In Blue Lily’s Wake — Aliette de Bodard

You can read this for free over at Uncanny.

Once again, we return to the death of a mindship; this time the cause of death is a plague known as Blue Lily.   I’ve often picked up a book and found, completely by chance, that it reflected what was going on in the real world in quite an uncanny way — this story being found in Uncanny magazine in this time of a plague known as Covid-19.

I think we could also do so much better if we could just give our diseases much nicer names — like Aliette has with Blue Lily — because Black Death, AIDS, SARS, MERS, EBOLA and now Covid-19 doesn’t really help with people’s mental health during these difficult, anxious and depressing times.   The last thing people need is a disease that sounds like a violent street gang, MS-13, just got more nasty and is coming to get you, yes you, just you!!!

Anyway, this was another story, like Starsong, in that as soon as i got to the end i went all the way back to the beginning and read it all again.   I really didn’t understand what had actually happened after the first time through.   I’m not sure how much of this is Aliette portraying the effects of Blue Lily so well in her writing that i was as confused as someone coming into contact with a victim of this plague, or how much my mind kept on being taken away from this story and drawing certain parallels with Homo sapiens’ current plague of Covid-19.   Suffice it to say that a second reading in which i paid a lot more attention to what i was reading was much better.

If you need your stories spoon fed to you then this most probably isn’t for you as there’s all kinds of temporal, spacial and virtual shifts going on and you really have to pay attention.   However, pay attention and you’ll be rewarded with a rather good sci-fi, plague story.

And next up, we’re going to be Crossing the Midday Gate.

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Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight — Aliette de Bodard

You can now read this for free over at Clarkesworld.

As with our last book, Two Sisters in Exile, we’re once again visiting death.   This time it’s not the death of a mindship but the deaths of the humans in a long-lived mindship’s life.   Imagine that you knew you would live for centuries while all the people you know and care for would only have decades.

We’re also introduced to the idea of having a person’s memories condensed and inherited by their next of kin who then has them implanted, and how the powers that be will, when it suits them, take and use those memories as they see fit.   Consider also that the person whose memories you just inherited may have also inherited memories of their forebears who have also inherited memories or their forebears.

To be honest, i can’t imagine anything much worse than having your ancestor’s floating around in your head, pestering and badgering your every decision.   I could have a big long rant about this but i won’t.   Read it yourself and draw your own conclusions.   Suffice it to say, i’m with The Tiger in the Banyan in that i wouldn’t want them even if you offered.

And so…

…coming soon: In Blue Lily’s Wake.

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Learn to Lucid Dream — Kristen LaMarca PhD

A really well put together book detailing many techniques to improve your dream-time and begin to lucid dream.

Sleep is such an important part of living — sadly a most neglected part by many people.   Subsequently, our dream-time is even more neglected within that neglect.   You do the maths: neglect2 = seriously fucked up!

Our dreams are such an important part of our health and well being, so it’s no wonder so many people have become so sick, ill and on medications when sleep and dreaming is so utterly neglected.

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Two Sisters in Exile — Aliette de Bodard

Originally published in Solaris Rising 1.5, but you can now read for free over at Clarkesworld.

And so we leave the birth of mindships behind us and move to the other end, to their deaths.

Once upon a time there was the Dai Viet Empire, now that has become divided between the Northerners and the Nam, the Nam are a warring bunch whose mindships don’t last for very long, while the Northerners are a peaceful, creative, trading people whose mindships simply never die: that is, until Nam kills one by accident.

I’ve enjoyed every book from this universe i’ve read already, they’ve all been really good, but this one felt like it all just got even better as we learn ever more about these living space ships and each culture’s attitude towards them.

Once again, Aliette writes perfectly, continuing to build this universe story by story, while at the same time setting a stage and giving us delightful little teasers of what i hope is going to be played out in future stories.

Next up: Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight.

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Ship’s Brother — Aliette de Bodard

Originally published in Interzone Issue 241, which you can now read for free over at Clarkesworld.

Another story that’s similar to the last two, being centred around the birth of a ship’s mind, and like The Shipmaker, i feel it would be better placed in the reading order before Shipbirth as we are given even more information about these minds and their beginnings that i would have liked to have known before Shipbirth.

In this story Aliette explores the sibling dynamics between a human boy and his mind ship sister, but its a dynamic that begins corrupted by the boy attending the extremely difficult birth of the ship’s mind.   Aliette also introduces us to the fact that these mind ships can communicate as fully sentient beings and that the ship is part of the family from which it is birthed.

We’re also introduce to another fact in this ever more interesting universe: that some cultures do not use mind ships and have banned them from their space.   So we’re given quite a few teasers of more interesting things to come, which i’m looking forward to.

Once again, very well written and just at that perfect length to enjoy in one easy, flowing read without even having to put the Kindle down — so make a cuppa, go to the loo and turn your phone off before you start.

Next up: Two Sisters in Exile.

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The Sleep Consultant — Robin Sloan

An odd little story.   Travelling around the world staying in various rooms and consulting on the sleep quality for whoever pays someone to do such things.   Not sure i quite get the point of the story, mostly random to me, but still quite an enjoyable yarn.

I would certainly love to have a job like that.

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My Father the Druid, My Mother the Tree — Robin Sloan

Another delightful little short by Robin — obviously a tree hugging hippie in his spare time.

Good eco-sci-fi that’s free, what more can we ask for in life?

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The Shipmaker — Aliette de Bodard

Originally published in Interzone Issue 231.   Or you can read it for free over at Clarkesworld.

Aliette lists this on her Xuya page as being after Shipbirth, but i feel it would have been much better read before that because in The Shipmaker we are informed of all the various things that would have occurred in Shipbirth before Acoimi turned up, albeit this is a completely different ship and birth, but the issues remain the same.

As you can probably surmise from the title, this is a story mostly about the person who makes these ships — or is in charge of doing so.   We’re given quite a good tour behind the scenes of construction and the chaos caused when the woman, fully pregnant with the ship’s mind, turns up a few weeks early to give birth.   All the parts of one of these mind births that were missing from Shipbirth are filled in for us — including a description of one of these minds as it is birthed.   We’re also told how the different cultures within the Xuya universe view the women who gestate and birth these beings.

Once again, Aliette continues her universe building, this time adding Vietnamese characters — and lesbians — and how those people who chose to live lives without creating children are shunned within conservative Viet culture because there won’t be any future progeny to maintain the graves of their ancestors.   I’m not sure why we’re given a lesbian couple to make this point because there’s nothing to prevent a lesbian having a child; contrary-wise, there are plenty of hetero couples who either chose not to have children or aren’t able to.   Curious.

I could go on a big rant here about my thoughts on burial and the fucked up ideas that certain cultures have with keeping and collecting dead people, but i won’t, i’ll keep it short.   Needless to say, i won’t be maintaining anyone’s grave, ever — heap your shunning and scorning upon me all you like.   If i had my way i’d dig all the grave yards up, grind up all the bones for bonemeal fertilizer and return all that land to the living where it rightfully belongs.

Yeah, sometimes i get really annoyed when i read something in a book and my inner curmudgeon ventures forth.

So yeah, i’ll stop me ranting now and go and read the next book: Ship’s Brother.

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Shipbirth — Aliette de Bodard

Shipbirth, written by Aliette de Bodard.As far as i’m aware this has only ever been published in Asimov’s February 2011.   You can contact them to either buy a copy of that edition or to ask them nicely to scan a copy of this article and email it to you.

So we left the story in Starsong with our first melding of pilot and ship into one being, albeit a temporary mistake, and being told that the ship and pilot would be studied intensely to see what exactly had happened.   From there we have taken some huge jump forward in time to where women give birth to “minds” that inhabit ships specifically built with “Heart Rooms” where the minds join and flow into the ship becoming one being.   How we get from the events of Starsong to the events in Shipbirth we aren’t told, and what, exactly, these minds are like that birth out of these women and crawl into the ship’s heart is left quite unclear and left for one to only presume — use your imagination people!

We begin this book with our protagonist, Acoimi, travelling on a mind ship and describing his utter distaste for the mind bending strangeness of how the ship deforms and changes as it travels according to its own will through the deep planes between the stars.   When we reach our destination Acoimi is then transferred to another ship, a new ship, not quickened by a mind: the birth has not gone well and it’s Acoimi’s job, as a military physician, to determine if the mother can be saved or if she should be euthanised.

There’s a lot going on in this story: on one hand we have the fertile birthing woman, used to produce the mind of this ship; then the midwife, a sterile woman who, not being able to produce offspring herself, aids those that do, but in this case sits idly by as she has given all the aid she can; and then there’s Acoimi, now male but born female, a physician whose only job seems to be to euthanise the women who fall in birth or the men who fall in battle — both considered glorious ends in Mexica society.

Here is where i will point the reader to Aliette’s “Author’s Notes”.

I also found this review, which i thought sums things up rather well.

So where have we got to?   Well, we now know that the minds for mind ships are things that come out of women who gestate them — which reminds me of the axolotl tanks in Dune.   So once again, just like in my Starsong review, i’m reminded of Dune.   We also get to learn that gender reassignment seems to be quite the norm and relatively easy in this future but that our protagonist has realised that just because she didn’t want to be female didn’t mean he would be ok as a male.

Once again, Aliette writes wonderfully and continues to build this universe in a really interesting and deep way portrayed through these troubled characters she presents to us.

Next up, The Shipmaker.

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Leda — Aldous Huxley

Another early book of Aldous’ poems.   I think this is the last of the poetry, which i’m quite glad about as i can say, without any doubt, that i much, much prefer Aldous’ prose.

Like the previous books of poetry by Aldous, not really my thing:  other’s mileage may vary though, so don’t let me put you off if you enjoy this style of overly-done, Victorian-upper-class poetry.

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