May 22nd, 2020

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Black Wine, by Candas Jane Dorsey; “Travels with the Snow Queen”, by Kelly Link

Second paragraph of third chapter of Black Wine:
After that it did not struggle, even though its body was still as warm, its feathers as stiff and soft. Horrified at what my intervention had done, I ran away, and never wanted to go near that tree again, though it was near the path and difficult to avoid.
An intricate, interesting novel, which actually reminded me of some of Iain M. Banks' work more than anything, with interlacing narrative perspectives in a dangerously diverse but mimimally portrayed world. There is good sex, and very bad sex, and power wielded against those who are divergent or deviant, and there is some brutal violence which I admit I found a bit of a deterrent from following the main plot. I am rather surprised that the author hasn't written a lot more. You can get it here.

Second paragraph of third section of “Travels with the Snow Queen”:
The cuff of his trousers got splashed. There were little fragments of glass everywhere. “Don’t move,” you said. You weren’t wearing shoes.
This is a subversion of Hans Christian Anderson's fairy-tale "The Snow Queen" (not the only one in sf), where the protagonist's boyfriend is stolen by the eponymous queen and she goes on a quest to bring him back, encountering talking animals who may or may not have been humans, and subverting the original metaphor in a feminist way. It was one of Link's first stories, bu I think it is very well done. It was first published in the very first issue of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, the magazine edited by Link and her partner Gavin Grant, and has been reprinted in half a dozen anthologies and collections; it's currently available online for free at Uncanny Magazine.

These were the two winners of what was then the James Tiptree Jr Award for 1998, and they are both writing of the kind that the award was surely designed to honour - both authors were very early in their careers, and Link has turned out to be reasonably prolific, if Dorsey less so. The short list was rather long, with another five short pieces and seven novels, two of which I have read - The Moon and the Sun, by Vonda McIntyre, and Sacrifice of Fools, by Ian McDonald. To be honest, the latter is one of my favourite SF novels, but I can see that it did not fit the Tiptree Award as well as the winners did.

The BSFA Award and Arthur C. Clarke Award that year were both won by Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow, so I'll move on next to Dreaming in Smoke, by Tricia Sullivan (Clarke 1999); The Extremes, by Christopher Priest (BSFA 1998); and “Congenital Agenesis of Gender Ideation by K.N. Sirsi and Sandra Botkin”, by Raphael Carter (Tiptree). For efficiency, I may write up all three in the same blog post.