Things Beyond: January 2023

(Cover by Doug Beekman. Analog, December 1983.)

Pop that champagne because IT’S THE NEW YEAR, BABY! WOOOO! 2023 LET’S FUCKING GO! Not that I expect this to be a better year than last (mind you that 2022 was mostly pretty good for me), but there’s always something a little exciting and yet anxiety-inducing about turning over to a new year. It implies change, which is often scary. Last month I spent the whole time reviewing fiction by Fritz Leiber, one of the best to ever do it, and while it was nice to pay such a tribute, it also became exhausting. I missed the sheer variety of discovering new voices and returning to some old favorites. We actually don’t have any such favorites this month, although we do have a couple authors I’ve grown fond of in the past year or two.

Most importantly, this is the time for me to correct some mistake. For example, I’ve never read even a single word of N. K. Jemisin’s fiction, despite her impressively high status. I know, I suck for that. The thing is that Jemisin is one of those authors who likes to focus on series, and I have commitment issues; she also hasn’t appeared in the magazines too often, but I did manage to snag an early story of hers that caught my attention. We also have a short story by Hao Jingfang that I technically must’ve read, due to its inclusion in a certain anthology, but which I literally have no recollection of. Speaking of rereads and stories I don’t remember reading even though I must have, we have what is perhaps Timothy Zahn’s most famous short work—not saying much considering how his contributions to Star Wars have utterly dwarfed the rest of his output.

And of course, any reason to read more Ken Liu is a good reason.

For the serials:

  1. The Tower of Glass by Robert Silverberg. Published in Galaxy Science Fiction, April to June 1970. Hugo and Nebula nominee for Best Novel. I don’t know why they got rid of the definite article for the book version. With Silverberg you could basically throw a dart as his stuff published between 1967 and 1972 and land on a classic, and I’d be surprised if The Tower of Glass isn’t one of those. Incidentally Silverberg turns 88 this month, and unless he pulls a Betty White we’ll be celebrating his birthday, for a man who’s been in the game seven goddamn decades.
  2. The People of the Black Circle by Robert E. Howard. Published in Weird Tales, September to November 1934. Howard, unlike Silverberg, sadly did not live so long; in fact he killed himself when he was only a few years older than me. But Howard wrote a truly frightening amount in his short time, and The People of the Black Circle is one of the longest “official” entries in the Conan series. That’s right, we’ll be reading some Conan the Cimmerian! Not the first hero of sword and sorcery, or even the first created by Howard, but Conan is the great codifier.

For the novellas:

  1. “Hardfought” by Greg Bear. Published in the February 1983 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. Yeah, I know, the timing of it. Never mind that Bear sadly passed away back in November, I’d actually been meaning to read his Nebula-winning novella “Hardfought” for a minute. I’ll even be reviewing another Bear story next month, just not on my own; that’ll be his Hugo- and Nebula-winning short story “Blood Music” (from the same year!) as part of Young People Read Old SFF.
  2. “Cascade Point” by Timothy Zahn. Published in the December 1983 issue of Analog Science Fiction. So this won the Hugo for Best Novella of 1983 while Bear’s “Hardfought” won the Nebula, and the two have even been bundled together as a Tor double. Why not? I’ve also been meaning to return to this one since I admit when I read “Cascade Point” I didn’t retain much from it, which could mean the story is mid or it could mean I didn’t give it the proper amount of attention. We’ll see…

For the short stories:

  1. “The Perfect Match” by Ken Liu. Published in the December 2012 issue of Lightspeed. Liu’s fiction is so humane, his prose is so elegant, and while he doesn’t write short stories as often as he used to (he went from being insanely prolific to be “only” moderately prolific), he’s now a bestselling and beloved novelist. His short story “Good Hunting” got adapted for one of the best Love, Death & Robots episodes and his fiction has served as the basis for the series Pantheon.
  2. “Non-Zero Probabilities” by N. K. Jemisin. Published in the September 2009 issue of Clarkesworld. Hugo and Nebula nominee for Best Short Story. Jemisin has the unique honor of being the only author thus far to win the Hugo for Best Novel three years in a row with her Broken Earth trilogy. Her standing has only escalated in the past decade and she rivals Ken Liu as a generation-defining author. I’ve never read any Jemisin past some of her blog. Heresy, I know, but we’re about to fix that!
  3. “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang. Published in the January-February 2015 issue of Uncanny Magazine. Hugo winner for Best Novelette. I know I must’ve read this before, as part of Invisible Planets (courtsey of Ken Liu), but I literally remember nothing about it. Let’s see if the forgetfulness was warranted. Also has the honor of being the first reprint to be covered on my blog, on account of it first being published in Chinese, but we’ll be looking at its first English publication.

I’m not in favor of quotas, generally speaking; they make me feel bad. I feel like I shouldn’t be obligated to cover this much material by these demographics in a year, but at the same time the name of the game is to discover potential gold, both old and new, from many different walks of life. So I’m not including Liu, Jemisin, and Jingfang for the sake of imaginary brownie points—I’m doing it because I feel I owe it to myself to broaden my horizons and not only explore works by someone I already like (Liu) but to discover a new potential favorite (Jemisin). SFF, being speculative by its nature, should be about venturing out to new territories and sailing through uncharted waters. You can’t hang on to the past forever.

We have a diverse set of authors here, though. We have some sword and sorcery with Howard, some New Wave SF with Silverberg, some classic hard SF with Bear and Zahn, and voices from the current generation with the short stories. I’m looking forward to it.

Won’t you read with me?


One response to “Things Beyond: January 2023”

  1. I adored the Silverberg novel. He’s an an author that I’ve managed to review almost everything of his that I’ve read — except for Tower of Glass and A Time Of Changes (and some random short stories here and there) as I listened to them as audiobooks.

    I enjoyed your intensive Leiber rundown.

    Keep up the good work.


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