Interstellar Flight Magazine Best of Year One • 2020 • SF Magazine anthology by Holly Lyn Walrath

★★★☆☆

Summary: As with many magazines, you can flip through the pages and read what catches the eye. Or scan the table of contents and go for specific essays. This volume has articles of various kind – everyone will get their good share of enjoyable information. My highlight – and the reason why I requested this ARC – was Holly Walrath’s “The Ones Who Walk Away”, an essay about Ursula K. Le Guin’s famous utopia “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (and Jemisin’s counter-story). The article about Libraries was a happy find, and I enjoyed the Indie Gaming article. Some other interviews were unimportant for me, and I skipped them, others felt shallow and too short. In summary, there was too much focus on YA or horror in the interviews, and the second half fell flat for me.

While I enjoyed this anthology, I find the price a little bit steep for the amount of valuable information.

Contents (stories are ordered from oldest to newest):

  • ★★★★☆ • The Ones Who Walk Away • Holly Lyn Walrath • this is actually the reason, why I requested the anthology from Netgalley. The essay discusses Ursula K. Le Guin’s story “The Ones who walk away from Omelas“, brings up interesting facts around that story, sets it in context, hints at literary analysises. I’ve read that story before, and this essay made me re-read it, re-think, and in addition read N.K. Jemisin’s counter story “The Ones who Stay and Fight“. One cannot ask for more.
  • ★★☆☆☆ • Monsters Under the Bed (and Outside the Window) by E.D. Walker • an interview with T. Kingfisher mostly about her first horror novel The Twisted Ones and its connection to Arthur Machen classical “The White People“. Horror, meh, not interested.
  • ★★★★☆ • The Greatest Arsenal: Science Fiction Libraries and Archives by Jeremy Brett • libraries are the ultimate geek stuff for us readers. Brett makes a fantastatic case of showing the many cases of libraries within SFF stories. But wait, there is more: There are real libraries in our physical world dedicated to SFF, most prominent The Eaton Collection at UC-Riverside, a collection with more than 300,000 items. It’s supposed to be the largest SFF library. The author makes a case of the trinity of libraries: the creators, the scientists, and of course we the nerds. As the curator of the SFF collection at Cushing, Texas, he takes care to include diversity – writers of color, women writers, LGBTQ writers etc. I was very interested in learning about those U.S. libraries, as I only know of one specialized in SFF near my hometown: the “Phantastische Bibliothek Wetzlar“, which is not that little in comparison to the “world largest”, as it has 291,000 items. I’ve given this one a shoutout.
  • ☆☆☆☆☆ • mostly skipped Boundary Crossing, Liminality, & the Hungarian Literary Fantastic by T.D. Walker, because I wasn’t that interested
  • ★★★★☆ • Indie Games and Accessibility: A Personal Odyssey by Archita Mittra • When I read artsy platformer, I instantly checked out a let’s play for Gris and fell in love with the watercolor world and music. I’m usually more into RPGs, but watching this filled me with joy. The author talks about games that I’ve never heard of before and this shows me that everyone needs to find their own way in the gaming department. Indie games seem to fulfill non-mainstream needs. Having learned about the existence of Gris was already enough for me.
  • ★★★☆☆ • Diverse Space Opera, Fight Scenes and NaNoWriMo by E.D. Walker • Interview with author Valerie Valdes, who wrote Chilling Effect – I checked out reviews for that book, but that doesn’t suit me currently: too comical mixed with romance Space Opera. But folks who are fan of it should be aware of the next volume Prime Deceptions scheduled for September. Her explanation of narrating martial art scenes and linking it to wuxia movies was fun. I also learned more about the NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month) pledging everyone to write 50k words within November.
  • ★★★+☆☆ • Phantom Fares by Piper J. Daniels – less an essay, more a ghost story:  the author weaves together snippets about migratory birds, supernatural phenomena, and her sister’s abusive relationship with ghosts appearing after the 2011 Tōhoku tsunami (leading to the Fukushima break down): Multiple taxi drivers reported passengers disappearing, the eponymous Phantom Fares.
  • ★★☆☆☆ • Riverdale, Writer’s Block, & Naval Warfare by Holly Lyn Walrath • interview with Poppy War author R.F. Kuang. I haven’t read that yet and the interview didn’t give away that much. I only feel old now, as I realised that she is 24 years old and in the middle of her studium.
  • ★★☆☆☆ • Cats in Science Fiction Films by John Tuttle • ROFL: “A short Hiss-tory“, how could one not love that subtitle? From the early days, cats tigered through SF flicks, and this essay has them all, including multitudous Star Treks, Men in Black, and the obligatory Marvel. The insights are not very deep, and it is more or less a fine list of occurences.
  • ☆☆☆☆☆ • Unabashedly Hopeful, Heartbroken, & Silly by J.T. Morse • interview with author Christian McKay Heidicker. Skipped, as I don’t know him.
  • ☆☆☆☆☆ • Strange Bodies by Presley Thomas • a selfie of coming out. Memorable sentence: “I realized that coming out is itself its own kind of body modification as it changes the way others see you. Often with horns on your head instead of your shoulders.” Besides of that, I couldn’t relate, as there was much talk about a show “Project Runway” that I don’t know at all.
  • ☆☆☆☆☆ • Spinning Tales, Chinese Embroidery, & Musical Composition by E.D. Walker • interview with Elizabeth Lim, a YA fantasy author. YA in general is not my thing, and once again, “Project Runway” is a foreign term for me.
  • ☆☆☆☆☆ • Perception, Uncertainty, and Dread: The Horror of Perspective by Caitlin Starling • skipped, because of horror.
  • ★☆☆☆☆ • Space Opera Is Having a Moment and We Love It by E.D. Walker • I don’t know how this made its way into a Best Of anthology, but any blogger’s “Waiting for Wednesday” is probably better than this commented list of last year’s space operas. It isn’t even thorough.
  • ☆☆☆☆☆ • Goth Weirdness, Slavic Folklore, & Ohio by Jody T. Morse • Interview with Emily A. Duncan. YA and horror in combination is a perfect case for ditching.
  • ★★☆☆☆ • No Room in Narnia by Erin Becker • Do you know the fear re-reading one of your first books, because it might disillusion you and you’d have to reduce your 5 star rating to a generous 2 star? I guess, everyone has such a sad guy hugging the shelves. This essay is written by an atheist who once was a Christian and loved the world of Narnia, only to find out the it doesn’t hold up anymore and feels stale. I can only say that you don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy it, and there are Christians like me who never enjoyed Narnia much because of its thick allegory with religious symbols. Beside of that, the essay didn’t provide much insights.
  • ★★☆☆☆ • Korean Folklore, Big Space Explosions, & Mathematics by Michael Glazner • interview with Yoon Ha Lee. I’ve recently read Phoenix Extravagant, the steampunk fantasy scheduled for 20.10.2020, and I enjoyed his novelette Foxfire, Foxfire. Both are based on Korean Folklore, so I liked this interview, though it was a bit shallow.
  • ★★★★☆ • What Else is there to Say about the Joker? by Archita Mittra and Kaylee Craig • This is the rare case of thoughtful and deep commentary in this anthology. The two authors analyze both Joker films with Phoenix and Ledger respectively in the protagonist’s role, comparing them and their interpretation against the political and social background of their time.
  • Excerpt: The Manticore’s Vow by Cassandra Rose Clarke
  • Excerpt: Twelve by Andrea Blythe
  • Excerpt: Local Star by Aimee Ogden

Meta: publication date 3.8.2020 by Interstellar Flight Press.

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3 Responses to Interstellar Flight Magazine Best of Year One • 2020 • SF Magazine anthology by Holly Lyn Walrath

  1. cathepsut says:

    Well, the best of the year doesn‘t seem to be all that great…

    Liked by 1 person

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