I am drinking a gin and tonic modified by the happy addition of cucumber, and I totally had this long spiel prepared about reccing philosophy and how I choose stories to recommend and the themes by which I order them (quick: The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu, Court of Fives by Kate Elliott, The Grass King’s Concubine by Kari Sperring: what’s the common thread?) and all sorts of angsting about how it’s just weird to pretend to be a quote-unquote writer and in the same blog gush shamelessly, like the most enthusiastic of waterspouts, about the brilliance of one’s friends, but– look! Let’s just dispense with that and get to the recs! They’ve been sitting in my drafts for half a year!
Eyes of Carven Emerald by Shweta Narayan, Clockwork Phoenix 3. I’ve linked to this before, but will link to it again — and over and over, until everyone reads it — because I think this story is a marvel, a brilliant tapestry of wonders, and it not only needs to be read — people need to read it. This is the story I wish I could write, that I wish I were brimful enough, with truth and wisdom and the horror of history and the riches of a thousand artisans’ halls, to even imagine. The steampunk is the least of it (I really think this could be the core of a masterclass on writing steampunk; the technologies are always necessary and never obtrusive, they are part of the world but do not delineate it) — what makes it so compelling is the question-tangled mesh of power, histories, warring desires, the looming shadow of empire, edged in sun and blood. And resistance, gloriously done in this piece. I have read this story many times and still keep returning to it; as with the rest of Narayan’s work, layers upon layers of meaning reveal themselves to the reader, color-bursting, glittering with a thousand different lights, ruthlessly sharp.
Hath No Fury by Kat Howard, Subterranean Press Magazine Spring 2014. The beginning of the Iliad stirs my blood with sea-bright fervor: anger be now thy song, immortal one. This story possesses the strains of that bloodshot steelsung urgency, but clad in the grit of more modern times. No less intense for that, though: the narrator says, I am not a good girl, and through a tight smile, through gritted teeth, through bloody lips, you the reader say: yes, yes, yes. What a satisfying read — something that sates a hunger kindled by the countless injustices a woman faces day by day, a hunger so often lulled to sleep or bribed to stupor — and utterly, bloodily gorgeous in its rage, in its sense of justice, in its steady awareness of the weight of womanhood; in the voice of the narrator, so clear one almost hears her speaking, breath close and hot against one’s ear. I thought the way the plot moved was pretty much perfect. Sing to me, o Muse, and through me tell our story.
Fifty Years in the Virtuous City by lionpyh, Archive of Our Own. So I’m not going to get into defenses of fanfiction here; I’m just going to present this story and dare anyone who reads it to tell me that it is not a masterful piece of writing. Because it’s so skillfully wrought, its images bright and vivid against the mind’s eye, and sometimes one finds oneself holding one’s breath, seeing these women speak to each other, the worlds each exchange contains. This is fanfiction for Sultana’s Dream by Roquia Sakhawat Hussain, which I really need to read because if it can inspire such things– why, it must be an amazing piece of fiction itself! And– yes, what I love about this story: the beautifully drawn characters, the attention to sensory detail, the nuances of the relationship between these women — so tender, so uncompromising and yet– oh, my heart; and oh, the depiction of study and research, how one can fall in love with it, headlong–! I enjoyed this story so, so much; lionpyh is one of my favorite fanfic writers, and I relish each chance to read a story by them.