I think I’d have more recommendations if I lined up more directly as the right audience for what The Sockdolager puts out, but I’m kind of on the edge of their audience. I like the work they produce, but it doesn’t often strike as deep a chord with me as it might. Also, again re owning bias: one of the co-editors is another excellent friend, and also a former Clarion West classmate.
Stone Telling – The joke issue was lovely. Not as captivating as the usual fare, but then it wasn’t meant to be. It was a breather. And I quite enjoyed it. I’m sad there wasn’t more to the year, and that the mag is on hiatus through this year, but I’ll be back like a flash once there’s a new issue.
Strange Horizons – I never quite know what to do with SH these days. Every year the quality’s all over the place, and this year’s excellent pieces don’t make up for some of the stories from later in the year. (Two things in particular that should never have made it through the gate. Both by white men playing at marginalized narratives, and fucking up unpardonably.) In many cases I prefer their poetry selections to their fiction choices. This year that split was about even. I don’t know what to tell you; I love the best of SH, and never understand why the editorial quality is so damn chaotic. For additional notes, see Fireside.
Tor.com – I was sad to see Tor.com shut down their open submissions. But I’m glad they’re still up and running, because they do produce some excellent work in a year. Not remotely consistent in terms of storytelling, but the writing is always at an excellent level of quality. And their varied staff of acquiring editors means they’re running a fairly wide range of content.
Uncanny – Though 2015 was a strong year in terms of the quality of writing at Uncanny, I find that a lot of the stories didn’t hold my attention. Some definite standouts in the batch, but pacing and concision were consistent issues I had with the 2015 run. And yet Uncanny had one of the strongest stories in 2015, so it’s a mixed bag. Also, the poetry fared quite well this year. The only thing I can see potentially cropping up as an issue here is that there’s an overwhelming similarity of voice in the stories Uncanny’s currently running. Need more diversity of tone and effect or the issues are going to start running together more than they already do. We’ll see what 2016 brings on the whole.
Urban Fantasy – By virtue of it being subscription only, barring the latest issue, I can’t go dig back through 2015’s run of Urban Fantasy. I remember when I’d come and look at what was up in the new issue throughout the year there was excellent writing in evidence, but I don’t remember anything that really hooked me. There might well have been recommendations for 2015 here, but I’ve no way of knowing now.
Quick Closing Statements:
The preceding has by necessity been briefer than I’d like. And at this point I really need to go and collapse. But I will note the following:
The preceding are my assessments. It is entirely likely that you loved something and did not find it here. Or that you disagree with my assessments. By all means do. I’m not particularly interested in consensus at the moment, merely record keeping and signal boosting.
And please feel free to comment as you’d like, to share the post, or to link to it as need be.