It’s that time of year. Award season.
But, hey, at least its not election season, right?
Along with my eligible work, which looks a lot different than it has in year’s past, due to my focus switching from non-fiction and blogging to writing fiction and short stories, I’m also using this space to recommend a bunch of the cool/great/impressive stuff I’ve consumed this year. 2016 was a difficult year in so many ways, but it also produced a hell of a lot of great works.
My Eligible Work
These are the items I published this year. My non-fiction makes me eligible for “Best Fan Writer” at the Hugos, and my short fiction makes me eligible for the “John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer” Award.
Growing up in small town British Columbia, Ivan doesn’t know much more than fighting off bullies and dreaming of a larger world. But when Penelope Qing moves in next door, she introduces him to a rich and vast magical kingdom in her basement. Soon, he assumes the mantle of Sir Ivan Wandsworth, Cleric of the Wending Wind, and his adventures alongside King Penelope become a thing of legend.
For fans of Stranger Things, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Ken Liu’s “The Paper Menagerie,” “The Penelope Qingdom” is a love letter to growing up, ’80s Saturday morning cartoons, Dungeons & Dragons, and falling in love for the first time.
It’s an interesting tale and one that captures a nice feel of youth and young relationships and offers a story with a great and lingering magic that looks at how the stories people build together, the fantasies they share, can be foundational to their relationship. Indeed!
The author has intertwined several sub-plots that keep this story interesting. The placement of the Qingdom interludes is unusual, and at first confusing, but soon these are assimilated into the rest of the plot. “The Penelope Qingdom” is a nice, longer story.
To save his friend, Farid Sulayk, the Patchwork Priest, needs to get to O’oa Tsetse before the next full moon. But between here and there are highways crawling with rebels, and a range of sky-scraping mountains riddled with blood ghosts, kō-dan, and worse. Ethereal Tóu Mǎ offers Farid passage through the mountains, but at a cost: defeat the warlock Wu-jiu, who holds the village of Tt’Hsiung in her blood-soaked fist.
Accompanied by Tóu Mǎ, a mischievous fire djinn, and his growing doubts, Farid races to reach O’oa Tsetse before it’s too late; but first he must defeat the deadly warlock and her ghostly Yoo-in. As secrets are revealed and blood is spilled, will Farid’s battle-hardened mechanical arm and djinn magic be enough to see them through alive?
(If you review short fiction and would like to read either of these stories, please reach out to me at reviews [at] aidanmoher [dot] com and I’ll provide you with copies.)
Here’s a sample of reviews and essays that I had a lot of fun writing this year.
- The Filaments of Fiction: Aidan Moher on The Sword of Shannara (Unbound Worlds — October, 2016)
- Blood Matters: Growing Up in an SF/F House (Uncanny Magazine — September, 2016)
- Spirited: Mary Robinette Kowal’s Ghost Talkers (Tor.com—August, 2016)
- Stealing the future: Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com — June, 2016)
- What’s On Your Science Fiction & Fantasy Bucket List? (Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog—June, 2016)
- Leading the Charge: Kameron Hurley’s Geek Feminist Revolution (Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog — May, 2016)
- Reread Wrap-up: The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks (Tor.com—January, 2016)
These are the novels, stories, art, publications, and people that rocked my world this year.
- All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders—Whimsical, witty, fun, this is a novel that could only have come from the wonderful mind of Charlie Jane Anders. Anders’ mastery of voice is on full display in All the Birds in the Sky, and the result is an experience you’ll never forget. Simply wonderful. (Full Review)
- Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner—This novel has everything that makes the Pathfinder Tales so great: a tight, likeable cast of characters, great set pieces, a story that barrels forth like an avalanche, and a ton of fun magic and action.
- Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal—Vintage Kowal. It’s rich and inventive, knows just when to make you laugh (it’s a WW2 book about dead people and spirit mediums, so that’s harder than you’d think) and manages to breathe life (pun intended) into a familiar concept. (Full Review)
- Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee—I’ll admit, within the first 20 pages, I wasn’t sure I would finish this novel, but, boy golly, am I glad I did. Full of mind-bending science fiction concepts, characters that stick to your gut, wonderful dark humour, and a ton of action. (Full Review)
- Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay—How Kay doesn’t win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award every time he releases a novel is one of life’s most baffling questions. Children of Earth and Sky is both delicate and fierce, and features some of the best characters and world-building in any of Kay’s novels. Period.
- The Spider’s War by Daniel Abraham—With this terrific conclusion to The Dagger and the Coin series, Abraham continues to prove why he’s one of my absolute favourite fantasy writers. Riveting epic fantasy that plays with tropes the way a cat toys with a mouse. (Full Review)
Bonus: Favourite Pre-2016 Novels
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood—Incredible, wrenching, prescient, impossible to put down. More important than ever in 2016.(Goodreads Review)
- Fool’s Fate by Robin Hobb—I put off on reading Hobb’s follow-up to the Farseer trilogy in part because I didn’t think she could possibly live up to the high standards set by Assassin’s Apprentice and its sequels. I was so wrong. The Tawny Man trilogy is assured and emotionally wrenching, superior in many ways to Farseer, and an absolute masterclass character study. (Goodreads Review)
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin—Le Guin doing her thing, and showing why she’s the best in the business when it comes to thoughtful, philosophical, and nuanced science fiction. Terrific. (Goodreads Review)
Favourite Short Fiction
- “Every Heart a Doorway” by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com)
- “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine)
- “Patience Lake” by Matthew Claxton (Asimov’s Science Fiction, August 2016)
- “The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight” by E. Lily Yu (Uncanny Magazine)
- “Of Blood And Bronze” by Sarah Gailey (Devilfish Review)
- “Lotus Face and the Fox” by Nghi Vo (Uncanny Magazine)
- “The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allen (Tor.com)
- “Hammers on Bone” by Cassandra Khaw (Tor.com)
- The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley—By this point, if you’re paying even bare attention to online SFF fandom in recent years, you’re probably familiar with Hurley’s forceful, eloquent, and terrifically important essays on science fiction and fantasy, writing, feminism, and so much more. This collection, which features several new essays not available online, is a must read. (Full Review)
- Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay—Technically a 2014 release, but this is essential reading, and pairs wonderfully with Hurley’s collection. (Goodreads Review)
- Uncanny Magazine—From short fiction to essays, they’re the best out there, if you ask me.
- Nerds of a Feather—A huge range of coverage from a smart and passionate crew of writers.
- The Wertzone—A stalwart, Adam Whitehead at the Wertzone continues to steamroll ahead, reviewing books, videogames, and films.
- Lady Business—I don’t think any other blog on the Internet introduces me to as many new books as Lady Business.
- Rocket Stack Rank—Great reviews of short fiction.
- Quick Sip Reviews—More great reviews of short fiction.
- Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine—A classic that’s stronger than ever under the leadership of C.C. Finlay.
- Mothership Zeta—Their emphasis on positive science fiction and fantasy is much needed.
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies—Still the best place on the Internet to get sword & sorcery-style fantasy.
Favourite Fan Writers
- Sarah Gailey—Go read her “Women of Harry Potter” series on Tor.com right now.
- Adam Whitehead—His “History of Epic Fantasy” series, completed at the end of last year, is as long as Malazan volume, but essential reading nonetheless. His ongoing SFF coverage and reviews are consistent and valuable.
- Abigail Nussbaum—Let’s get Nussbaum the Hugo she’s deserved for several years now.
What are your recommended reads this year?