November 7, 2016
It’s here! The November/December 2016 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which includes my story, “A Fine Balance,” is in stores now!
“A Fine Balance” by Charlotte Ashley is a twisting and turning political story where the politics are based upon duels… This was well written and quite enjoyable.” – Bob Blough @ Tangent Online
“A Fine Balance” has taken all that made “La Héron” exceptional, perfected it, and distilled it.” – Haralambi Markov @ Tor.com
If your local magazine shop doesn’t carry it, you can get paper copies and subscriptions directly from F&SF at: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1611.htm
NEW! You can now get DRM-free issues & subscriptions from Weightless Books!
Amazon sells the Kindle edition, of course.
If you are an SFWA member, you can check out any of F&SF’s stories in the Nebula forums.
WORST CASE? You can buy one from me! I’ll be widely available to the public myself this month.
You can join me at the first performance of “Distant Skies” with the Junction Trio at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, November 16th 2016.
You can come see me read & chat at SFContario 6 66/100 at 3 pm on Saturday, November 19th 2016.
Or maybe you’d like to join me for an evening of writing workshopping and jazz as part of the Festival 0f House Culture at 7:30 pm on Friday, November the 25th 2016.
Or maybe you’d prefer to come to the 2nd performance of “Distant Skies” on Saturday, November 26th, 2016, at CrossFit Lugal.
I will have copies of all my back issues of F&SF at these shows, as well as copies of Clockwork Canada. I’d be pleased to see you anywhere!
July 30, 2015
This month was a slog, but I made it in just under the deadline! The voting for the 2015 Hugo Awards closes tomorrow, Friday, July 31st. Cast your ballot! If you don’t know what to vote for, consider what I have to say about the short fiction categories. I’ve reviewed them all, lastly the novellas, at Apex Magazine.
July 17, 2015
I have, admittedly, been trying to turn my kids into nerds since slightly before they were born. Comics and graphic novels have been part of our bedtime routine since before they were age-appropriate, and there was a mushy time a year or so ago where it looked like my intentions had backfired and the elder child was having nightmares about Bone‘s rat creatures. (I am not the world’s best mom – maybe only second or third best.)
But this year, all of those sewn seeds have taken root and flowered in a most spectacular way. It helps that the comic market for the under-ten set has exploded. It also helps that some of the best and brightest comic creators in the world are trying their hands at children’s picture books with wonderful results. Even mega-best-selling and award-winning children’s book franchises like Mo Willem’s Piggie and Gerald books are essentially gateways into comics. You’d have to be childless under a rock not to be swept into – well, not just comics, but excellent comics.
I brought my two daughters – now 7 and 4 – to the Toronto Comics Arts Festival this year, where for the first time they led the way. They spent every penny of their own hard-earned money on books, sketches, bookmarks and buttons. We still have books on the shelf we haven’t tried yet, distracted, as they are, by their favourites.
I’ve learned a lot. #1 thing is that what I like and what they like are two very different things. This sometimes leads to fights at storytime, power struggles over whether we’re going to read Moomintrolls or whether I have to drag myself through Power Ponies again. Nevertheless we agree on a number of gems, a lot of them new, so I’ve assembled a little roundup below.
Kid’s Rating – 5 stars
Mom’s Rating – 5 stars
These are short, simple and thoroughly tongue-in-cheek comics about the titular hero (played by Kochalka’s cat, Spandy) and her self-appointed sidekick, Spoony-E (played by Kochalka’s son.) I was reluctant to buy them because they didn’t seem to have much substance to them, but they are hilarious. Good old slapstick, absurd premises taken seriously, and innocent fun make this pretty much the ideal small-child indie.
Kid’s Rating – 3 stars
Mom’s Rating – 4 stars
I wanted to like this one. A high-fantasy adventure starring a stubborn, resourceful girl of colour with a pet dragon and a mission to save her sisters? Sign me up!
And it is amusing – for me. The kids? Well, the younger one liked the dragons and action. But most of it went right over their heads. Princeless draws a lot of its humour from subverting existing Disney/comic/fantasy tropes about the roles of women and princesses – tropes my kids know nothing about. The idea that a princess needs a prince to come save her? Yup, my kids heard it first here. It’s possible that kids better-acquainted with Disney will get the jokes, but mine were just lost.
Kid’s Rating – 4 stars
Mom’s Rating – 3.5 stars
This is a beautiful book. So beautiful that my kids refused to read it for the first few months because the strange creatures and eerie setting were “scary.” I was enchanted and eventually just started reading it myself, and, like cats, my children wound up on my lap reading along. They loved it.
But a few pages in, I found myself frustrated with the storytelling. The plot moves too fast and there isn’t a lot of character-building. My kids didn’t care. The images and ideas were perfectly-paced for them. I can see how this book has captured their imaginations, even if I felt it could have been written better. A surprise little-kid hit.
Kid’s Rating – 5 stars
Mom’s Rating – 3 stars
Strip-style comics about a group of friends doing pretty ordinary things. These are funny, I guess – funnier to the kids than me. I found the comic a bit mean. The characters are all sort of jerks to each other. My kids don’t care. They think these are hilarious. The friends never seem to really hold any grudges and they do all kinds of interesting things together… so I guess I should chill out about their jerkiness. Maybe that’s just “real.” Anyway, I’m torn on this one. The kids love it but the interactions leave a bad taste in my mouth.
Kid’s Rating – 5 stars
Mom’s Rating – 4.5 stars
This was an unexpected hit. This is the story of a “lame” monster who lacks the self confidence to monster properly. The town he is meant to be terrorizing is pretty disappointed in him and send up a doctor to “fix” him. Adventures ensue.
Author Rob Harrell is probably better known for having inherited the abjectly terrible daily syndicated strip, Adam @ Home, which immediately put me at my guard. But the art in Monster is so lush and the world so fantastically fun that my reservations were swept away. The humour is occasionally pretty lame in a way that was over the kids’ head, but it didn’t distract too badly. My only major complaint is the total lack of any female characters at all. The kids have no complaints and have read this thing into the ground.
Kid’s Rating – 4 stars
Mom’s Rating – 3 stars
Gon is a wordless comic (like Andy Runton’s popular Owly) about a baby dinosaur in our own world, living in various biomes and befriending and/or terrorizing the animals there. My elder child, obsessed with nature and animals, loves these to pieces. They are gorgeously-drawn and expressive, featuring lots of really interesting real-life animals we never see.
On the other hand, I find wordless comics – even Owly – exhausting to “read” to the kids. These are dramatic performances, not readings. I look forward to my kids being willing to sit alone with these, rather than wanting my involvement.
Kid’s Rating – 4+ stars
Mom’s Rating – 3-4 stars
Okay, not exactly high literature, here. But it would be misleading for me to suggest my kids are reading all these great books without owning up to the fact that we have read 10+ volumes of pony comics to pieces over the last two years. They love them. They can’t get enough of them. They rush to the pony shelf first thing when we get to the comic shop. Le sigh.
But, okay, as far as mainstream brands go, MLP is really not bad. The “mane six” ponies are well-developed, strong, interesting characters with relatable strengths and weaknesses. They go on incredibly epic adventures of every conceivable kind. The comics give more nods to adult readers than the cartoons do – they are probably written for the adult fan base, not younger kids. Lots of visual geek gags including some incredibly meta Discord/Q (from Star Trek) jokes. MLP’s major weakness is a big racial blind spot (yah yah, the ponies are a rainbow of colours. But they are also all white. Zecora the Magic Negro Pony is a zebra and there are indigenous bison. The clear implication is that ponies are white, white, white.) Later seasons of the cartoon have tried to de-white the state of ponyness, but it’s still pretty lame.
But wait, there’s more! A lot more. If you’ve fallen out of touch with comics and think Marvel/DC is all there is to offer, I really recommend you get yourself to a comic book shop – any comic book shop – with haste. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what we have on my kids’ bedstand here, let alone what is available in stores. Some of the most imaginative work in any genre is being done in this medium, in my humble opinion. It’s worth catching up.
April 30, 2015
I looked at political imprisonment in some short work this week! And let me just recommend both the anthologies I read – Octavia’s Brood ed. Brown & Imarisha and Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up To No Good ed. Nelson & Merriam. Both have a bookload of smart, interesting ideas. Just a sample at Apex!