Short fiction: January begins… is probably the  most improved short fiction venue of 2013.  Adding consulting editors Ann VanderMeer and Ellen Datlow proved to be a masterstroke,  and we as readers have reaped the rewards with exceptional stories by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Karin Tidbeck, Jeffrey Ford, Priya Sharma and many, many more, and all accompanied by some of the finest artwork being published anywhere in the field.

Having  evolved into such a preeminent fiction venue (it already was important, publishing high quality work and paying very well, but 2013s changes magnified that greatly), it will be interesting to see how it progresses in 2014. If you’re interested, has published a list of upcoming stories that looks intriguing.

Ekaterina and the Firebird at
Ekaterina and the Firebird at

It’s first story for 2014 is original fantasy “Ekaterina and the Firebird” by Abra Staffin-Wiebe, which retells the Russian folk tale of the Firebird.  Here Ekaterina, on her fourteenth birthday, catches a glimpse of the elusive firebird and sets out in pursuit of it hopeful of standing in its shadow for a moment and bringing enormous good fortune to her family.   As with the original folktale Ekaterina faces a quest, a difficult discovery and some perilous times before reaching her story’s resolution.   The story turns on a particular piece of information that might spoil it for readers so I shan’t reveal it here, but suffice it to say the Staffin-Wiebe modernises the tale and does a solid job of making the story pay off.  All in all, while not up with the best stories of 2013, it’s a good start to a new year of short fiction.

Also published in the last day or two is the January issue of Clarkesworld which publishes three original pieces of short fiction each month. The best of these, and the best story I’ve read in the past month or so, is Ken Liu’s fine “The Clockwork Soldier“.  A strong science fiction short story, it tells of the discussions between Alex, bounty hunter, and Ryder, who she has been tasked with returning to his father.  The capture happens offscreen before the story commences, and instead we are told of the closing days of the journey back to Ryder’s home in Alex’s ship.  As a way of killing time, Ryder writes an interactive adventure called “The Clockwork Soldier” which both engages Alex and takes us through a range of issues to do with sentience and artificial intelligence.  As always with Liu, it’s thoughtful, provocative and moving.

Clarkesworld, January 2014
Clarkesworld, January 2014

In what is a solid issue, I was also impressed by Yoon Ha Lee’s “Wine“.  As with much of Lee’s work, there’s a poetry to her space opera, and this tale of a desperate colony under attack from people seeking their greatest treasure is well done, even if I was left thinking a little of Pied Piper of Hamelin at times.

The issue is rounded out by another interesting translation by Ken Liu, this time “Grave of the Fireflies” by Cheng Jingbo.

Although it’s only the second day of January, stories are already starting to pile up. I’ll be back to discuss more soon.

Half a century

Well, I’m turning 50 today. Spent yesterday feeling very unwell, suffering from vertigo and it’s unpleasant symptoms. Today is improved, if not perfect. I’m hoping to spend a pleasant day with family,  keeping it all very low key and relaxed.

I have been away from this journal for too long, and for much longer than I’d intended. Looking back, the posts for 2013 have amounted to a few news announcements, podcast episode releases, and some whining about stuff. I’m hopeful I can do more than that in 2014.  While I have no intention of making New Year resolutions, especially about writing here, I do hope to be a more regular presence in coming months. Not only do I have some publishing projects coming up, but I am keen to put my toe back in the water reviewing.  As a run up to possible other things, I’m going to try to review short fiction here semi-regularly. Not sure if I well, but let’s see.

In the meantime, my sincere thanks to everyone for their birthday wishes. They’re very much appreciated.

Subterranean out now!

Subterranean, Winter 2014
Subterranean, Winter 2014

One of the major editorial projects that occupied that second half of 2013 for me was compiling a special issue of Subterranean Magazine.  It has just been released, as the Winter 2014 issue, and I am very proud of what Bill, the SubPress team and I have done with it.

The issue features a major new novella by Bruce Sterling, and terrific stories by KJ Parker, Karen Joy Fowler, Jeffrey Ford, Greg Egan, Frances Hardinge, Ellen Klages, and Eleanor Arnason.

I hope you enjoy it, and hope you’ll post comments here about it. I’d also like to thank Bill for giving me a second chance to play with Subterranean. I think it’s a great magazine, and it was a privilege to get to edit it for a second time.